There is a steady interest in predictive analytics from B2B marketers – possibly related to the popularity of account-based marketing (ABM). Marketers who are selling to accounts are typically dealing with a group of buyers who give off different behavioral signals, so predictive analytics, a programmatic method to assess big data and derive predictions about the future could be a powerful strategy to leverage.
In marketing, predictive analytics is about understanding the customer journey. Can predictive analytics help you accelerate the buying cycle? Maybe, but you’ll need to establish comprehensive measurement tools first and get the best marketing dataset you can. If the customer journey for your buyers is well defined and repeatable in a large enough portion of your prospect base, a “next best action” strategy can work.
For example, assume that when you analyzed 100 deals completed last month, you are able to identify three actions a potential customer is likely to take before they enter the buying cycle, such as:
- Reading online reviews that include your product
- Viewing a blog post
- Downloading a whitepaper
If you can identify a pattern, theoretically you can serve up the “next best action” (piece of content, invitation to a webinar or demo, etc.) to continue nurturing leads through the funnel.
Predicting Behavior Through an Account-Based Management Role Lens
Gartner estimates that a complex B2B purchase decision involves from six to 10 people. Another thing to keep in mind is that buyers are in the driver’s seat when making a purchase. They want to control the process, which often means doing their own research. As Gartner also notes, individual buying group members usually have four or five pieces of information they’ve obtained independently.
If you’re working in an ABM framework, you may be able to identify actions taken by people in the targeted account and infer from their role where the business is in the sales cycle. For example, maybe a senior manager attended a conference on risk management compliance and asked someone on their team to do research on risk management compliance software.
In this scenario, you’d probably see a progressive investment of time as the potential customer explores your company’s offering. At some point, they may request a demo or attend a webinar or in-person event. In a predictive analytics scenario, you’d identify what is typical, whether you can map behavior to a role, and then identify the “next best action” and tee up that content.
Marketing Attribution and Funnel Metrics Are Still the Key
So, if B2B marketers can identify behavior patterns that kick off the buying cycle, they could serve up content that could act as a “start” button for further engagement. And who wouldn’t want that? But keep in mind that the process has to lead to revenue to be an effective approach.
Campaign attribution and funnel metrics are the keys to figuring out which content drives pipeline and revenue. If you use Full Circle products, you can gain insight into the customer journey through funnel metrics and Journey Explorer and find out which campaigns deliver the best return via campaign attribution models.
Using these tools to analyze the customer journey, you can engage in remarketing. For example, if intent data tells you a prospect is researching products like yours, you can tee up first-party content (i.e., content your company created), starting with shorter-form content and then serving up longer-form items in a nurturing sequence. If you’re using an ABM approach, you can target buyers by role.
Funnel metrics enable you to measure velocity and compare results. Did your hypothesis about what’s the next best action pan out? Consider conducting A/B tests, comparing results obtained with an intentional strategy to performance in a control group. Do velocity metrics show that leads are progressive more quickly? Are conversion rates rising? If so, refine the approach and monitor further.
Predictive analytics aren’t a panacea because business conditions change rapidly, and engagement does not automatically translate into pipeline and revenue. But keep in mind that successful content and programs don’t just engage, they drive pipeline and revenue. As you explore the customer journeys of your closed/won deals, look for patterns that can direct your actions for the highest marketing performance results.