This article was written by Tom O’Regan and originally published by MarTech Advisor

Tom O’Regan, CEO, Madison Logic gives brands some tips on how to best manage, measure and interpret the data-driven marketing efforts

You might think you know your customer, but you don’t. You just think you do. Many B2B marketers create an idea of their prospects, building personas based on intuition. They figure title, job function, and department into this persona and build content for each. On one hand you have “Lakshay the CMO” and “Tracey the Director of Marketing.” The information these personas are seeking is, at best, an educated guess based on a set of assumptions.

But why guess? The thing is, you can know your prospects, not individually but byaccount. This is a critical point. Today, the buying committee is larger than ever – at least 5.4 people according to a CEB study. What’s more, it’s comprised of a wide variety of people from different disciplines. A team considering a technology purchase could consist of individuals from the marketing, IT, and finance departments. You want to reach them all with messaging that’s right for them, when and where they’re ready to receive it.

Be Calm and Measure Everything

“Cross-channel marketing needs one overarching tactic: Data,” says Suzanne Stock of Marketscan. And she’s right. Data exists that can help you understand what accounts are surging in research on particular topics, and they can tell you the exact terms that are being researched.

Let’s take for example the team considering a technology purchase. More to the point, they’re considering a CRM system. But this marketing team is under pressure from its CEO to prove return on investment and is looking for the solution with the best possible reporting and metrics. As such, they are researching “CRM,” but they’re also digging into “marketing metrics” and “CRM analytics.” This tells you something about what the challenges an account is facing – allowing you to create content that highlights those topics and addresses their pain points.

What’s truly great about data is that when you have attribution capabilities, you can understand what content is working and what is not. In other words, as data comes in about your marketing programs and the performance of certain assets, you can make adjustments, optimizing for success in real-time.

Be Relevant

All marketing, both B2B and B2C walks a fine line between useful and irritating. There are two common complaints. The first is relevance. In this past this has meant persona marketing, targeting a user with the content you think is appropriate. But this is a spray and pray approach. Send your messaging out to 1,000 marketing directors and you’ll be lucky if just one of them is actively researching. The remaining 999 either ignored your messaging, or were actively annoyed by it.

Data, however, can allow you to reach exactly who is researching products like yours. You may have a list of 1,000 target accounts, but only 250 of them are active. And, to put a cherry on it, data can tell you about 300 companies you didn’t know existed that are researching your products. These are the people most receptive to your message.

Be Useful

The second complaint is that most marketing is too sales-oriented. This is practically a rookie mistake. Lori Wizdo of Forrester says that “marketers who create product-centric campaigns risk becoming irrelevant.” It’s true. Bombard a prospect with sales calls and whitepapers that promote your products and you risk annoying them to the extent where they turn a deaf ear to you.

Here again, data is king. When data tells you the topics an account is researching, you can make smart, informed assumptions about their questions. The content you create should answer those questions directly and get that content in front of them in a timely and efficient manner.

The key here is to be smart about how you interpret the data you have. A surge in research from an account you don’t yet know is not indication that a prospect is ready for a sales call. More often than not, it’s an indication that you create a program that combines both targeted advertising and content syndication tactics. You’ll need to monitor these tactics throughout the process to gauge success. When you measure your tactics by account, you’ll be able to prove the ROI of each step as they move through the pipeline to conversion.