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Predictive analytics: The next big thing (and challenge) for b-to-b marketers

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The stakes are going up for the marketing function. Often left to its own devices to practice its "arts,” marketing's successes or failures will now be fully illuminated across the company. The main reason for this is the self-educated buyer. With more digital and social resources than ever before, b-to-b buyers in all product and service categories are disrupting traditional marketing. 

In their process of self-education, buyers leave a huge wake of activity data. These data include what they know and what they don't; where they have been on the quest for information; and where they are headed next. The marketing area needs to capture and analyze these data wakes. The ability to do so is not just a "bet the marketing department" issue: It's a "bet the company" issue. And for those who do not believe that, just look at the number of companies and industries already transformed by the Internet. And then multiply that rate of change by five times or more—and I think you are looking at the near future.

The insights needed to find the best customers require marketers to understand how future stages of the marketing funnel and sales pipeline perform on a lead-by-lead basis. This insight comes in the form of analytical models based on large amounts of customer data—not necessarily Big Data, but certainly much more, faster-moving data than ever before. According to IDC's recent report on “Predictive Analytics for Marketing,” the results are compelling:

  • A major enterprise software vendor added 200 million euros to its revenue line without adding sales staff.
  • A major sports and entertainment website boosted subscription revenue by 45% without increasing its marketing program spend.
  • One of the Web's most popular financial services sites drove tens of millions of dollars in new revenue with simple changes to its customer experience roadmap .

To produce meaningful analytics, the links between marketing, sales, finance, fulfillment, and service and support are critical. These systems must share standard practices for data governance and analytical processing. Enterprise ownership and management of the customer creation process is necessary for sustainability. Past investments in departmentally focused systems with customized data structures and processes will prevent the fast and efficient flow of customer data necessary to optimize marketing and sales activity.

Many organizations can fix the data problem, but if they can't implement changes in business rules without breaking multiple process dependencies downstream, the system is an inhibitor to innovation and has to go. Fifteen percent of IDC CMO Advisory clients replaced CRM systems in 2012 for this reason. IDC expects this trend to continue. 

(Thank you to my colleague IDC Analyst and Marketing Automation expert Gerry Murray for his helpful insights).

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