Minority Report arrives in B2B Marketing

The world has always been an uncertain place. The 2002 film ‘Minority Report’ gave us a fascinating view into a future where uncertainty could be dramatically reduced through the use of predictive technology. It appears that age is upon us. The truth is uncertainty is expensive and when you enter the world of B2B Marketing such uncertainty is at the root of massive costs. The costs of sales and marketing efforts, the costs of missed or lost opportunity, the costs of over stocking or under stocking of products, staff or infrastructure costs. These costs of uncertainty have always been enormous to any business, and the reduction of such uncertainty promises big reductions in them all.

We in B2B have been watching, fairly enviously, while such techniques have been developed in B2C for some time. A prime example is how the Supermarket sector manages and sifts huge volumes of data, pulling out hugely valuable insight allowing them to perfect their purchasing, their displays, their store layouts and their delivery schedules to maximum economic benefit. But in B2B?

Imagine a world in which you could (with a degree far greater than that achieved in the past) accurately predict what your sales were going to be next month or year. One in which you knew which clients were likely to buy, when and what they would buy. One where you could efficiently segment your prospective market into meaningful segments that you could, much more accurately, quantify, value and target. That world is certainly coming. Arguably it is already here. The combination of internal and external data sources available to you will define how far you can take it today, but it’s quite possible you already have the information, you need only take the action to convert it into insightful knowledge.

By doing so your marketing can overcome several of the hurdles (at least) that companies have suffered from for decades. As well as breaking down the hurdles of cost or stock levels, you can begin to offer the business such valuable intelligence they couldn’t survive without it. This technology doesn’t only mitigate costs. Other problems that have dogged businesses for decades are set to be relieved by this technology as well. If for example your problem is one of attribution of converted sales to specific marketing actions, those days are quickly disappearing. You will quickly be able to pin point which activities (within marketing) generated which specific leads that resulted in what sales value.

Sound to good to be true? I do not expect anyone reading this article will dispute the underlying message. That such systems are coming. What people might be a bit more sceptical about is how much is achievable today. Technology is, after all, normally a journey.

Back in the 1970/80’s when entire computer systems were replacing paper based workflows things were, believe it or not, somewhat more complicated. The switch over was often quite binary, with entire functions moving from one system to another over night (since it was often too high an overhead to run both at once). That is not necessary when seeking to leverage the capability of Big Data. But there in lies the danger. It’s not necessarily a wholesale change, so it’s easily left to ‘ad hoc’ or weak initiatives that fail to achieve the potential.

Yet when one considers that it is already inconceivable, that those who choose not to take action, or take action poorly, in respect to their predictive capability; will not become dinosaurs. That this will happen possibly before they even know what hit them and it will do so in their most vital of commercial areas. Sales.

The advantages gained by the companies who use this capability properly will be transformational. Trying to compete against them without this capability will be like a layman trying to win a Mathematics quiz against a university Mathematics professor who also has a calculator.

Predictive Analytic techniques, in B2B, are already so powerful that any company, in an established market, that is not embarking on the journey of adoption is effectively packing up shop. This new ‘fact of life’ is not about to slow down. In fact it is about to, very significantly, speed up. I strongly suggest jumping aboard before this train leaves the station…. And hold onto your hat.

Opinion Piece: Richard Roy, Director, SeZing Ltd (October 2017)