The Hottest Path to Profits

Gary Brooks

There is more data available than ever, which, in many ways makes it more difficult for sales and marketing professionals to find the data they need to pinpoint the companies that have a high propensity to buy their product or services. A 2012 report by Aberdeen Group found that salespeople, on average, spend 200 hours of non-productive time annually searching for customer data. This lack of insight into business behavior has led to a decline in the efficiency and effectiveness of B2B sales and marketing.

Increasingly, B2B companies are taking a cue from the B2C world and using business behavior data to help marketing with prospecting – specifically qualifying leads. But it begs the question, what is business behavior?

Consider the insights the B2C world has been collecting for decades. B2C companies have been tracking consumer behavior – with every swipe of a credit card or click on an ad, B2C companies are gathering data so they can predict what you’re likely to buy – and when you’ll buy it. These consumer behavior patterns are analyzed to help B2C companies improve their product development decisions, marketing campaigns and sales outcomes.

Consider the purchase of a mini-van – it often signifies a major life event. The consumer will most likely be in the market for baby-related items, such as a crib, diapers, baby clothes, etc. Armed with this information, many B2C companies send targeted advertisements that are in line with this upcoming “life event.” The same approach is applicable in the B2B arena. If an existing customer increases its operational spend and purchases additional trucks, you could reasonably assume that business is doing well and the company might expand its business. Conversely, if a company decreases operational and material spending it might indicate business is struggling. Knowing the specific details of events going on with customers and prospects helps companies to determine which companies represent an opportunity or a risk.

Business behavior data – what companies buy, how they pay, where they invest, when and how they hire, and how their behavior changes over time tracked across multiple data sources – can be used to help sales and marketing professionals better target the right customer at the right time.

What to Look For

Here are some examples of how B2B sales and marketing professionals can use business behavior data to improve the effectiveness of their efforts and avoid risk, acquire and upsell current and prospective customers:

Risks: If an existing customer experiences a significant decline in spending and purchasing behavior, it could mean that you might not get paid. While the credit worthiness of the company may not reflect the company’s declining performance, business behavior insights will alert you to these risks well in advance so that you can be sure to get paid. In addition, these insights can also be used to identify companies that you should avoid pursuing altogether.

Acquire: Using business behavior data allows a company to identify its ideal customers’ “buyer DNA.” By identifying its ideal customers’ DNA (what they buy, how much of it they buy, geographic locations served, etc.), a company can easily find lookalike companies that share that same DNA and answer the all-important question: does this company have a high propensity to buy my product? Targeting companies that match your best customers’ buyer DNA for a sales or marketing campaign is more efficient and valuable than basing it solely on demographic data like SIC or NAICS codes.

Upsell: Gaining visibility into an existing customer’s behavior is enabling B2B companies to develop sales strategies that are based on information as to what the company is likely to do or need in the future. For example, if a B2B shipping services provider sees that one of its customers is buying more boxes or raw materials or is signing a lease on a new facility, it provides an advanced clue that the customer is most likely fulfilling more orders and will need more shipping services. This gives companies an advantage when serving its existing customer base.

Traditionally, B2B companies have relied on demographic, firmographic and credit data to profile, segment and target their current and prospective customers, but it hasn’t provided a holistic view of customers and prospects. This leaves marketing and sales professionals needing more data to meet goals. Business behavior data helps fill in the gaps and provides insight into areas that were not available before.

Gary Brooks is CMO at Cortera, a provider of comprehensive business-to-business payment and purchase data and insights for U.S. companies. The company tracks $1.6 trillion in business-to-business purchases across 45 spend categories to deliver insights on 20 million U.S. business locations thus enabling companies of all sizes to better understand their customers, suppliers and business partners. Follow @Cortera on Twitter.