Survey says: B-to-b database marketers are all grown up

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B-to-b database marketers have long been considered laggards behind consumer database marketers, but that reputation has changed according to a survey set to come out next week at DMA07, the Direct Marketing Association's annual conference and exhibition, which is being held this year in Chicago. Its findings suggest b-to-b database marketing is much more sophisticated.

Consultants Ruth Stevens, president, eMarketing Strategy, and Bernice Grossman, president, DMRS Group, polled 192 database marketers online between May and July.

"When we asked about database applications, b-to-b marketers showed surprising sophistication," Grossman said. "B-to-b marketers are using their marketing database to support their businesses," she said. "It's a very big deal. They are not stepchildren anymore."

According to Theresa Kushner, director, customer intelligence at Cisco Systems, the use of more highly developed analysis and analytics has given database marketers more widespread value. "Database marketers are coming into their own in the b-to-b marketing world because the world of b-to-b marketing is turning to business analysis and analytics—fact-based marketing. That makes database marketers heroes," Kushner said.

Dave Frankland, an analyst at Forrester Research, said in some respects, b-to-b database marketers have always been more sophisticated than consumer marketers out of necessity.

"B-to-b marketers are faced with identifying hierarchies within organizations in order to target the actual buyer," he said.

Almost all marketers polled (94.0%) said they have a marketing database. As for database type, 41% indicated they work with legacy operating systems with limited reporting, while 58.8% use flexible marketing databases designed for querying and campaign management.

"Traditionally, business marketers got information from operating systems. You had to go to IT and get them to do some coding to answer even basic questions about how your campaign did or what your customers look like," Stevens said. "That process could often take days. ...With a flexible marketing database, marketers can get answers and do analyses on their own and quickly."

At Cisco, "We're working with lots of legacy systems, but we also have a new enterprise data warehouse that provides some great insights; and we have our own marketing database, as well," Kushner said.

In the survey, when asked what they use their database for, 80% of respondents said "marketing to prospects."

According to Stevens, "consumer marketers are using their databases for current customer marketing. When they need new customers, they go to the list rental world," She said. "But in b-to-b, the database is used for nurturing relationships with suspects and prospects, and it's basically pipeline management."

Frankland agreed. "Of the b-to-b marketers I've spoken to, when I ask how they use the database rather than what's in it, it's less about the marketer communicating with the buyer and it's more about the marketer supporting the sales operation."

Grossman and Stevens questioned respondents on 24 distinct applications of the database, and marketers are using all of them to varying degrees (see chart on this page). Lifetime value analysis, for example, is cited by 14.9%, while 42.5% are doing customer profiling, 29.3% are segmenting the database and 28.2% are appending data.

Kushner said she's done it all.

"We use our data to model predictive behavior by segment, technology and geographic region," she said. "We do extensive analysis of campaign responses and predictive models that tell us who is mostly like to respond. You name it—we've either done it or are considering it."

Kushner said one of the reasons b-to-b database marketers have advanced so much is that they've been forced to do a lot with very little.

"I think what we do at Cisco is every bit as sophisticated as what happens in consumer, and we do it with far less data. In fact, I think we've developed our `muscles' in database marketing because we have scanty data."

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