If we took a 1000-piece puzzle and walked around any B2B company, scattering the puzzle pieces as we wondered, this would be a good illustration of their data maturity. Most B2B companies have all the puzzle pieces scattered about but, they have no idea how to get them organized in one place, let alone how to start fitting the pieces together.

For the last decade data has exponentially grown, unchecked, into places so remote that most B2B executives have given up looking for it.  Instead of trying to do something about it, it is easier for the execs to state, “we don’t have the data” or “call IT” than it is to start collecting the pieces. Does anyone think there is going to be less data in the future? At some point, like now, you must get started collecting your data and making sense of it.

As a data-driven marketer, I have always enjoyed speaking with clients that believe they do not have any data, or they claim that they can’t get at it. If they would only realize that the bar “of having data” is so low, they would probably trip over it on their way to their first reporting meeting. My advice – get started. Start by stepping forward and simply schedule a meeting to talk about data and data collection.  Without that first step, you will never solve the puzzle.

However, I must warn you, there are dangers as we start to discuss how to collect the data pieces. Hold yourself back from having your first goal be the grand vision of having one all-inclusive dashboard that tells you everything you need. That time will come but, there is a place between where you are at now and where you want to be in the future which we like to call “the valley of crushed dreams.” This “valley” contains all the failed projects that were never completed because the final deliverable or project leaders were too ambitious and boiled the ocean too quickly. Many failed people, projects, dashboards, and reports are scattered in this valley with no hope of being rescued or completed.

Okay, back to it. The first data meeting is scheduled.  Let’s start with some simple questions like:

  • Do we have web analytics software? (most of the executives attending the meeting won’t know). If yes, we found our first piece. Get a login, read-only, to the system so you can pull your own queries.
  • Do we have any sales or revenue data? Can you get it weekly or daily? If yes, we have found another piece.
  • Do we have any online digital channel data like FB/IG, Google, Bing, Twitter, or Linkedin? If yes, we just hit the mother-load of pieces.  Get logins, read-only, to each system so you can pull your own reports.

At this point, we probably have more organized data than two-thirds of the most B2B companies out there. Let’s keep it going…

  • Inventory, you ask? Great, we need that piece of the puzzle too; what do we have? Get a weekly report.
  • What about competitor data? (sales data, media spends) Probably tough to find but you might get lucky.

NOW, STOP. We are now approaching that valley I spoke about earlier. Take what we have collected so far and put it together. Organize it.  Chart it.  Create a simple dashboard. Trust me, even with this small data set, you are going to start seeing insights.

Now we are rolling. Finding the remaining puzzle pieces is going to get easier from this point forward. Executives will see or hear about the dashboard report and lost pieces of the puzzle will start showing up at your cubicle. Add those pieces one at a time and remember to beware of the “valley,” you don’t want to find yourself there. Lastly, keep in mind, you will probably never find all the pieces, which is okay.

And you thought you didn’t have any data…