What Happens When You Turn Curated Customer Data into Intellectual Property?
by Lynn Langmade
While most marketers know that producing adequate sales leads requires thorough data collection and analysis, they must also be mindful of each target account ‘s current business situation (which can change almost daily).
Information about business circumstances comes in many forms — press releases, earnings reports, news items, analyst reports, and much more. When added to what we already know about our territories and target accounts, this new information can turn a pile of routine marketing findings into powerful sales knowledge that borders on intellectual property (IP).
If you view IP as the sum of a company’s research, knowledge, patents, processes and the like, then you really should add sales knowledge to your list. The knowledge you can develop about your markets and target customers, in relation to your business’ other knowledge, designs, and plans, is unique. You own it and no one else has it – and that's a competitive weapon in sales.
A Marketing Revenue Revelation
Based on salespeople’s demand for better leads and pressure on marketers to generate revenue, marketers have discovered that the type of data they collect is as important as its volume.
Even a few years ago, salespeople were happy with basic demographics (name, title, phone number), and with that they’d schedule a prospect meeting to capture the really important information (business need, budget, decision maker identities, etc.). But with today’s high quotas, salespeople don’t have time to invest in basic data gathering and managers are steering salespeople away from qualifying prospects during valuable meeting time. And managers have earmarked sales meetings for conversations that advance the sales process.
Marketers need to provide their sales counterparts with rich prospect profiles that answer salespeople’s most important questions, including:
Does our product/service match the prospect’s business needs?
Does the prospect have budget to spend?
Is an executive sponsor tied to the deal?
Buying a target list will not answer the above questions – and qualifying a lead before a sales call also requires more effort than collecting a small set of demographic data.
Starting with a generic prospect list and applying lead nurturing campaigns, marketers aim to cultivate information that salespeople can use. For instance, they engage with prospects via social media, and in the process, build a knowledge-base and share content. With the help of lead nurturing programs and enhanced data collection that feeds into analytics, the refined leads that marketers are delivering to sales are nearly sales-ready – but that’s not enough.
Marketing is starting to re-think its lead capturing processes to meet sales’ demands. Using various data collection techniques and lead enriching, they are able to weed out leads that might look good on paper but will never close. They're starting to curate leads that border on intellectual property.
Intellectual Property’s Competitive Advantage
But just like filing a patent, there’s a long process involved in bringing knowledge (read: intellectual property) together so that it can be used effectively. Until fairly recently, marketers didn’t have the tools needed to find the disparate data scattered across the Internet that could complete the picture of a prospect’s need. There is an advantage to being a first-mover in the race to capture and collate market knowledge before your competition.
That’s why savvy vendors are increasingly relying on sales and marketing intelligence tools to scour the Internet for those bits of information that can complete a marketing profile and turn it into a hot lead. Every day, businesses give off data about their aims, ambitions, results, and shortcomings. These insights are moments of truth and are incredibly useful for vendors selling targeted solutions.
Developing customer knowledge really is like developing any other form of intellectual property in a company. It lessens the randomness from selling. It's why so many forward-thinking businesses see sales and marketing intelligence tools as vital to their continued success. By identifying moments of truth and being able to suggest specific solutions, a vendor can move from a position of hawking a product to becoming a trusted partner. And all of a sudden, the vendor has a competitive advantage.