When I talk about the B2B revenue engine, it’s not my intention to invoke imagery of the machinery that rests beneath the hood of your car. I’m referring to the combination of people, processes, and systems that B2B organizations rely upon to convert prospects into long-term, satisfied, and profitable customers. Yet comparisons between the B2B revenue engine and a finely tuned, efficient machine are useful. It projects a well-fitting aspiration for B2B marketing and sales professionals tasked with growing their business.

Unlike our cars, the B2B revenue engine doesn’t run on gasoline, electricity, or even hydrogen. The B2B revenue engine is fueled by insights. Insights into how processes and systems are operating and how they can be tuned are necessary to power a well-running revenue engine.

Organizations who consistently produce and take action on insights simply perform better. Our research shows that advanced insights-driven B2B organizations are 2.2 times more likely to drive annual revenue growth of 10% or more than peer organizations that are beginner-level in working with insights. Unfortunately, only 7.5% of B2B organizations qualify as advanced insights-driven businesses. This tells us that industry-wide, the B2B revenue engine is suffering from an insights-gap.

Rethinking B2B’s Insights-Driven Approach

The B2B leaders that I speak with understand that the B2B revenue engine requires insights to run smoothly. Yet their investments in revenue engine analytics haven’t gone far enough toward changing organizational behaviors and increasing data-driven actions. B2B organizations must adjust and overcome the current insights gaps by recognizing that:

  • More reporting doesn’t equate to better decision-making. Analytics teams responsible for the B2B revenue engine continue to be overwhelmed by the volume of reporting requests they receive. Requests for more reports are a symptom of shortcomings, including poorly scoped needs for reports, analytics produced without clear use cases, and user communities with low awareness of what already exists. While analytics teams should always expect to triage an abundance of reporting requests, it’s in everyone’s best interests to make sure their efforts are applied against sharply defined reporting users and their decision-making use cases these users face (see The Forrester Aligned Measurement Process Model).
  • “Build it and they will come” is wishful thinking. Analytics teams with high aptitudes in developing dashboards and analytics often learn that stakeholder behaviors are not changing as a result of having access to insights. Even when analytics deliverables are well tuned to audiences and use-cases, analytics adoption may lag. It’s those analytic teams who expand their remits to include continuous efforts to engage and enable stakeholders that see greater uptake of the deliverables they create.
  • Data doesn’t speak for itself. Reporting deliverables are valuable when they’re used to drive actions. For that to happen, data must be interpreted through a process involving data exploration, hypothesis testing, story shaping, and developing guidance. It’s optimistic to expect the average insight user to intuitively progress through these steps without support from analytics specialists. Analytics teams must dedicate time to actively partnering with stakeholders in transforming data into insights if they’re going to ensure that insights inspire action.
  • Insights won’t organically translate into actions. It’s easy to mythologize the power of a great insight that changes everything. Yet it’s more common for smaller insights to collect and build upon one another before new understandings are shaped. Forums for reviewing, discussing, challenging, and forging agreement are needed for insights to build into collective action. Analytics teams that facilitate cadence of review meetings set up their organizations to reach the big agreements around what data means and what actions must be taken. That’s when insights deliver the most value to the business.

To help analytics leaders responsible for the B2B revenue engine rethink the core responsibilities of their teams and what they require to succeed, Forrester has developed The Forrester B2B Insight-Led Analytics Ecosystem. I’ll be presenting that framework and sharing rich case examples of B2B organizations succeeding with revenue engine analytics at our upcoming Data Strategy & Insights event on December 6–7, live in Austin and online. I hope to see you there.