Use data to take a structured approach to scaling your customer base

Alix Mackay
Alix Mackay

We speak to a lot of entrepreneurs who have successfully developed a science or technology into an innovative commercial application and have ambitious growth plans for their business. However, what is less clear for them is whether their current marketing and sales model will enable them to scale their customer base to the level required to achieve their revenue ambitions. And if it won’t, how do they navigate the world of digital marketing and sales strategies to and ramp up their online presence? Where do they start?

Our advice? Start with the data. Start collecting data now. It will become your own Big Data and bring you all the benefits Big Data brings.

There are four key things collecting data can do for you and it applies to most situations; whether the goal is to accelerate sales growth, expand the customer base beyond geographical boundaries or just find that one perfect Joint Venture – it’s never too early to start.

1. Data will inform your Strategy

Formally collecting and recording the number of potential customers engaged in each stage of your marketing and sales process will enable you to identify where any problems lie.

Here’s how to start building your Marketing and Sales Funnel:

  1. Firstly, start with the total number of people who have been exposed to your brand or company over the last 12 months; how many people were in the audience when presenting data, the total number of people who saw your poster presentation, website traffic, blog views, social media likes, 1:1 conversations at networking or exhibition stands, if you paid for printed advertising, what was the readership? These are your visitors.
  2. From this, how many people identified themselves as interested? Through agreeing to further contact, filling in a form on your website, opening an email attachment you sent.  They are your leads based on your marketing activities.
  3. From those, how many answered a phone call or an email or took an initial meeting from a BD Manager or company representative and were worth pursuing into further conversation? These are your sales qualified leads.
  4. How many of those did you continue to invest time in and bring in additional resources like technical experts or the Chief Exec or, where relevant, time was spent on a proposal – these are your true sales opportunities.
  5. And how many of those opportunities did you win and turn into customers?
  6. Finally, look at those customers and establish, on average, how long it took for them to become a customer from the moment they were a new visitor.
    Also document the value of each sale to identify your average sale value. Identify what level of repeat business generated from your customers so that, over a given period of time, you can work out the lifetime value of a customer.

Building your marketing and sales funnel.jpg

Now, compare this to your revenue objectives and calculate the number of customers you will need. Use the conversion rates calculated between each level to extrapolate upwards and find the audience you are going to need to generate the required number of customers. Ask yourself, honestly and objectively:

Is this achievable with your current model?

By how much would you need to scale your current model to get those starting numbers?

Is this financially feasible?

Where are the weak links in scaling?

What problems have you identified that need to be addressed?

Can you summarise this into 1-3 key issues that, if addressed, would make the biggest and quickest impact on your sales revenue?


Marketing and Sales Funnel example.jpg

In this example, the 25 customers in the current model generate £125,000 and this is achieved by a Business Development team of two people presenting data at conferences and attending networking events and related trade shows. The website gets traffic but they have yet to gain a customer through a website enquiry. Next year, the revenue target scales to £400k. Based on the current model that means 80 customers are required and, by the time the conversion rates are applied, 1900 visitors. The BD team are currently at capacity and are responsible for the whole funnel. Applying the current model, the BD team would need to be tripled. This would equate to an investment of over £200k plus all the associated costs of attending conferences and activities.

For most companies this isn’t a scalable model, particularly if they require to sell beyond their own geography. It’s clear the website really needs to start pulling its weight in generating the initial audience and leads. It’s also clear that the BD Team are strong at converting leads into customers so they need to spend most of their time focussing on working qualified sales leads.

Now, in changing the model in this way, the conversion rates may also change; the website may attract a different audience to those sitting in a conference presentation and so the percentage of qualified leads generated from this audience may also be different. This emphasises the need to continue collecting data and evaluating the situation. However, on average, companies that adopt this model can reduce the cost per lead by up to 61% (Source: Hubspot).

What gets measured gets done

Once the priority areas of focus have been identified e.g. number of visitors and conversion to leads, these can be formally set as metrics for the organisation – not objectives, but key indicators of performance that can be used at any time to take a snapshot of progression towards the targets. This will align the team, budget and tactics in the right direction.

This brings me onto tactics…

2. Data supports Precision Marketing.

In the same way data underpins Precision Medicine, collecting a user’s online behavioural data will enable you to target the right intervention at the right sort of customer in the right scenario.

B2B buying behaviour is just too complicated now with too many variables and too many unknowns to manage without the data.

The customer’s buying journey used to simply look like awareness to consideration to decision, right? Now it’s more like a really advanced version of snakes and ladders – unpredictable progression, regression or tangents as new information and insights come into play.

It’s like this because the days are gone where a prospect’s buying journey started with a face to face meeting with a sales person, who would articulate the problem, and how to solve it. Yes, the buyer might then bring in one or two more potential suppliers but they were still relying on the information and perspectives given by the representative to make their decision.

