In today's fast-paced digital landscape, many B2B marketers find themselves grappling with the challenge of finding and acquiring new customers. The complexity of data governance has notably increased over the past ten to twenty years, casting a shadow of uncertainty over marketing endeavors. This complexity makes it harder for companies to maintain their focus on targeted marketing efforts while ensuring the accuracy and relevance of their data.
As the marketing landscape evolves, crucial questions continue to surface. How can we effectively determine which datasets will yield the most valuable insights for our marketing campaigns? How do we extract meaningful narratives and context from unstructured data? In a world where data reigns supreme, these questions have become paramount for modern marketers.
I recently had an enlightening discussion with Arjun Pillai, the co-founder and CEO of Docket, shedding light on how businesses and marketers can transform their data-driven strategies. Arjun shared invaluable insights into the driving forces that have fueled this data evolution and its significance for B2B marketers in the current business environment.
Arjun Pillai initiated our conversation by acknowledging the profound shifts that have occurred in the data landscape over the past two decades. He emphasized the role of key trends in driving this transformation, making it imperative for B2B marketers to adapt and thrive in this new era.
"Over the past twenty years, there have been significant changes," Arjun shares. "These transformations can be attributed to several trends that have reshaped our approach to data."
The Rise of SaaS: Arjun highlighted the pivotal role played by Software as a Service (SaaS) in reshaping the B2B data landscape. In the early 2000s, Salesforce emerged as a pioneering force in the realm of SaaS, setting the stage for others to follow suit. Today, cloud-based software services have proliferated, making it significantly more accessible for entrepreneurs and businesses to launch new ventures and develop innovative products.
"Salesforce was the trailblazer, establishing the SaaS business model," Arjun explained. "It paved the way for countless other SaaS companies, ultimately propelling this evolution."
Looking ahead to 2023, we find a B2B landscape where businesses are spoiled for choice. There are now multiple companies dedicated to addressing virtually every business challenge. Take, for instance, the realm of email marketing with chat integration. Arjun noted, "There are approximately ten businesses competing in the chat-email marketing niche alone, which illustrates the sheer abundance of solutions."
As SaaS adoption has skyrocketed, so too has the number of companies offering solutions to similar problems or pain points. "If you observe closely," Arjun points out, "you'll notice that marketing campaigns have started exploring channels traditionally reserved for broader audience engagement, all in pursuit of boosting sales."
The Proliferation of Shared Communication Channels: With the prevalence of one-on-one emails as part of the sales process, channels have become more saturated than ever before. As Arjun astutely observes, "More salespeople are vying for the same customers, and they're all using shared communication channels, such as emails and phones."
In response to this growing trend, Arjun emphasizes the need for innovative strategies to capture the attention of potential clients effectively. "To avoid becoming mere background noise in your customers' inboxes," he advises, "you must pivot and embrace a distinct approach."
Arjun highlights a crucial turning point in this evolving landscape: the need for businesses to become more customer data-driven. He elucidates, "The critical challenge here is that approximately ninety-five percent of your potential customers may not be aware of your brand or may not be ready to make a purchase anytime soon."
In the absence of data-backed insights into your customer base, the conventional approach often involves sending outbound emails, running advertisements, and making phone calls to this vast and relatively unresponsive customer segment. However, Arjun asserts that these efforts often fall on deaf ears. "For these potential customers," he notes, "these marketing attempts can easily become nothing more than background noise."
Arjun underscores the pivotal role of intent data in addressing this challenge. Drawing from his experience working with data providers like Zoominfo, Arjun highlights the shift towards acquiring datasets that provide deeper insights into user engagement on the internet.
Businesses today seek to move beyond surface-level attributes like firmographics, behavior, psychographics, and demographics. Instead, they want to tap into data that reveals which individuals or companies are actively researching or considering their products or services.
By harnessing intent data, companies can pinpoint potential customers who are currently in the market for their offerings. Marketers can then craft messages tailored to these prospects, significantly increasing the likelihood of conversion.
Intent data, often referred to as signal-based data, is a potent tool for understanding customer preferences and behaviors. Arjun explains that it goes beyond assessing a customer's propensity to make a purchase. "Intent data enables you to create a more extensive footprint within your target accounts," he clarifies. "It allows you to understand not just whether a customer is likely to buy but also their specific interests and inquiries."
