Digital and data

We recently launched a new podcast series – Modern Perspectives – where we share insights from B2B leaders and explore how they deal with transformation, change and technology in a marketing context.

In the fourth episode, hosted by Emily Grice, we spoke with three digital visionaries with first-hand experience in using data to drive change, to get their thoughts on the present and future of data.  

You can also listen to the Modern Perspectives podcast here.

Introducing Jon, Joe and Jillian

With more data about our customers’ digital behaviours than ever before, how do we make the best sense – and use – of it? What should resilient businesses be looking at in order to make the most of their data, while still respecting their customers’ privacy?

In this episode, our guests are senior digital leaders with unique perspectives on data: 

  • Jon Clarke – CPO, Cyance – John is the founder of Cyance, a leading buying intent SaaS technology company
  • Joe Leverson – Head of Digital Marketing, Gamma – Joe is bringing digital marketing to the forefront of Gamma, a leading B2B telecoms company
  • Dr Jillian Ney – Founder, Social Intelligence Lab – Jillian is the UK’s first ever Doctor of Social Media. Her research focuses on applying behavioural science to social data to help businesses understand customer data 

digital and data

It’s a terrific discussion, packed with insight and real-world tactics. Here are four highlights from the podcast.

Managing data points

You have to work with multiple data points collected throughout your businesses. How do you manage to get a single view and comprehend all of the data? 

Jon – It’s a huge challenge. The average organisation has 120 different tools inside their business. I think you just need to really simplify it. Ultimately, it’s all about revenue, with marketing and sales coming together to deliver the best outcomes. It’s about understanding what your customers want and may want. 

The data is there, but it’s often siloed. You need a joined-up technology stack that allows your teams to collaborate effectively in an agile way, react to your customers and make informed decisions. 

Joe – At Gamma, we focus on centralisation, with Salesforce as our hub of activity. Our other tools plug into Salesforce, so we have everything in one place, from campaign level marketing data right through to the end, such as how many times a customer phones tech support.  

In order to get a nice, streamlined view, you have to work with multiple people in the company. You need a joined-up company structure with an agenda, a strategy and objectives. 

Pardon the interruption

How do you use intent data to decide when it’s the best time to interrupt your target personas?

Jon – Before intent data, we had company data and contact data, but that decays quickly as people move jobs. Our insights were what our sales and marketing teams knew about our set of accounts. Making decisions on targeting and messaging was very much spray and pray. 

Now we have intent data, but it’s not a silver bullet. It’s actually harder now because consumers expect more from vendors if they’re going to interrupt them. If you get your timing wrong, it dramatically reduces your chances of success.

Think about what behaviour is indicative of someone having a business problem that your product can solve. Then, augment it with other knowledge from your sales team or the media. Find that confidence. 

Intent data doesn’t stop with acquisition. For example, look at your customers’ churn risks. If you’ve got customers coming to the end of their contracts, are they suddenly trending around searching your competition? With this kind of joined-up thinking, you can augment your insights and be more effective whether you’re in acquisition, retention or expansion mode.  

Joe – We don’t use intent data at the moment, although it’s been part of the mix before and will again. We know which kind of prospects to go after because we know a lot about our customers. We know little bits of identifying information, such as displaying phone numbers or running JavaScript on their website. We can advertise to these guys on LinkedIn or elsewhere, with the right message to the right person.

Data privacy

How is the world changing regarding data privacy? And how do we react to it?

Jon – Firstly, I think it’s a good thing. I like what GDPR has done. The new changes coming in, like the strengthening of PECR and the changes in cookie laws, are all designed to get the balance right between protecting our individual right to privacy and good business practice. It was like the Wild West before, particularly in digital advertising.  

I want to have a great online experience. I want to get from A to B to C quickly because I’m time poor and under pressure. As long as it doesn’t compromise our ability to personalise experiences, I think it’s a good thing. 

Joe – I was never that worried, to be honest. Gamma is authentic in its practices, and we’re regulated as a telecoms company.  

We used to run heavy content advertising, which worked a little, but removing it all was the best thing we ever did. Of all the tactics we have tried, search engine optimisation is the secret sauce. It drives good results, gets people onto the website, and it’s legit. Of course, the changes to cookies will affect retargeting campaigns, but search and keywords will still be our philosophy. 

With regards to data privacy, people should have been acting with a better ethos anyway. It’s all about getting people to stop being idiots.  

Social intelligence data

Where are organisations going wrong in their approach to social data?

Jillian – They pigeonhole it. They use social data to prove success from social media campaigns, but there are many other avenues you can go down.  

There’s a definite journey towards social intelligence, and it’s a lot to do with maturity. We’re a long way from where we were 10-15 years ago. Now, there are more dedicated frameworks for analysing data for specific purposes, such as psychology, product positioning and communication strategies.

What examples do you have of social intelligence feeding into a wider sphere of data? 

Jillian – I was just on a call to one of our members, and they told me about a test with a large retailer. They were sending out flower baskets from a centralised unit, but the boxes were falling to pieces. People were not complaining to the retailer about it, but they were mentioning it on social media and the retailer was able to identify it. 

You do need the right culture to support this though. You need someone willing to go to someone senior and tell them what they’ve read on social media without fear of ‘shoot the messenger’.

How has the pandemic changed social intelligence?

Jillian – Companies rely on social intelligence much more now to understand how they should be speaking to their customers. For example, during the pandemic, there was a lot of social media activity on corporate social responsibility and how companies treat their employees.  

I think social intelligence has a positive future. Of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially along the lines of ethics and standards. But once you get the culture right, and the people, processes and technology, it can be really beneficial.

Key takeaways

Thanks to Jon, Joe and Jillian for their enlightening answers. Here are the four key takeaways from the conversation: 

  • Managing multiple data points is a big challenge, but when you focus on what really matters (revenue, customer journey), you can deliver the right outcomes 
  • Intent data isn’t the silver bullet that shows you the best time to interrupt your target persona, but combined with other data, it can give you confidence in the approach you choose 
  • New data privacy regulations are a good thing for the industry as it compels marketers to focus on customer experience 
  • Social intelligence has enormous potential to improve companies’ decision-making processes, but there is still a long way to go


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