Customers are the New Oil: Beyond Sales Wildcatting

“Data is the New Oil” has become a pretty tired phrase, and a strangely circular one — nowhere has advances in data practices and technology had more impact than in the search for oil. Maybe “Data is the New Oil for Finding Oil?”
For those of us in B2B Sales and Marketing, a more interesting analogy is between Oil and Customers. Customers are what we seek, our goal, the thing that — when we find them — pays.  For us, Customers are the (New) Oil. 

The early days of the American Oil industry was dominated by Wildcatters, folks who acted on hunches or rules of thumb and drilled speculative wells. If a well was dry, they tried again somewhere else, continuing until, hopefully, they eventually hit a gusher.

This approach sounds a lot like what I often see in B2B sales and marketing — Sales Wildcatting. Just keep trying. Keep drilling wells. Eventually we’ll turn up customers. Just as the original wildcatters had only a general idea of where the oil was but made up for it by drilling lots of wells, B2B sales and marketing organizations have only a general idea of where their customers are, and so have to make up for it by targeting a lot of prospects.

But it is just too expensive and ineffective. The oil industry figured this out a long time ago.  Modern oil companies never drill a well based on a hunch or a rough rule of thumb. Today, exploring for oil is all about data. They feed huge quantities of 3D seismic data into sophisticated algorithms that identify the most promising opportunities. Only then do they send out the drilling teams. One study showed that even on a very small field every 1% improvement in prediction accuracy is worth $1.7M.

It is time for sales and marketing organizations to learn this same lesson, to move beyond Sales Wildcatting.  At Infer, we see the enormous difference this transition can make. At company after company when when we apply our unique data and predictive algorithms to light up their most promising customers, the benefit is enormous — frequently a lift of 100% in win rate or conversions. Just think about which company you would rather be: the one drilling for customers based on a hunch, or the one with the data and predictive technology to zero in on the best potential customers.

Karl Rumelhart

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