Data-driven marketing is on the rise. And no wonder: marketers would be six times as likely to report higher profits if they use data-driven strategies, a recent report by Turn and Forbes Insight discovered.

That's not surprising to those already harnessing the power of data, but the proliferation and availability of Big Data has not yet been translated into revenue for all marketers.

Why? Many organizations still struggle to make sense of their data because of the massive volume and high velocity at which data is produced. Furthermore, because data is dispersed across so many disparate platforms (e.g., CRM, marketing automation, analytics), it's become increasingly difficult to merge and analyze data in meaningful ways.

In recent years, however, innovation has made it easier to bridge the gaps among siloed data sources, providing a unified view of data across platforms. Analysis of historical data is being used not only to spot inefficiencies (and efficiencies) in past marketing campaigns but also, in many cases, to identify patterns that can predict future outcomes.

Paired with the right technology for analysis and interpretation, Big Data has ushered in a new era of data-driven sales and marketing: The Age of the Predictive Enterprise.

Data has empowered marketers to serve prospects with superior customer experiences across industries. For instance, 55% of data-driven retail executives already claim to have enjoyed a competitive advantage in both customer loyalty and acquisition, but nowhere is this data trend more important than in B2B.

This article explains the key role that data plays in B2B marketing, and it outlines three ways that marketers can reap the rewards of being more data-driven.

1. Hyper-targeting: Connect with the right prospects at the right time

The rise of data-driven marketing benefits buyers as much as, if not more than, the companies that serve them. After all, a great customer experience starts with reaching the right people (or accounts), at a time when they are most receptive to your message.

Using a combination of internal data (tracked in native systems such as CRMs and marketing automation platforms) and external buying signals (from publicly available sources, such as social media), marketers can gain an intimate understanding of who their most promising customers are.

Aided by predictive technology, B2B marketers can look at their data to pinpoint common characteristics among current customers—based on demographics and behavioral information—to develop an ideal customer profile. That profile can then be used to target people (and accounts) with similar traits, indicative of prospective buyers.

To the same degree, data can tell marketers when targets will be most receptive to their message. By monitoring behavioral data of past buyers (e.g., when a prospect is most likely to engage with emails or take calls), and dramatically increase the likelihood of response.

2. Campaign optimization: Deliver the right offer, in the right place

In B2B, Marketing owns more of the sales cycle than ever before. The reason is that B2B buyers prefer to independently research before ever engaging with your brand—something they're doing later and later in the sales cycle. As a result, the ability to effectively educate potential customers and act as a meaningful adviser has become a top differentiator among B2B organizations.

Using data, marketers would be able to use analytics to not only highlight and connect with target audiences at the right time but also deliver the right message in the right place. Data-driven marketers would see, in real-time, which channels and campaigns are delivering the highest quality leads. That information can be used to weed out underperforming channels and grow investments in channels that consistently deliver.

Furthermore, data can help marketers fine-tune their offer and messaging. Helpful, informative content continues to grow in importance, and data can help facilitate the creation and delivery of high-quality content at scale. Analyzing data from across marketing activities, marketers can identify the trends and themes that are resonating with target audiences, and they can then optimize future campaigns.

3. Maximizing budget: Improve forecasting and make smarter investments

When the data from various sources converge, marketers can figure out precisely where to increase investments and where to cut. Moreover, technology can help accurately forecast how adjustments to investments will eventually influence pipeline and revenue—a task that's been an ongoing challenge for B2B marketers.

With the ability to process and apply machine learning to Big Data, marketers finally have a scientific reality-check on what is working and, more important, what is not. Understanding how a change in activity will result in a change in revenue over time, marketers would be able to remove the guesswork from marketing, save their hard-earned budget, and focus on the people, channels, and campaigns that have been proven to translate into sales.

* * *

When organizations adopt a data-driven culture, everybody wins: Consumers reap the benefits with more efficient, timely, and personalized experiences; companies win customers' trust, business, and loyalty.

Many have speculated that it will soon be the CMO—rather than the head of Sales—who owns pipeline and revenue numbers. That suggestion is not unfounded, considering the extent to which Marketing now owns the B2B buyers' journey, not to mention the abundance of insights that data can (and will) provide for marketers.

Those that prepare themselves now for the forthcoming shift in accountability—taking advantage of all that data-driven Marketing has to offer—will ultimately be the ones that thrive.

Leading B2B marketers have already taken steps to integrate technology, people, and practices to help take advantage of the wealth of data available today. The volume of available data will only continue to grow, and the data-driven marketers with the proper foundation to collect, merge, analyze, and act on that data will reap the benefits: happy customers and higher revenues.

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image of Doug Camplejohn

Doug Camplejohn is CEO and founder of Fliptop, a leader in predictive analytics applications for B2B companies.

LinkedIn: Doug Camplejohn

Twitter: @camplejohn