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B2B Marketers have been misled

A few weeks ago, I attended a RevTech conference. I’m as interested as the next B2B marketer in this topic and I wondered if I could pick up some pointers. What I witnessed was presentation after presentation from vendors plying the latest “if you just do this, you’ll identify more people on your website” secret sauce.  And this is what got me thinking about being misled.

All the tech giants of our age–Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc–are dominant in their industries largely due to one thing: Free and easy access to information about the people who use their platforms.

Their example inspired many new business models that relied on a bounty of personal data. Unfortunately, another group looked at the success of these personal data-rich business models and learned the wrong lesson. I’m talking about business-to-business (B2B) companies.

While there are some B2B companies that have transactional business models that could adopt the personal data models (think suppliers of parts or high-volume, low-cost supplies) the vast majority of the business-to-business space consists of high consideration, long sales cycle products where personal data just isn’t available.

Why is that personal data not available?

Mostly because of people!

When you’re at work, the last thing you want is a sales rep pestering you about a thing you’re not going to buy for another couple of months. So you don’t share your data with when you’re browsing their offerings. (Neither do the people who visit your website!)

It’s also partly due to the buying cycle. Traditional web technologies for following prospects rely upon cookies. These cookies generally expire in 30 days.  With recent pushes by Apple and other browsers, some of these cookies are expiring after only seven days. With a buying cycle that lasts months, intermittent website visits make it difficult to re-identify folks when they return.

Despite these and other obstacles, B2B marketers have tried to implement technologies that rely upon the identification of people. Every personalization, marketing automation, and CDP technology vendor plies its wares in a virtual personal data desert. And they try to convince B2B marketers that they can get the benefit of their consumer-oriented brethren if only they could use the right tactic to elicit the information.

But it’s just not so!  Every day, I see our customers struggle to identify more than 5% of the folks who come to their websites!

I saw a multitude of vendors at a recent revenue technology conference talk about what is essentially spyware that tries to sniff out who a person might be, or at a minimum, what company they might be affiliated with. This tech is cited as a godsend to marketers –but this is misleading. In fact -the vast majority of B2B website visitors will never be known-no matter what tech or processes you put in place.

Related: Check out our eBook: What’s Next What’s Next for B2B Personalization?

It’s Time to Stop the Madness!

If you can identify someone, fine. They’ve shared the information and there’s plenty of technology to help with that. But if your goal is to go beyond the slim percentage that you can identify today, you should be thinking about the challenge differently.

The goal should be connecting the people with the information they need to alleviate their pain, solve their problems, and achieve their goals -and that doesn’t require you to always know who the person is.

Our early work in searcher behavioral analysis has demonstrated that great site search results are less dependent on content algorithms and more dependent on understanding visitor behaviors after the search. Searchers can tell you which search results are the best based on their behaviors.

This isn’t an original idea. For decades, brick and mortar retailers have looked at visitor behavior to figure out how to sell more to people wandering their stores. They do this not by knowing who people are but by understanding them despite them being anonymous.

Behavioral consultants watch what’s happening as different shopper types interact with the physical store and make design decisions based upon those behaviors. There’s a reason the milk is in the back corner of every store!

What’s changed recently is that AI technologies have made it possible to make sense of website visitors in the same way that behavioral scientists make sense of shoppers at your local supermarket. We can watch what people are doing, while they remain anonymous, and figure out when they’re having trouble. By looking for those signals we can both help them achieve their goals and use the data to make our models smarter.

This is the new model that B2B marketers should be embracing. Instead of being misled down a path of ever-increasing frustration with personal data models, they should be embracing the power of behavioral technologies to understand what anonymous people want and help them get to a place where their desires can be satisfied.  This approach is good for people who use websites and it’s better for people who own websites.

If you’re curious about how AI and behavioral technologies can help your company deliver more successful customer interactions without cookies and people data, reach out and talk to one of our Site Search Experts  today!

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