Is a Unified Audience Data Platform Within Reach for B2B Publishers?
For last few years, one topic has dominated my discussions with fellow B2B executives. From digital executives to audience directors to business leaders, everyone is focused on, and talking about, enhancing their audience database and audience tracking so that they can better mine, target, and engage with audience.
But, that’s where the struggles arise. We all understand what we want. We’re looking for a single database that combines all user demographic data with all of the behavioral data of that same user. We want that database to provide the tools to target on just about any metric we want and, at the same time, make that messaging more intelligent and automated so that audience engagement increases.
Sound like a lofty goal? It definitely is. In fact, after spending quite a bit of time trying to find one solution that does it all, it is clear that there is no single magic database coming to meet all our objectives.
But, the objectives are still the same. We still need to better understand our audience behavior. We need to better mine the growing dataset we have on our audience. And we need to take the insights gained from mining the database to build better messaging for our content, for our lead-generation products, for our events, and much more.
Where to Start
With a single-solution audience engagement platform off the table, many executives are trying to figure out the best place to start. Should you turn to a digital management platform (DMP) that will bring together data and potentially enable better data mining? Should your organization turn to a marketing automation tool to help you more intelligently reach your audience through inbound marketing? Should you integrate your current databases first and then look at third-party solutions?
The answer on where to start really lies with where you are as an organization. Before going down the path of say DMP vs. marketing automation tools, you first need to understand your organization’s objectives for data and engagement. What data are you trying to collect? What is your end game? Once you have the data, how do you plan to leverage it? These are fundamental questions that every media organization must ask and answer before embarking down the path of improving their audience engagement methodology.
Once the above goals are in place, media companies need to do a technology check by asking the following questions. Does my current technology architecture unify all company data sets? Can we easily mine data to gain new audience insights and take marketing action? How would a DMP or marketing automation tool fit into our company’s overall technology architecture? What does our current architecture do well and what are its biggest weaknesses?
DMP, Marketing Automation or Both
Once a media company understands their goals, technology strengths, and technology weaknesses, they can start looking for the right solution. But, what is the right solution? Should you turn to a DMP? Is implementing marketing automation the right approach? Do you need to do both?
In an ideal world, the answer is both. DMPs do a great job of unifying data from multiple sources so that the media company can see the coveted “360-degree view” of a user. DMPs enable media companies to see, in one place, how a user has engaged with them; to have a single-record with the latest information on the user; and to run queries that can potentially group users together based on interest or engagement.
Marketing automation, on the other hand, is a way to take the information learned through the DMP and take action on it. Through marketing automation tools, media companies can better target messaging to users based on behavior with an email, a webcast, a section of a site and more. At the same time, these tools allow you to automate the messaging a user receives based on the engagement they have on the site, with a piece of content, or with a marketing program.
The challenge we have in the B2B sector is that most tools are designed for B2C. The move to a DMP or marketing automation tool can come with a hefty price tag, especially for small- to medium-sized publishers. So, at least in the short-term, many publishers must choose one or the other.
To make the decision, you’ve got to go back and prioritize your goals again and see which best align with a DMP or a marketing automation tool. To help, here are some things to consider when selecting one versus the other.
Example Reasons to choose a DMP:
- You are working with multiple databases and your main goal is to bring the data together
- You ultimately want automation, but can live with building smarter, more targeted lists first
- You have custom datasets, such as a company ranking list, that you’d like to assign against individual audience contacts
- Dirty data makes identifying your core audience difficult.
Example Reasons to choose a marketing automation tool:
- You are looking to target audience members based on behavior or action taken
- You run a lead-generation business and need to score or nurture leads
- You are looking to increase subscriptions using intelligent marketing messaging
No matter what decision a media company makes, one thing is clear – media companies must use these tools to their fullest or making the move will be disappointing. Over the years, I’ve talked to many media executives that have implemented a DMP or marketing automation tool. And, the biggest complaint is that their team is not using these tools to their full potential. So, before a media company makes the investment in the tool, they must make sure they’ve invested in the team that will be using these tools. Executives must identify key performance indicators (KPIs) so that they can judge the effectiveness of the tool for the business and ensure that they are getting a true ROI from their investment.
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Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.