“Right now my biggest worry is that we don’t get ‘Ubered’ right out of existence,” said the woman sitting a couple of rows away from me on the Metro-North train between New York and New Haven.
“What?” her companion asked.
“Ubered!” she repeated. “You know when some kickass new idea comes out of nowhere and blows your business right out of the water.”
I wasn’t eavesdropping. She was clearly distraught and her voice was raised. Besides she’d just triggered another synchronicity for me. My trip to the East Coast was confirming a nagging feeling that’s been welling up inside of me for months.
The paradigm shift is real, I whispered to myself.
Paradigms Lost…Paradigms Changed
I spend a lot of time thinking about the business of B2B data…where our industry is going…the evolution from data scarcity to abundance and the impact on our clients and ultimately what it all means to LeadGenius. But for the past several months, I’ve been particularly focused on business cycles.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen many businesses and industries rise to prominence on an innovation, grow and thrive, only to be eclipsed by the next big idea or paradigm shift. As has been explained by Moore’s Law, the pace of change in our lifetime has been astonishing.
All that musing has led me to the opinion that our industry’s approach to B2B data is about to experience a quantum shift. It’s going to change how you work with data vendors. And the truth is, it’s already changed how you work with LeadGenius. And my recent trip to the East Coast has helped crystalize my thoughts.
Having stopped off in New Haven to spend a few days with my parents, I had the chance to drive around and observe just how much downtown New Haven has changed. As I passed the block where Tommy K’s Video used to be, I recalled back in 1985 walking into Thomas Sweet Ice Cream next door with my girlfriend and telling her what a crazy idea it was to rent videos. Why would anyone want to see a movie at home without popcorn or a big screen? What a silly business, I boasted.
Yeah, I missed that one. Affordable VHS machines gave rise to Tommy K’s and to tens of thousands of mom and pop video rentals seemingly overnight. Of course, they were soon “Blockbustered.” And within 20 years, Netflix and digital streaming changed the paradigm to the point that on my redeye cross country flight I’d watched a few movies streaming live from my phone.
No industry, business or paradigm is immune. After centuries of peddlers and traveling salesmen evolved into the modern sales force, it took the inside sales paradigm only a couple of decades to eclipse the traditional outside sales model. Then, in 2013 Slack founder, Stewart Butterfield, introduced a sales model without salespeople. Six years later, and he’s ready to take Slack public. You can bet a whole new generation of startups are eager to embrace his sales-less, product-centric model.
It’s also the pace of change that’s accelerating. Innovation, Wired noted, is on “the exponential express.” Think about it. The first Ford came off the assembly line in 1913. It was almost 100 years before Uber introduced peer-to-peer ridesharing. But that same year—2009—Google began its self-driving car project.
And if you want a real slap upside the head, watch a YouTube video as some teenager tries try to figure out how to use a rotary phone or a Walkman. It’s funny until you realize that the technology you took for granted and the innovations you once saved your allowance to buy are complete anachronisms to your own kids. Don’t get too attached to that new iPhone in your pocket, as I bet you’ll be laughing about it in 10 years.
We’re All Drowning in Data
So why do I see quantum change coming to the B2B industry? It’s because we’re all drowning in data. So much so that we’ve left data scarcity behind, breezed past abundance and are now blinded by the volume. We’re snowblind in a blizzard of data.
Here on the LeadGenius blog, we’ve been hinting for months that something has to change. In one post, our Vice President of Demand Generation, Jeff Kostermans, advised companies to stop flooding sales reps with data and focus on controlling the flow of quality leads. With “control” and “quality” being the operative words.
And before that post, Jeff highlighted a very telling Salesforce survey, which reported that 66% of reps’ time is spent on “non-sales activity.” Wanna guess what was one of their biggest time sucks? Trying to find the right person to contact.
In less than two decades we’ve gone from data scarcity to abundance. The problem is that companies have been slow to abandon their scarcity mentality, and it’s left them addicted to ever-more data. And vendors have been all too happy to give them a self-serve “all you can eat” data model that encourages them to gorge.
But more isn’t proving all that much better. Don’t get me wrong; big data has revolutionized sales and marketing. But now that data is now the multiplier of companies’ account-based marketing strategies, they need the control and quality Jeff wrote about.
Data Service is Your Lifeline
You don’t need more data; you need the means to find the precious needles in your data stack. And that, I believe, is leading to the quantum shift in our approach to data.
And that was the other revelation from my trip east. I’d scheduled meetings with several corporations with sophisticated sales and marketing programs and databases running to the tens of millions of contact records.
They get it. It’s all well and good to have millions of people in your database. But that blizzard of data doesn’t help them. What they want to know is what subset of those people they should be talking with right now. Because there’s no logistical or cost-effective way to talk with people who have no interest in talking with you.
While traveling on the Beagle in the 1830s, Charles Darwin hypothesized the theory of evolution noting the wide variation and rapid diversification of finches on the Galapagos islands. Although my trip in March to the East Coast and the wilds of New York and Boston almost 200 years later wasn’t as far-flung or lengthy, I too came to an epiphany during my travels.
The B2B data game has changed. In the blink of an eye. As quickly as did the beaks of Darwin’s finches. Vendors who focus on data-only will die. It’s all about data service from now forward.