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What’s the difference between a B2B and B2C customer data platform?

Alex Bistran, Director, Revenue Marketing, Zylotech

A customer data platform (CDP) is designed to support targeted marketing and sales efforts. But imagine that your target is moving. Or that you’re aiming where the target was four months ago. These are the kinds of challenges that business-to-business (B2B) marketing and sales teams face every day and that require a different approach to building a customer data platform.

There are important, fundamental differences between consumer data and business data. A consumer, for example, may change their address, phone number, email or even their last name, but not frequently and rarely all at the same time. In the business world, however, employees change companies, roles and responsibilities, emails, phone numbers and addresses on a regular basis and often simultaneously. This means that B2B data becomes outdated much more quickly than business-to-consumer (B2C) data.

B2C data is also relatively consistent in terms of its underlying data model. Name, address, phone number and email are basic, common concepts for every consumer. Businesses, however, may have branch offices, subdivisions, affiliates, partners, multiple phone numbers and job titles that vary significantly from business to business. This makes it very hard to unify B2B data around a single data model. A third-party data provider such as ZoomInfo may have one way of organizing their data that differs substantially from your own CRM data model and, when these multiple data sources are merged, duplicate entries and missing fields are often the result.

What should I look for in a B2B CDP?

A B2B CDP should be designed around the unique data challenges that B2B marketers and sales teams face. For example, it should understand concepts such as accounts and contacts and provide a data model that supports those concepts by accurately organizing contacts within the right accounts in a logical, hierarchical manner. A B2B CDP should also be able to integrate third-party and first-party data in a seamless way that creates one unified, reliable data source for the entire business. At Zylotech, we call this trusted data governance, and what it means is that data is constantly refreshed, organized and verified for accuracy. The lack of a trusted data governance foundation is why so many data warehouse initiatives fail: decision-makers simply don’t trust the data that drives their business intelligence.

Of course, CDPs don’t stop with collecting and organizing data. They include analytics and may even leverage technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to accurately score and segment customers, predict buying/engagement behavior, improve marketing campaigns, target sales efforts and stitch together personalized customer interactions across channels. Here again, these tasks have different goals and challenges depending on whether the audience is a consumer or a businessperson. A B2C CDP might be concerned only with individual customer engagement where a B2B CDP would need to look at marketing and sales engagement across an entire account. Also, building an ideal customer profile is a very different exercise when the customer can be either an account or a contact within the account.

So, if you’re a B2B company looking for a CDP to improve your sales efforts, marketing campaigns, and customer experiences, what should you look for? Start with a trusted data foundation. Does the CDP platform support tight integration with third-party data providers or, better still, offer their own curated and trusted data as part of their solution? Then, look at their data models. Are they built around B2B and do they allow you to bring intent data and other sources into the models seamlessly? Finally, what kind of value can you expect from your CDP investment? Will it create better segments that reduce your marketing costs and increase the success rate of sales calls? Can it save you money by eliminating “cold” prospects from your campaigns or removing outdated/duplicate entries?

A good CDP solution does more than provide good analytics. It starts with good data and provides a single view of the customer that inspires confidence in decision-making. To better understand what separates good data from bad data, read my next blog or download our guide on B2B Customer Data Platforms here.

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