Data remains a hot topic among consumers and companies alike. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the former have become keenly aware of their privacy being violated, while the latter certainly didn’t remain unaffected by data mismanagement.

Regarding B2B companies, there wasn’t only the issue of adjusting to lead nurturing after the introduction of GDPR. Many still struggle to find the best way to leverage customer data. A study published in May 2018 shows that a poll of 500 B2B professionals showed that only 52% relied on data to make marketing decisions. An alarmingly large percentage of B2B companies still rely on gut instinct instead of customer data when making business decisions.

This approach is untenable, as the shifting B2B marketplace reveals a more customer-centric landscape. As in B2C customer relationships, the B2B customer is also empowered by the awareness that they can easily take their business elsewhere if a company can’t meet—or even exceed—their needs. We’ve rounded up these four crucial tips to help you better use customer data and maximise its potential as a B2B enterprise.

Use a CRM system to offer a personalised customer experience

Companies from the B2C sector have long been using data to provide their customers with personalised shopping experiences, while the B2B sector barely scratched the surface. However, as the B2B market grows increasingly competitive, more and more companies are admitting the value of data-driven personalisation to generate leads, boost sales, and encourage repeat business. With the widespread usage of CRM solutions, the customer experience within the B2B sector is being redefined.

Companies can now provide a more personalised buyer’s journey through every cycle stage using customer data acquired through any channel (from email to phone conversations). That’s why CRM is far more than contact management. Using a CRM system will help you create a successful customer experience strategy, where you can time your offers ideally and tailor them to suit each client’s particular needs. This includes personalising your marketing content, streamlining the lead management process, and using all available customer information (interactions and buying history) to provide a frictionless customer experience.

Look for the data that is meaningful to your customer

As B2B companies engage their clients in long sales cycles, establishing themselves as knowledgeable about each client’s industry is in their best interest. The idea here is to demonstrate to your client that your organisation possesses the working knowledge of their industry and that you can leverage it to provide insightful solutions.

That means that the more concrete, useful, and actionable insights you can provide, the better you can use industry data to address common problems your clients may encounter.

Don’t limit yourself to insights on their competitors or a perspective on the industry. Relevant, useful data could include industry trends, customer behaviour, and geographic distribution patterns.

For example, you may present industry data about how long it takes to complete business compliance tasks and append your data for a specific customer. Some B2B organisations use this combined data to showcase the benefits of using their products/services and give their prospects a compelling reason to do business with them.

Transmute data into insight

Plenty of formal and informal resources stressing the importance of collecting various kinds of data. However, what has received far less attention is how this data should be transformed into insights that can directly inform business decisions.

Likewise, many B2B companies will invest millions of dollars into data-gathering systems, and not nearly enough to make that data presentable. This approach makes it difficult for sales and marketing teams to utilise the data to its maximum potential and act on it meaningfully.

Effective use of data

The poll we mentioned previously demonstrates this issue. Out of 500 surveyed professionals, only 43% confirmed that their companies’ data sources and insights are “well integrated, understood, consistent, validated, and shared across the organisation.”

Simply put, data is fairly useless if it’s indigestible to everyone other than data scientists. Raw data needs to be crystallised into the information that will drive customer actions.

Now, bigger companies have been circumventing this problem by employing AI solutions. Advanced analytical engines, which can correlate data with established customer behaviour patterns, are being used to extract meaningful information from raw data and thus help create more informed sales processes.

A well-integrated CRM system for a smaller B2B enterprise will help manage customer data and use the records to establish effective, streamlined sales processes.

Use automation to improve data accessibility

One of the biggest challenges for organisations regarding data acquisition is time—getting the necessary data in front of decision-makers and salespeople promptly. If the process isn’t automated, a lot of time is wasted before the right people have their eyes on the specific data, which will help them propose valuable insights and determine the right approach for each client. This makes for a lot of missed opportunities.

With software such as sales force automation, you can automatically record all the stages in a sales process. Along with its obvious significance to the CRM system, where it provides salespeople with important customer information at their fingertips, automation also eliminates the need for manual data entry—the biggest productivity killer.

Marketing and selling are becoming increasingly data-driven, and this trend is profoundly changing business operations. The number of B2B enterprises that rely on data to drive their strategies is bound to grow, but there’s another challenge to be faced: figuring out how to use data effectively. In order to do this, B2B companies need to understand their customers and their context well enough to generate actionable insights.