Sometimes people in the analytics world make it sound like data is the irrefutable word of an all-knowing deity. Embrace the data, follow the data, the data knows all.
But we’re going to commit a bit of a heresy: the data is not always right!
The reality is that, at least when it comes to measuring a company’s Fit and Intent, there’s plenty of stuff that happens offline or outside of what’s visible through the data we gather. (We measure a prospect’s potential Fit to a company’s product or service, as well as the prospect’s Intent to actually buy that product/service. We also measure how recently they started their search, and whether they have engaged with the company’s channels and content.)
For example, on our own front, we occasionally get prospects who are a great Fit for our business and will, out of the blue, submit a demo request or ask to see the platform in action — that’s a pretty big step for someone who just visited us for the first time. It’s surprising because they never engaged on our website at all, they weren’t showing any intent, and didn’t have a history of researching us or our field. They just showed up one day, catching us unawares.
Once we started engaging with them, we often learn they met one of our current customers. That customer raved about their experience with us and our platform in such a way that it compelled the new prospect to come by the site and engage with us immediately.
That just happens once in a while, and it’s great!
But in essence, the data lied, because the company never showed up on our radar in the first place. In fact, if we had assessed the company by looking at the FIRE dashboard, we would have ignored them completely, because none of the signs were there.
Following the Data Doesn’t Provide the Whole Picture
There’s not always going to be buying intent. There’s not always engagement. And new customers don’t necessarily follow the exact path where they can be tracked from start to finish.
More often than not, they do follow this traceable path, and they’re easy to track. But you never know who’s having dinner with one of your customers where they can be influenced enough to want to see the product. You never know who’s making phone calls and sending emails with trusted colleagues and industry friends about the best provider of a certain product, only to land on your company out of the blue.
Data can’t catch everything. It can only catch the digital footprint of online behavior. It can only understand how good or bad a prospect is for your business. And thankfully, human-to-human interaction isn’t trackable with today’s technology. More importantly, these surprise engagements stress the importance of real-world relationships and branding.
Bottom line: While following the data will be responsible for a large portion of your leads and results, bear in mind that you’ll get the occasional outlier, someone who surprises you by just showing up, or even not following the expected behavior pattern. When that happens, be prepared to react and follow your sales process as you normally would. It also helps to ensure that your online content is up to par and ready to support anyone who just wanders in out of the blue.