While retailers and other B2C companies have long perfected mining the petabytes of online transactional data to serve up product suggestions to customers, B2B companies have lagged behind in exploiting big data to identify new opportunities.
But that’s changing, according to a new Harvard Business Review survey of 120 sales executives at a variety of companies around the world.
For example, a leading chemicals and services company uses analytics to take a more granular look at its business than it has in the past.
Historically, the company’s sales reps have successfully worked their territories, but sales volume has become stagnant because of new competitors and shifting demand.
By dicing its seven U.S. regions into 70 “micromarkets,” the company could focus on those with the greatest potential. After identifying new hot spots and shifting its sales force, the company has doubled its sales rate within a year without increasing its marketing or sales costs.
Big data is perhaps most valuable as predictive and content analytics get more granular and as businesses look to better analyze their customer bases, derive new insights, and create more targeted offerings, notes the Wall Street Journal. Big data within customer-facing processes will accelerate over the next few years and will be at a breakneck pace by 2020.
HBR adds that micromarket strategy is perhaps the most potent new application of big data analytics in B2B sales. Here’s how tapping into big data can help companies discover new micromarket hot spots:
Find New Pockets of Growth. While many companies understand the growth of their sales regions or territories, they need to be able to slice and dice data into hundreds of micromarkets to see which counties or zip codes haven’t been tapped or are unlikely to grow. Organizations can use business analytics to link internal and external data sets from a variety of data sources in multiple formats to build “opportunity maps” of potential hot spots.
There’s still a large opportunity for marketers to use data-driven segmentation and targeting, according to a Crain’s BtoB Magazine survey of B2B marketers across the U.S.
B2B marketers appear to be most comfortable using segment targeting in their email campaigns, where there’s an 84% adoption rate. But only about one-third are using segment targeting in their display, paid search or social media programs, Crain’s notes. Those that do are also mostly using segments such as industry (65%), geography (56%), job function (55%) and title (49%).
Marketers say their biggest roadblock to the effective use of segment targeting is lack of data on users (37%), followed closely by uncertainty about how best to use targeting and segmentation in campaigns (33%).
Trust the data. Management must be willing to act on the insights revealed by the analytics. While companies have traditionally allocated resources on the basis of current or historical performances for certain sales regions, going after sales based on a micromarket strategy may seem risky. Organizations should enable salespeople to interact with the opportunity maps to show them that hard data analysis is often superior to intuition or gut-based decision making.
Performance management. Managers must shift from assessing reps’ performances relative to the entire sales force to assessing it relative to the opportunities micromarkets provide.