Some things never change. Like, for example, the fact that the best marketing strategies and engagement tactics are based on insights taken from data. Always have been, always will.

But you don’t need to be a marketer to have noticed the explosion of data we’re living through.

The question is, how do we as B2B marketers make use of the sheer volume of data at our disposal?

That was a big part of the panel discussion at Disrupt Forum in London on 25th September. The theme? The data-driven revolution.

Here are my highlights from an incredible evening.

Is this really a revolution?

“It’s not a revolution at all,” says Shane Redding, Think Direct Ltd and the IDM, immediately tearing down the whole premise of the discussion.

“It’s an evolution,” she adds. That’s more like it.

“Data-driven marketing’s been around for ages,” says Microsoft’s Rachel Magnay. She remembers coding on a mainframe computer at the beginning of her career (old school!) so she knows what she’s talking about. We’re using the same methodologies, but tech makes data more accessible and easier to use – it’s the democratisation of data.

The revolution, if we can still call it that, lies not in the data itself, but the technology that’s now far better, faster and more efficient at helping marketers make sense of it and harness its power.

Revolutions don’t happen overnight

Many of the marketers at Disrupt Forum – panellists and audience members alike – agreed that you need to build a culture for modern data-driven marketing to work. So, it’ll take a little disruption within your business.

But even within organisations, there are varying levels of data-use maturity across teams and departments. Revolutions don’t happen overnight, so don’t force it. Instead, follow the advice given by TechTarget’s Jat Hayer: take a “crawl, walk, run” approach.

The small print

Our panellists just couldn’t resist bringing up GDPR. It’s impossible to discuss data use without mentioning its legal implications. LinkedIn’s Ashraf Kamel is all for marketers making friends with their legal teams. We sometimes, he says, “make big decisions without thinking about how to bring in the legal organisation.” But it’s too easy for them to say no, especially when you only ask them at the last minute. Instead, bring them on board throughout the process. Make the business case for using data in your marketing campaigns.

That said, it’s not really Marketing’s job to convince the legal team on the importance of data. Everyone’s heard that data is the new oil; the C-suite should know this too, by now. They should be the ones leading your business’ data-driven revolution. They should also know that the way you deal with your data reflects hugely on your brand and employees. Just look at Cambridge Analytica – they were getting the kinds of insights any marketer would kill for.

What led to their downfall was that they did it all from the shadows and used people’s data for nefarious purposes. “I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool,” says the whistleblower who revealed their practices.

Be honest. Be transparent. Let people know you’re looking after their personal data and let them easily opt out. GDPR means you’ll have to build a solid base to work from anyway. Do a good job and they’ll soon see the benefits of a more personalised experience.

What really matters

Data-driven marketing’s going nowhere, but however big a part it becomes of your everyday job, there’s one thing you can never take your eyes off: it’s always, always about the customer journey.

Look at the B2C space, at how frictionless – entertaining, even – it can be to engage with brands. As I stressed in my opening speech at Disrupt Forum, that’s exactly the kind of experience we need to create in B2B. It’s our benchmark.

Data-driven marketing’s here to stay, so let’s not leave the conversation behind at Disrupt Forum. Get in touch to chat more about how you can use data to create marketing campaigns that turn the heads that count in B2B.

Missed the discussion? Watch here.


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