Business intelligence: Selling data to selling insights

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While often associated with data visualization software, business Intelligence is comprised of organizations that offer a combination of data and analytics-related insights, services and tools. At their core, these vendors not only look to collect, cleanse and publish data, but also provide advanced analytics and consulting/advisory services that build on top of this asset. From crediting and financial data to business and consumer data, the diversity and pace of data being captured coupled with advancements in AI and data science have allowed vendors to develop insights faster than ever before. This has held true for the legacy data providers, but has also fueled an influx of niche, tech-savvy players to enter the market and fulfill previously under-served needs. But in this increasingly competitive space, how do organizations successfully differentiate themselves?  

Organizations that successfully shift from selling data to selling insights gain a competitive advantage and a higher likelihood of sustainable revenue growth. Keep reading to learn the insights into the most pressing go-to-market challenges, opportunities and imperatives for players in this space.

Prioritizing recurring revenue 

Recurring revenue growth is highly valued by public and private investors across all industries, and Business Intelligence providers are no exception. Many of the largest data vendors have operated in a “Data-as-a-Service” (DaaS) model for years (e.g., offering license subscriptions or metered/usage-based contracts), but there has also been an uptick in the number of analytics vendors shifting from one-off, project-based work to ongoing retainer-based contracts in order to build more predictable recurring revenue streams.

While the recurring revenue model is no new concept, there has been a rapid evolution in terms of go-to-market (GTM) investment in these business models. Organizations have shown a desire to drive recurring revenue, becoming laser-focused on maximizing customer lifetime value (LTV). This mindset has forced organizations to think well beyond their customer acquisition strategies, becoming more focused on delivering insights and value to maximize retention and build a solid foundation for future upsell and cross-sell opportunities. GTM leaders are increasing investment in new logo acquisition and demand generation programs via digital marketing programs as well as digitally enabled lead gen and sales development representatives. Tactics that were once reserved for B2C, are now being embraced and deployed in the B2B space.

Investing in customer success

Customer success to many is helping with key customer challenges or questions, and always having solutions and answers. But it’s more than that. Customer success is about maximizing the customer lifetime value (LTV) with a strong adoption and value delivery. As soon as customer success managers (CSM) are tasked with more active involvement in cross-selling, the line between roles within the sales department becomes blurred. Many organizations that strive to have CSMs actively identifying and qualifying expansion opportunities will find that it’s a fine line to walk and maintain the integrity of the role. 

All in all, there are a few leading practices that can help maximize value. Having strong collaboration and rules of engagement between seller and CSM, developing a formal and customizable Customer Success Plan (CSP for each customer, utilizing metrics and automation to track and analyst value realization are all key components to drive selling insights.) As companies work to invest in customer success, it’s important to realign on CSM initiatives to reflect their level of sales influence, whether it’s adoption metrics, renewals and beyond. 

Embracing customer use cases for business intelligence

Selling insights can only become a reality when you shift from communicating what you sell to what problems you can solve.  For example, a flat file of consumer data can be used for a myriad of applications by a marketing manager.  Any number of Business Intelligence vendors can fulfill the immediate need, set up a subscription, and complete the onboarding process, but that data can easily go wasted and leave a customer questioning the data’s accuracy and ROI. Vendors that can speak to the marketer’s objectives, offer best practices and advisory services (e.g., successful digital ABM campaign execution), and provide reliable and well-integrated data and analysis — that may even enter a new paradigm — will obtain success in selling insights.

In an ever-changing, competitive landscape, companies must find a path that will further differentiate themselves from current and future competitors. Looking ahead, it’s important to keep a close eye on go-to-market challenges, opportunities and imperatives. This will not only help successfully shift from selling data to selling insights to gain a competitive advantage, but also provide a higher likelihood of sustainable revenue growth.

Mike Burnett and John Drosos are principals of The Alexander Group.


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