Why Big Data Doesn’t Always Lead to Better B2B Marketing Decisions

big data doesn't always equal better decision-making in b2b marketing

If you’re a B2B CMO, you know how important it is to the rest of the C-suite that you be able to back up your marketing decisions with data. 

This, in fact, is one of the biggest challenges CMOs face (and a large reason why CMO turnover rate is at an all-time high). Data may be plentiful, but the right data—the data that you need to tell the actual story—is often hard to identify. 

This explains why COOs or CEOs often reward efforts that produce short-term gains, like a trade show that results in 100 new prospects—90% of whom will not convert—over strategies that take longer to bear fruit, but result in higher-quality prospects acquired at a lower cost per lead. 

Now, as we gain access to more and more data, this issue will only get bigger. How do B2B marketers identify the data that matters—the signal, as it were—amidst the noise, or the vast amounts of data that’s available, but not useful? 

In this post, we’ll answer that question. Let’s dive in. 

What the research says about data and decision-making

While it’s always been assumed that better data can lead to better decision-making, what does the research actually show? 

One professor, Paul Slovic, did a study to find out. He recruited five professional gamblers to bet on horse races, giving them more data points for every successive race—starting with 0, and going up to 40. 

What he found was that more data did not equal more accurate bets

A little data was better than none, for sure—the gamblers bet more accurately when they had five data points than when they had zero, and their confidence increased as well. But while their confidence continued to increase with the addition of each data point, their bets’ accuracy did not. 

This speaks to that common tendency all of us have to go with our feelings over facts: it feels as though we should be able to make better decisions the more information we have. And it feels as if a choice that’s backed up by lots of data should be better than one that’s backed up by a little. 

Given that this isn’t actually the case, what kind of data should we be looking for? 

The answer is: data that’s been tracked over a long period of time. 

What kind of long-term data should you be tracking?

Even though so much of marketing is geared towards the short-term—making the sale, converting the prospect, increasing the year’s profit margins—real growth will always be a result of long-term investments. 

The same applies to data. The longer you’re able to measure something, the better your information will be. It’s common sense when we think of this in terms of scientific or medical studies—the longer a participant is followed and their outcomes measured, the more confident researchers can be in their findings, right? 

So instead of focusing so much on the metrics that give insight into the short-term (i.e. sales)—customer churn rate, net profits, number of monthly conversions, etc.—focus on the metrics that give you insight into your brand-building, and track them over longer periods.

How is your social media engagement changing over time? At what point are your followers dropping off—are they sticking around for months, or is it years? 

One point to consider, as well, is that the marketing campaigns that have helped create the biggest household name brands are ones that have been run for years, not months. Nike’s Just Do It is a prime example—the slogan and associated advertising campaign debuted in 1987. The Charmin (toilet paper) bear debuted in 2000, going through various evolutions until reaching its current incarnation of a family of brown, blue, and red bears. 

The point is, big successes come not through the obsessive collection and analysis of tons of data, but through the analysis of the right data points over long periods of time. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean letting go of short-term data altogether, or not taking advantage of what big data can offer B2B marketers, like faster customer acquisition, better personalization, and improved operational efficiency. 

But it does mean not treating those metrics as the end-all, be-all of B2B marketing—because they’re not. What’s more, if your B2B marketing team spends most of their time measuring and reporting on individual successive campaigns, each of which runs for a year or six months, they’re almost certainly going to be missing the bigger picture. 

B2B brand-building is where the growth lies

B2B brands that want to grow into the next decade will have to invest in brand-building regardless, so why not start now by taking a long, hard look at the data you’re tracking—and asking yourself whether it’s actually helping you make better decisions, or if it’s just an empty confidence boost? 

Along with long-term data tracking, investing in strategies like B2B influencer marketing, customer relationship building, and high-value content marketing are instrumental in developing a B2B marketing plan that will make your business more sustainable, more profitable, and more famous

Transforming your strategy from one of short-term gains to long-term growth isn’t an overnight task. If you need some guidance, contact us about our Virtual CMO offering.


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