5 minute read 14 Sep 2021

B2B organizations can transform the customer experience and drive greater value by using the latest technologies and digital strategies.

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Five steps to enhance B2B customer relationships

Joel Wright

Senior Manager, Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP

Experienced digital leader. Customer advocate. Creative problem solver. Passionate about providing results. Proud father of three. Avid supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. Breakfast enthusiast.

Cecilie Burleson

Manager, Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP

Digital marketer. Passionate about advertising technology. Mother of an adoring toddler. Fitness enthusiast often found exploring the Pacific Northwest.

5 minute read 14 Sep 2021

B2B organizations can transform the customer experience and drive greater value by using the latest technologies and digital strategies.

In brief
  • B2B organizations must begin their data management journey by assessing their business needs, data inventories and desired future state.
  • Breaking down silos between functions is one leading approach to tackle evolving business needs.
  • Cutting-edge customer data platforms help drive sales and marketing synergies as well as better compliance insights.

Amid unprecedented competition, business-to-business (B2B) enterprises are seeking to enhance their relationships with customers to drive both loyalty and growth. This effort requires better insights and more targeted messaging around customer behaviors, both of which can be developed by utilizing next-generation technologies and digital strategies to gather and evaluate customer data. However, many organizations’ desire for leading customer data solutions far outpaces their capabilities. But by breaking down silos, unifying data into a single view and utilizing a customer data platform these organizations have a significant opportunity to drive long-term value. 

Creating a holistic view of customers

1. Identify business needs

Before organizations can resolve their data challenges, they first need to identify and understand them.  What problem is the organization trying to solve and why? What outcomes is it ultimately seeking?  Once the “what” and “why” have been determined, leadership should then consider the organization’s desired outcome. For instance, it may want to provide customers with more consistent personalized experiences in real time across all channels. Management may also aim to manage privacy and consent to facilitate proper and compliant use of customer data across all channels. 

2. Conduct a data inventory

After identifying these data-related concerns, organizations should perform a data inventory to gain visibility into the B2B customer journey. With the “inside-out” approach to inventory, companies assess the customer data they have, where it is stored and how it can be consolidated into a single location. By contrast, the “outside-in” inventory method considers value pillars, including expectations around connecting the company’s data, along with the specific data the company needs to locate to achieve its goals. A value framework can help organizations map data related to the issues that matter most to the organization so that it can more effectively prioritize its data. Organizations can then develop use cases that better articulate what success looks like.  

3. Break down the silos and connect the dots

Once organizations have identified their strategic objective, data silos must be broken down to find the data the business needs, and consolidating consent, privacy and preferences across systems for compliant data usage. With the right data all in one place, marketers can manage, analyze and activate it in new and interesting ways. For example, they can tie together every interaction a customer has across the organization and create actionable, real-time customer profiles and segments from known and anonymized customer data. This unified data also helps marketers enrich and analyze multichannel data to derive insights about customers and their journeys. In turn, these insights can help them move from brand marketing to performance marketing by enabling them to orchestrate and deliver consistent and personalized experiences in real time across all digital channels. 

4. Use this data to build more effective sales and marketing strategies and synergies

With customer data in one place and greater visibility into every touch point, organizations can begin to connect and attribute touch points to individuals, account teams and functions. This gives sales, marketing and finance teams a better understanding of how marketing activities influence the closure of a B2B sale, and it enables more accurate measurements of the value marketing provides to both sales teams and the organization’s bottom line. 

Further, by implementing customer data platforms,  organizations can use artificial intelligence and algorithms to attribute a certain percentage of the overall revenue to specific business functions and adjust which touch point has more influence over a given sale versus another one. To help strengthen the relationship between sales and marketing, and more effectively support sales teams, marketers can draw and provide account-level insights based on their 360-degree view of the customer. These insights can help sales teams drive more meaningful one-on-one conversations with their clients.  

At the same time, unified customer data enables marketers to help the sales function understand how to locate and leverage touch points to drive growth. This is especially valuable in today’s environment, where virtual interactions have become the norm. Marketers should also be able to provide sales with qualified leads that, when mapped and monitored through the customer life cycle, can eventually be attributed back to marketing.

5. Carefully examine compliance insights

B2B organizations need to have a first-party relationship with their customers. This means gathering and storing zettabytes of data in their systems and using it to gain insights that help deliver exceptional customer experiences. However, they must be mindful of customer consent when doing so. 

Once the data has been unified the organization can create a data usage labeling and enforcement framework that simplifies and streamlines the process of categorizing data and creating data usage policies.  

Data usage labels classify data in ways that reflect privacy-related considerations and contractual conditions so that when the data is used, it is compliant with both regulations and organizational policies. Organizational policies should describe the kinds of marketing actions that are prohibited based on data usage labels. Once these labels have been applied and data usage policies are in place, a policy framework can inform and enforce policies across different data access patterns and evaluate marketing actions to enable the correct use of data.

Gaining an expansive customer view while avoiding privacy pitfalls

B2B organizations have significant amounts of data that would be highly useful for marketing functions. An opportunity framework can help marketers identify their key objectives and the data needed to achieve them. Once the data is appropriately collected, analyzed and harnessed, marketing and sales can work collaboratively to generate new opportunities and turn opportunities into new clients. Throughout, they can minimize privacy and consent risks by implementing leading strategies and frameworks, including those described above.   


It is important to understand that creating a unified view of the customer across business functions while managing data risk is a significant undertaking. It requires both the right technology and the right team to implement and support it. For many organizations, including our own, the rewards of stronger relationships with our clients and a clearer path to growth more than outweigh the effort. By leveraging the right data insights,  B2B organizations are then well positioned to deepen their bonds with customers, transform the customer experience and accelerate revenue generation.