To illustrate the value of intent data, Arjun cites the example of a cybersecurity company like Okta. In light of recent cybersecurity concerns, such a company may be keen to explore the behavior of similar businesses. Using intent data from their Total Addressable Market (TAM) and signals from their current users, they can gain valuable insights.
However, Arjun emphasizes that the effectiveness of intent data depends on the source from which it is derived. "Many companies encounter challenges because they struggle to integrate intent data seamlessly into their processes," he remarks. "The issue often arises when they focus solely on acquiring Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) or top-of-funnel leads without gaining a holistic view of customer engagement. This oversight can result in missed opportunities and lost revenue."
As a seasoned marketer, Arjun advises his peers to scrutinize whether potential clients are progressing in the pre-conversion phase. "While intent data can kickstart your sales process," he asserts, "it should not serve as your sole source of truth. Instead, align it with your broader activation and channel strategies to optimize your success."
Arjun Pillai underscores the importance of erasing the artificial divide between marketing and sales functions. He contends, "It's time to dispel the notion that marketing and sales operate in isolation." Drawing from his experience at Zoominfo, he shares a strategy that encourages a unified approach.
"We conceptualized it as a 'unified funnel,'" Arjun explains. This approach means that both sales and marketing teams work collaboratively within the same customer funnel. While their roles may differ, the ultimate objective remains unchanged: to drive customer engagement and conversion.
Arjun cites Account-Based Marketing (ABM) as a powerful strategy aligned with the unified funnel concept. ABM narrows the focus to the account list mentioned earlier, targeting a specific subset of high-potential accounts instead of a vast audience.
"To gauge the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts," Arjun advises, "it's crucial to establish a baseline." This step involves assessing the quality of your starting account list, as it significantly influences the alignment of marketing and sales efforts.
Arjun emphasizes that a comprehensive and actionable Total Addressable Market (TAM) is a valuable asset but often needs refinement to be effective. To condense your TAM to a manageable size, you must introduce filters that narrow your focus.
Filters can encompass various dimensions, such as geographic location, buying committees, revenue metrics, customer types, and personas. Arjun suggests considering additional proxy filters, like a business's revenue growth, when selecting your TAM's appropriate use. "Is your TAM meant to raise awareness, follow up with leads, or activate sales?" Arjun prompts fellow marketers to contemplate this question when crafting their TAM strategy.
Marketers and sales professionals commonly employ four critical factors to refine their lead searches: location, years of experience (job titles), company size, and the technology stack used. These four filters often prove instrumental in enhancing outreach and conversion results.
"In my prior experiences," Arjun reflects, "one of these four categories would often provide the key to closing a deal successfully." These filters serve as proxies for intent data, enabling marketers to focus on the most promising prospects within their TAM.
Arjun's journey in the marketing realm further led to the development of intricate integrations and content partnerships. He discovered that by forging such alliances, he could engage in fruitful discussions with businesses even when intent data was unavailable. His message to fellow marketers is clear: "Let the absence of 'intent data' not deter you from devising effective strategies to achieve your objectives."
Arjun Pillai underlines the critical importance of data security and compliance in today's marketing landscape. He urges business owners and CEOs to be vigilant about safeguarding data integrity and ensuring secure data management practices.
As the landscape evolves, marketers face an evolving challenge – an increasing number of individuals are unwilling to receive traditional marketing campaigns. Arjun recalls earlier experiences when he encountered resistance from recipients of automated outreach. However, he notes that by 2023, the landscape has shifted.
"In 2023, the perception of automated outreach has evolved," Arjun observes. "Recipients now understand that many interactions are automated, and this is generally accepted." However, he adds a caveat regarding the European context, where strict data protection regulations apply.
Arjun recommends proactive steps to manage unsubscribes from email and marketing lists and propagate such updates across the tech stack. This is crucial in regions like Europe, where obtaining proper consent and permissions for outreach is imperative.
He advocates the use of marketing automation platforms, which offer comprehensive solutions for managing subscriptions and ensuring legal compliance. "When you input contact information into databases or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems," Arjun advises, "ensure that you also document the legal basis for processing that data. This categorization is vital, as it distinguishes marketable contacts – those who have given permission for contact."
In conclusion, Arjun emphasizes that marketing and data governance are intertwined. By adhering to data security best practices and legal compliance, marketers can ensure their campaigns align with regulations and ethical standards, thereby establishing trust with their audience.
This article marks the first part of our two-part interview with Arjun Pillai. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we delve deeper into transformative strategies for B2B marketers and explore the evolving landscape of data-driven marketing.