Today, customers are totally in control and are actively putting off engaging with the seller in favour of educating themselves online and forming their own opinions. In fact, nowadays, up to 70% of the decision making process has been completed by the prospect before they make contact with any supplier.

“50-70% of the decision-making process of a B2B purchase is carried out before engaging with a supplier”

The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing, CEB Marketing Leadership Group in partnership with Google, 2012

To respond to and keep up with this fundamental shift in buying behaviour, the new suite of tactics includes blogging, social media posting and engagement, keyword analyses, authentic inbound links, video, downloadable content, calls to action, email, landing pages, Google ads, social media ads, thought leadership, advocacy and messaging. This list is by no means exhaustive and a whole range of tactics need to be deployed to see results.

Using data analytics you quickly eliminate tactics that don’t work and identify those that add value to the customer, constantly evolving your program to improve performance.


Data collection example.jpg

In this example, the priority for the company was website traffic and online leads in order to generate the right number of customers that would allow them to achieve sales revenue targets. So, they measured their website traffic which was gradually increasing and hit a spike at the end of 2016. Here’s the point though – they had set up their data collection to be able to see where the visitors came from; website traffic was measured by source. This meant they could immediately identify that the traffic had come from blogging and, specifically, two blogs that had really added value to their audience. They were also measuring the number of leads generated and their HubSpot software automatically calculated conversion rates for them. That way they were able to see that the conversion to lead had at least been maintained and that those two blogs had also generated a higher number of leads.This initiated real focus on what insights those blogs provided, why this was so relevant to their customers and through which channels their customers came across the article.

Within months, the more data you collect the more robust it will become and then you’ve got yourself…

3. A predictable Marketing to Sales model bespoke to your business

This is where it gets really interesting. By collecting data at every stage of the marketing and sales process, over time, as the data set becomes more robust, you will be able to connect Marketing input to Sales revenue. If you can do this, you’ll know the cost of acquiring a new customer. And if you have the cost of acquiring a new customer, you know the investment required to scale your customer base to the required levels. Plus, you’ll be able to describe with accuracy how that investment will be spent and the time taken to see return on that. This will demonstrate an ability to execute on marketing and sales.

A model that seamlessly connects Marketing and Sales also provides opportunity for different staffing models that are most cost effective for the organisation and it shows individual team members how their efforts contribute to the success of the company.

The data will also put you on the front foot with respect to adopting future technologies…

4. The data will enable you to adopt future technologies

Here is something I can confidently predict about the future: there is going to be a lot of hype about AI and machine learning tools in Marketing and Sales. A lot. By having an accurate and objective view on your Marketing to Sales process and the areas for further optimisation, you will be the judge of whether a shiny new approach will make a difference to your revenue. There will be (and already are) some amazing augmented intelligence solutions around that will increase productivity and improve the customer experience beyond your wildest dreams; you just need to make sure you know which ones are right for you.

And when you do choose the right solution for your business, as with any technology, the system will only be as smart as the information you provide it. But that's ok - you've got it.

How to start

The first thing to do is to start. Start collecting data now as it’s never too early. Make sure it is data that reflects customer behaviour and their engagement in your Marketing and Sales Process. Next, have a go at building your Marketing and Sale Funnel. At its very least, this may highlight areas where you need to start collecting data.

If you have enough numbers in your funnel, calculate conversions and time taken to sale as well as the average lifetime value of a customer. Then build a funnel that reflects your future sales targets and identify the weak links and where the problems are.

Finally, this is the time to really look at your systems for collecting and analysing data. Is your current CRM fit for this purpose? Do you have enough manpower and Excel competence to collect all this data manually and present it efficiently? Do you need a software solution? If you do, the earlier you invest, the quicker you will benefit. We use HubSpot and are HubSpot partners because it accurately reflects our approach and makes our lives so much easier.

In conclusion

Collecting and analysing data in Marketing and Sales is not rocket science. It doesn’t need to be. But it is necessary in 2017 and beyond. There is no room for internal focus or second guessing anymore; it’s got to be about the customer responses. Because they are in complete control; we have to meet them where they are and take them where they want to go.

That’s why the science data no longer sells itself, but the data science can. Because it’s all about the customer.

Alix Mackay is Quantify’s Inbound Consultant for Science

Email me at or simply keep in touch by connecting on LLinkedIn

Alix has an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the University of Birmingham, is a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Inbound Certified by HubSpot. Before joining Quantify as an Inbound Consultant, Alix led UK marketing strategies in the pharmaceutical industry including Amgen in collaboration with GSK.Prior to this, Alix started her career in sales and training.

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