Today’s B2B marketers have dozens of tools and software applications at their disposal, each storing different data on prospects and customers. The more tools, the more data, and the more data, the more complexity. Without a unified approach to managing this data, the success of sales and marketing teams can truly suffer. Inaccurate data, ill-timed sales outreach, duplicate information are only a few of the mishaps that can occur when your customer data lives in multiple systems.
Adopting a single customer view has been the solution for forward-thinking B2B organizations looking to align their go-to-market teams, streamline operations, and accelerate revenue generation.
In this blog, we’ll cover what it is, the benefits and challenges of adoption, and how companies are beginning to implement one.
Table of Contents
- What is the single customer view?
- What data is typically included?
- What are the benefits?
- Would your organization benefit from having a single customer view?
- What are some known challenges?
- How can you achieve a single customer view?
What is the single customer view?
The single customer view (alternatively called the 360 degree customer view, unified customer profile, or the golden record) aims to create a holistic representation of a customer by unifying and merging data about the customer into one comprehensive and consistent record. In a B2B buying cycle, this could refer to rolling the data up on each individual or on each company. This unified customer profile acts as a single source of truth from where key internal team stakeholders can view and access important information about a customer.
It’s not uncommon to see B2B organizations today with a martech stack boasting 30 or more unique tools, each with a distinct purpose and “job to be done”. With each tool accumulating its own data sets about prospects and customers, organizations that continue to operate with these data silos are certainly missing out on opportunities to drive customer loyalty, operate more efficiently, and grow revenue.
What data is typically included?
The single customer view is intended to be a comprehensive record of the customer, with data that not only includes information about who the customer is, but also what interactions they had with your company, across all channels and over their entire lifespan. The data that make up the unified customer profile are varied, and can come from online or offline channels, and first, second, or third party data sources.
The data can be grouped into:
Attributes & Identifiers
- Contact information like email address and phone number
- Demographic information
- Geographic information
- Email opens, clicks, replies, and opt-outs
- Web page visits
- Mobile app engagement
- Purchasing behavior
- Customer support inquiries and tickets
In B2B, the view of an account is just as important as the view of the individuals at the company. When creating your single customer view, it’ll be important to make sure account-level views are taken into consideration. The account-level view may have attributes and identifiers related to the account (like company size, years in business, geographic location, industry) as well as a roll-up of person-level activities. The account-level view could also include events like “raised Series A funding” as well.
In B2B, the view of an account is just as important as the view of the individuals at the company. When creating your single customer view, it’ll be important to make sure account-level views are taken into consideration.
What are the benefits?
Organizations can reap many benefits once a 360 degree customer view has been implemented. We noticed a few key areas where having a unified customer profile has either improved customer experiences, mitigated costs, operationalized certain internal processes, or simplified marketing attribution reporting.
Personalizing the customer experience
Without a single customer view, your prospects’ and customers’ data may be living in multiple systems including your CRM, sales engagement platform, marketing automation platform, web tracking tool, customer ticketing platform, social media, ad management platform, among many others. Your marketing team may know that Jane Doe from Acme Corp. has been engaging with a particular piece of content regularly, but sales may not have the same visibility, which may mean they’re missing out on opportunities to engage with customers on a more personalized level.
When teams access and work off the same data set on a prospect or customer, they can tailor their interactions accordingly to provide the best possible experience. Omni-channel marketing campaigns can be more effective, real-time web and ad personalization can become a reality, and sales teams can pick up right where the prospect or customer left off instead of having to get caught up on a call and wasting valuable time.
A Marketing Evolution and Forrester study found that marketers waste 21 cents for every media dollar spent due to bad data. Marketing efforts, especially advertising, can be costly investments, so it’s important that marketers get the most out of every dollar spent. You wouldn’t want to continue showing ads with a “Request a Demo” call-to-action if your prospect has already booked a demo, or have a sales development rep continue calling a prospect that just initiated a free trial of your product. When your tools aren’t sharing important data about your prospects and customers with one another, your marketing campaigns may be spending unnecessarily.
Improving data quality
When customer data lives in multiple tools and systems, you’re bound to uncover duplicate data, discrepancies, and errors. Amending the data in order for it to be useful can be a tedious and involved process — not to mention, often manual. Creating a single customer view eliminates the need to manually deduplicate, cleanse, and fix your data prior to using it.
Simplifying attribution reporting
Attribution reporting has always been and continues to be one of the most complicated (and sometimes, dreaded) projects a B2B marketer will take on. Multiple stakeholders, long sales cycles, and multiple engagement channels combine to create the perfect storm of data without actionable insights. Unifying the data simplifies attribution reporting. Marketers no longer need to ask other team members or departments to extract and send large datasets — they have the customers’ entire interaction history consolidated and in chronological order.
Would your organization benefit from having a single customer view?
Several organizational characteristics make implementing a single customer view more valuable for some companies over others. Several top factors include:
- Your leadership team has prioritized improving the customer experience or has made it a focus to become more customer-centric
- Your current marketing programs involve an omni-channel approach
- Your customer journey involves multiple engagement points
- Your marketing stack includes many disparate tools
What are some known challenges?
Despite the myriad benefits and value of implementing a single customer view, an Experian study found that an overwhelming 89% of companies still have challenges creating unified customer profiles. At its core, building a unified customer profile is about data integration and identity resolution, which can prove to be difficult due to various organizational or technical challenges:
- Departmental silos
- Lack of organizational buy-in
- Lack of engineering resources
- Incompatibility between legacy systems and new digital technologies
- Unique system identifiers that can make it hard to match and resolve identities
At its core, building a unified customer profile is about data integration and identity resolution.
How can you achieve a single customer view?
There are several ways organizations have attempted to create a single customer view. Companies that have a minimal tech stack or few internal technical resources have often resorted to using their CRM as their single source of truth. However, a CRM’s primary purpose is to organize information and log interactions for sales or customer success teams, so it may not be sufficient to capture everything about the customer for marketing purposes.
Other organizations have attempted to achieve their single customer view by building it in-house with internal development resources, often sending everything into a data lake or data warehouse. While this method can certainly work for some companies, it is not for the faint of heart. Building an internal system that captures a 360 degree view of your customer involves overcoming technical and organizational roadblocks that may stand in the way at every stage, not to mention any ongoing maintenance of the system going forward. Data lakes and data warehouses often go so far as to store data, but they are challenged in the area of “data activation” — allowing the data to be “actionable” by sending and syncing to other applications.
A third method growing in popularity is implementing a customer data platform. A primary function of the customer data platform is to create a single customer view by unifying data sources. CDPs take it to the next level by not only ingesting, merging, and deduplicating data, they also allow you to activate the data by sending it out to various go-to-market tools.
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Angela brings over a decade of B2B technology marketing experience to her role as the Director of Marketing at Hull. Prior to Hull, she spent 5 years at utility data aggregator, Urjanet, where she held various roles in demand generation, marketing operations, and product marketing.