A conversation starter: The double-edged sword of data for B2B publishers

by Richard Letaw


I’m not sure who first said “it’s not what you know, but what you do” but I heard it first from my Dad – on repeat! Let me clarify; it was a good, no wait – it was a GREAT thing to have instilled in me. In the context of my blessed upbringing, the message was that knowledge (education) was important, but that the real challenge and power comes from what you do with the information you have

Advancements in technology have changed the way we live, work and interact, creating more data than most know what to do with. The Economist termed data “the oil of the digital era” in its recent post on regulation and antitrust.  So with the abundance of data available from their audiences, and with an increasingly mature marketing technology stack, the potential – the possibilities – in front of Publishers is huge. Every day I am presented with a new statistic about the power and growth that the digital giants hold – does that mean that the rest of the publisher world should give up?  Of course not; there is more than enough spend to go around and not having the scale, reach or resources of Facebook and Google certainly shouldn’t deter Publishers from making the best possible use of data. I myself have been frustrated with watching what feels like a slower than necessary climb in putting data into action.

Just a few short months ago, our CEO, Doug Huntington was interviewed about the challenges B2Bs face in layering technology the right way to leverage their highly engaged and data-rich audiences. So, when a new eMarketer research paper hit my inbox today, I was pleasantly surprised with the results: they show that the key methods used by companies to learn about their target audiences are more focused not only on a) digital but also b) on combining data from multiple sources; a proven factor for growth and success.


We’ve quickly evolved from what were much simpler times. But what if we’ve gone too far in our pursuit for the “perfect user”? Does the ROI compute? Are brands really balancing cost to serve against marketing objectives in the most optimal way? Do any campaigns serve simply to build brand awareness? This piece featured in the MIT Technology Review observes that...

As advertisers including P&G…have tried to assess the effectiveness of their increasing digital ad budgets, they’ve discovered that hyper-targeting consumers doesn’t always work.”

As with most things in life (and another key learning from my parental mentors), I believe that balance is crucial. Personally, I’d like to see the trend line spike in a way that shows B2B publishers are catching up with B2C publishers in how they leverage data to reach a wider audience, and their ability to tell a story across multiple channels. I’d love to hear other thoughts on the key roadblocks when it comes to putting data to good use in the B2B space. Anyone have success stories to share?