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    For the third year running, we conducted our State of External Data survey. In this round, we surveyed industrial manufacturers’ use of external data.

    Our respondents were executives at 100 large manufacturing companies with annual revenues of $1B or more. Located in the US (80%) and the UK (20%), they were recruited by a global B2B research panel and they responded to the survey by email. The positions held by the respondents are shown here in Figure 1:

    Fig. 1: Distribution of respondents’ positions at industrial manufacturing companies.

    Survey results

    Extent of external data use

    A major finding from the survey confirmed what we, at Explorium, knew anecdotally from our activity and interactions in the field: in the manufacturing industry, the use of external data for marketing, sales and related activities lags behind its use in other industries.

    Figure 2, below, depicts the average number of external data providers used by manufacturers in 2023, compared to the number used in a variety of other industries, as reported in our 2022 survey. 

    Fig. 2: Average number of external data providers used: Manufacturers/2023 vs. Other industries/2022.

    We see that the majority (81%) of manufacturing companies use two to three data sources.  Compare this to 2022 survey results for all industries, where 52% of companies used five or more external data providers. Acknowledging the benefits of external data and its potential, a total of 59% of manufacturing respondents said they need more external data than they currently have.

    What types of external data?

    Obviously, in procuring external data, the point is to supplement existing information with additional, new data. Figure 3, below, shows the proportion of manufacturers using different types of data, as well as the percentage of manufacturers who say they will add such data in the future. These figures indicate consensus around the relevance of these five types of data. 

    We see that most companies use demographic data. However, it should be noted that due to increasing privacy regulations, this type of (personal) information will be decreasing in the near future. An innovative, regulation-compliant solution/alternative will need to be found to replace this data, one that will provide similar value. 

    We can also see that the majority of respondents declared that they plan to add proprietary signals to their data mix. Given that manufacturers’ GTM strategies may often rely on unique, hard-to-find customer attributes, they stand to gain a competitive edge by incorporating proprietary signals.  The rise of Generative AI allows a new standard of data to be set and to provide proprietary signals that were not possible before.    

    Fig. 3:  2023 – Types of external data manufacturers use.

    Which teams decide on the types of external data acquired?

    Fig. 4: The teams with input regarding the types of external data purchased.

    As can be expected, the marketing team has the most influence on the types of external data acquired. In our next post about the survey results, we’ll look at how much of a role external data plays in manufacturers’ GTM activities.      

    Download the complete 2024 State of Manufacturing Data survey report now to understand and overcome some of the challenges that are holding manufacturers back today.