An article in Harvard Business Review contends that B2B brands are losing customers because of the “increase in the number and size of mergers, the variety of choice in global markets, and uncertainty about trade wars.”
Firms that have managed to reacquire lost customers “identified the reasons for the initial dissolution, applied the right cost-benefit analysis, conducted an honest conversation with the customer, and accommodated their specific requirements,” the authors write.
That’s all well and good. But how do you do that in this age of ever-lengthening buying cycles and these global issues?
“Back in the day salespeople connected with prospects mostly by phone or in person,” states Sky Cassidy, CEO of MountainTop Data. “Today, because of the internet, the sales cycle is greatly lengthened as emails have become the primary form of communication.”
But there’s a problem. You can’t identify lapsed customers and reach out to them by email unless you have clean data. And many firms don’t.
According to Cassidy, dirty data is caused by:
Duplicates of customer profiles or leads — This is an annoyance to customers who may opt out, and could hurt a brand’s reputation.
Inflated data storage fees — These result when there are duplicates, when lists contain errors, and when old names aren’t deleted.
Salespeople waste time chasing useless leads on dirty lists.
IT personnel spend precious time trying to clean dirty lists. The hours add up.
False statistics — Nobody’s saying they’re fake, but they can be skewed, giving the C-suite the wrong impression of the number of leads, and the number of emails being sent, etc.
Incorrect market research — Why survey a “dirty” list?
False records for investors — This syndrome can even lead to legal trouble if people are misled.
So what should you do?
“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter how creative or aggressive your B2B sales campaigns are, if they aren’t built on quality, clean lists, then they won’t perform.”
Granted, not all B2B firms are going to be in the class being discussed by HBR — namely, buyers of big-ticket items. If you’re going to email them, it should probably be done individually, by a salesperson, not as part of a nurture program. But HBR offers some sound advice on how to learn why customers slipped away:
“Your analysis needs to include who or what was responsible for the decision. It also needs to be ruthlessly descriptive, not prescriptive, focusing on what happened, not what should have happened.”
Sounds like the kind of hard-nosed analysis that data scientists conduct every day.