Note to self: I must get out more!

Last Thursday I spent the day at the top of Milbank Tower in London at the 7th Annual IDM B2B Conference; the week before a day at Cranfield University’s annual Business Growth Conference. Both were excellent events. 

At both I met current customers, old acquaintances, and a number of potential customers interested in data governance. Equally importantly, I picked up practical advice for improving business performance, I was reminded of some things we’re doing right (always good to hear), not least that data and, in particular, good data processes are increasingly essential for all businesses to maximise results – especially in tough times.  

In terms of key learnings, there are three I would highlight. Dr Paul Fifield made the important point at the IDM event that in B2C the focus is always to differentiate, whereas in B2B we often sell our products and services as a commodity, ie, on price. 

Just think of the number of highly-priced types of shampoo out there – evidently there’s even one for “big hair”… I certainly got the message about differentiation a couple of years ago when I discovered that DQM Group was one of 187 data companies responding to one Government tender. We’ve worked hard ever since to establish our position as “the most trusted independent data governance provider to the UK marketing industry” – with sales up 25 per cent on the same period last year it seems to be working. 

Holding your nerve and selling on value benefits rather than on price is still a big challenge for B2B marketers, with typically 40 per cent of every tender allocated on price, with perhaps 10 per cent on value drivers such as innovation at best. According to Dr Fifield, the purpose of marketing is to drive up price. It’s hard to argue, so get spending!

The second key learning from the IDM conference was from John Bottom of Base One. He spoke passionately about how, in the past, “interrupt marketing was the norm. This was product-focused, often delivered with force by sales. In the future we should deliver “interest marketing.

Interest marketing must be issue-based. Of course, success depends very much on the quality and relevance of the information you make available. The question is, “are you pushing your sales teams too hard and interrupting your customers, or really interesting them with relevant content that is of a high value to them?” Bottom says we should remember customers don’t really care about us, they care about issues. So make sure your response is to their issues and is interesting to them.

The third learning was a common theme across several sessions on both days, including those delivered by Vodafone, Google, Cranfield University and Moonpig.  All touched on the importance of data and the importance of effective data processes in sales and marketing. I can speak from personal experience here. Probably our best decision as a company last year was to put our IT Director in charge of lead generation.  

The result is that, in the last six months, we’ve had over 600 requests for information from our target audience, probably (if I could have measured it), more than over the last six years. Importantly, I receive an immediate notification e-mail about each request, am able to monitor the progress of our pipeline on an aggregated or individual basis and in many other ways, with dials, charts, etc, any time and from anywhere in the world…

So getting out and about was time very well spent. While tough trading conditions often encourage an inward-looking, cost-cutting approach (with training and marketing usually hit first and second), I was reminded of the value of investing in personal development and in the value of simply getting out there with customers. 

Good news is that my next day out is at Stoke Park with the Direct Marketing Industry Golf Society. Can’t wait.

By Adrian Gregory, chairman, IDM Data Council and chief executive, DQM Group

The highlights from this year’s IDM B2B Conference are at

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