By Robert Rose published December 12, 2014 Est Read Time: 5 min

5 Prescriptions For A Healthy Customer Data Plan


When I say the words “marketing data” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most marketers – it’s probably math, numbers, analytics; basically the statistical information that provides us insight into becoming more effective. Yuk. It’s like medicine – hard to swallow but we know we need to take it to get better.

But it’s actually so much more than that. Data can truly be tasty: valuable information we collect, analyze, and use to deliver better content to our audiences and really improve the impact of the experiences we’re creating.

One thing that has really surprised me, as I’ve toured the globe this year, is how few B2B organizations actually have a good handle on the information from their marketing efforts. When I ask about the organization’s data-collection use, the two most common answers (accompanied by frustrated sighs) are, “We don’t actually have a good system to collect data from users,” or “Yeah, we’re collecting it, but not doing anything with it other than passing it on to sales.

Our latest research supports this

I’ve been digging further into our latest 2015 CMI B2B research, and I have found some interesting correlations. When we asked B2B marketers how many audiences they were targeting, over 86% said more than one. And almost 40% said it was more than four. When we asked what the biggest challenge was for these marketers, as usual, the answer was “producing engaging content.” And, finally, when we asked what the biggest priorities were, more than 63% said “better understanding of audiences.”

Put simply: We know it’s important, but we need a much better handle on targeting and measuring how relevant our content is to our audiences.

Data is the health plan to your audience checkup

Marketing data, and the productive management of it, continues to be a challenge for all B2B marketers. According to the NetProspex 2014 State of Marketing Data Benchmark Report, more than 25% of the average B2B database is simply inaccurate. And two-thirds of companies surveyed had an overall data-health scale of “unreliable.”

But that database is an important key to capturing the attention of your customers and prospects. A white paper title, “Demand Generation Strategies,” may not be nearly as compelling a title as “Tech Marketing Strategies for a Start-up Budget.” But without understanding the audience that’s actually seeing that content, you’ll never know. The ability to be specific in your content promotion across channels where attention span is limited often depends on how complete and accurate the associated fields in your database are. They can make all the difference in the effectiveness of the pieces you write. Combine that contact knowledge with buyer persona insights, and online behavior, and all of a sudden the content you’re creating is not only strategic, but actually drives conversions, engagement, and ultimately, revenue for your business.

5 prescriptions for healthy customer data

We wanted to provide some of the best practices that we’ve learned from businesses that are truly on a healthy path to customer-data management. So, we’ve embarked on a project that led to our latest white paper, Marketing Data: Vitamin D for Your Content Marketing. We cover in detail the five best practices for a healthy, wealthy, and wise customer-data program. Here is a brief overview:

1) Create a wellness plan: Define “who.”

One of the largest challenges that B2B content marketers have is actually closing the gap between the personas they’ve spent the time and effort to create – and the verification of those personas against who is actually visiting.

2) Develop a healthy regimen: Segment and prioritize your audiences.

Once the marketer has the gaps needed to marry the content with its consumption, the next step is designing a data model that continually improves persona segmentation over time. Remember, just like persona development itself, the approach to a “data story” is a process, not a project.

3) Do the right exercise at the right time: Capture the data.

Of course, one key to getting healthy is to match the right exercise with the right part of the regimen. The data that is captured during every interaction with a customer can (and should) affect the outcome of future phases.

4) Monitor your heart rhythm: Match explicit data with the behavior.

The concept of delivering the right content to the right buyer at the right time is the brass ring for healthy content marketing programs. But the only way this is achieved is by not only understanding the explicit data that the customer provides (e.g., name, title, email, industry) but also the behavior of that individual over time.

5) Track your health: Report on actionable insight.

If someone is engaged by content, submits as a lead, and ultimately becomes a customer – but no one measures it – did it count? We’d like to think the answer is “yes,” but far too many content marketing programs still answer this question with a clear “no.” We’ve got to create an ability to track all the way through the journey.

If content is going to be the future – and by all accounts (and our own research) it seems that everyone is going to spend more money doing it – getting healthy with your customer data and really understanding your audience is key to good content marketing health. This new white paper provides some critical prescriptions to help you get on the right data-health plan.

Want to fill your prescription to improve the data-centric health of your content marketing? Be sure to read the white paper from NetProspex and CMI: “Marketing Data: Vitamin D for Your Content Marketing.”

Cover image by George Hodan, via pixabay

Author: Robert Rose

Robert is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for The Content Marketing Institute. Robert has worked with more than 500 companies, including 15 of the Fortune 100. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert’s third book – Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has been called the “book that rewrites the rules of marketing.” His second book – Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing is a top seller and has been called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” Robert’s first book, Managing Content Marketing, spent two weeks as a top 10 marketing book on and is generally considered to be the “owners manual” of the content marketing process. You can follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

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