contextual data

The English anthropologist Gregory Bateson once wrote that “without context, words and actions have no meaning at all.” Whilst he was talking about communication in a wider sense, it’s definitely a sentiment that is relevant to B2B marketing in 2016.

When we wrote about the top 5 themes at the B2B Marketing in Tech event last week, contextual data was highlighted as a hot topic. Using contextual data to improve marketing performance and be more versatile with content was discussed as a ‘shiny new thing’ for many of the marketers speaking at the event.

What makes a piece of data contextual? In short, it’s information about a user’s needs, wants and habits that can help to create a more targeted communication for them. Examples include their location, what device they’re using or what products they’re searching for.

So, what are the key considerations around harnessing contextual data for us B2B marketers?

  1. Finding the story behind the numbers. At the event, two key challenges around contextual data emerged. Firstly, being able to capture the data, and secondly, making it usable. To meet both of these challenges, having the right skills and technology is paramount.
  2. Selecting the right data to make an impact. Your strategy for using contextual data in B2B will be very different from one for a B2C approach. For example, if you’re marketing a restaurant, sending a money-off voucher to a target customer who is 10 metres away from your restaurant at dinnertime makes sense. However, this is unlikely to work for a software company targeting an IT network manager who happens to be driving past their office during the day. Instead, using data about content they’ve looked at and shared with colleagues from a company website or email would be a better bet.
  3. Being relevant as opposed to creepy. The difference between being well-informed and weird can be a tricky line to navigate. Whilst people are more likely to respond to messages that are tailored specifically to them, they might turn off if they feel that you’ve invaded their privacy. Use contextual data to add value to your offering, not just because you can.

Whilst there is still a lot of learning to be done around getting the best out of contextual data in B2B, its potential for creating better, more effective B2B campaigns is clear. Used properly, contextual data can help make your communications welcomed, not just tolerated.