Marketing data fragmentation in B2B

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Doug Kessler

14. 06. 2016 | 3 min read

Marketing data fragmentation in B2B

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The B2B marketing discipline tends to progress as a big, bumbling unit — like a herd of wildebeests.

You could look at this uncharitably, as if we’re all insecure teenagers chasing the latest trend. But I prefer to think that we’re all just hitting the same obstacles and learning the same lessons at roughly the same time.

The Internet came along and we all groped and grappled with what digital B2B marketing was all about.

Marketing automation happened and we all started figuring out how to nurture leads until sales-ready.

Content marketing became the thing and we all started cranking out helpful, insightful, educational advice for our prospects (along with some crap) – then working out how to deploy this stuff strategically.

These mass lurches forward weren’t vendor-driven fads. They were smart responses to real needs and sharp pains.In each case, this was what we all needed to be doing at that precise moment to deal with those precise problems.

As a B2B agency, we can look at the meetings in any given month as a kind of core sample of the discipline; a cross-industry slice of what’s going on right now.

Yes, each client is different, with their own specific market dynamics and marketing maturity — but it’s amazing how often we see a whole cluster of clients hitting the same challenges at the same time.

Well, today, the big, hairy problem that pretty much every B2B marketing team is facing is data fragmentation.

Our world is shattered into dozens of different channels, applications, tactics and teams.

And each of these channels, applications, tactics and teams both consumes and generates data.

So, just as the pressure mounts to show accountability for our marketing budgets , we find ourselves standing, bewildered, in the eye of a data storm.

  • Unless we can connect the activities of a prospect as she progresses across our many channels (web, email, social, search, events…) we’ll never really know what role each channel plays in creating revenue.
  • Until we can connect our web analytics to our marketing automation and CRM, we’ll never see the whole customer journey so we can optimise our activities.
  • Until we can use the insight harvested in one place and deploy it in another, we’ll be stuck looking at the world through a collection of toilet-roll tubes.

Data fragmentation is the B2B challenge of the moment.

Data fragmentation is the elephant that stands between you and accountability.

And the marketing teams that make progress first (like the first brands in their market to have websites or the first to do content) will take a giant leap ahead of their slower, dumber rivals.

Not just a leap in marketing productivity and effectiveness – a leap in market share.

Solving data fragmentation won’t be easy

Attacking this problem will be harder than the obstacles you’ve overcome so far:

  • B2B marketing data is notoriously messy and unstructured (even worse, it’s multi-structured, with each application using its own unique data schema).
  • There’s more of it than ever before – as we collect clickstreams, social feeds, transaction logs and sales interactions.
  • No one platform unites everything – no matter what the Marketing Cloud vendors tell you.

Rising up to solve your data fragmentation really comes down to culture change. And like all big changes, it will involve changes in people, process and technology (the holy trinity of transformation).

If you’re a B2B marketing leader, you have a choice:

You can sit around and wait for the vendor landscape to consolidate enough so that one partner can connect all the dots for you.

Or you can take control of your world – actively managing your data and integrating your core marketing apps. (initiating data governance so that your precious metadata is clear and consistent everywhere).

If I were paying your salary, I’d be urging you to take option B.

Right about… now.

BTW – The remarkable marketing team at one of our clients, Informatica (led by Franz Aman) is way, way ahead on this front. They’ve captured their journey in a blog series called Naked Marketing: A Big Data Marketing Operations Odyssey and a proper book-book called The Marketing Data Lake that we talk about in this post.



Published in:

  • data

  • Data fragmentation

  • data integration

  • marketing integration

  • marketing operations

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  1. Ed Fry


    August 7th, 2017

    I read this post hoping and expecting this would address some of the solutions and ways out of this headache.

    100% agree “this won’t be easy”, but there is a way out. Or rather, seven ways out:

    1. One-click integrations (see the Salesforce AppExchange etc.)
    2. Manual export/import (usually via a spreadsheet)
    3. If/then workflow tools (like Zapier)
    4. “All-in-one” platforms (like Intercom, HubSpot, Salesforce etc.)
    5. Custom code and integrations (poached from your product/engineering team?)
    6. Customer data warehouses (like Amazon Redshift)
    7. Customer data platforms (like Hull)

    There’s pros and cons to each of them – I shared a little more in our deep dive guide here:

    In our experience, the biggest challenge is still political. Tools own data. Teams own tools. Drawing data together usually involves bringing teams together – and there is not neat and sexy API and documentation for that.

    Would welcome other Velocity readers to shares ideas for that!

    1. Doug Kessler

      August 9th, 2017

      Thanks Ed! Sorry you were disappointed (ya bastard :-)).

      I must say your post is way better than mine on possible solutions. I recommend it.

      I was mainly trying to evangelise the problem. The solutions will be highly specific to the company – but you’ve done a great job of mapping out the alternatives.

      Nice one!

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