How to Beat Dunbar’s Number with MarTech

Marketing Technology


You might be familiar with Dunbar’s Number, but I bet you never realized how it affects your B2B marketing strategy. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, found that there was a correlation between a primate’s brain size and the average social group size they were able to maintain. He discovered by accident that for humans, the magic number is 150 people. This means that, according to Dunbar’s Number, the number of stable relationships you can maintain is 150.

Think about all of the people in your life: family, friends, teachers, doctors, dentists, coworkers, etc. That’s probably getting close to 150, which doesn’t leave much space to stay meaningfully connected with your prospects. Luckily, Dunbar’s Number can be beaten both personally and professionally with help from the right marketing technology (MarTech for short) like marketing automation, CRMs, and referral automation software, which work together to manage and nurture prospect and customer relationships to build a trusted and significant connection with them.

MarTech tools can save the day (or quarter) for you, so you don’t need to worry about overlooking valuable relationships. Here are three key MarTech tools that can help you beat Dunbar’s Number and stay meaningfully connected with all of your prospects and customers:

1. Marketing Automation

A marketing automation platform is critical for building and maintaining relationships with your prospects and customers, and it’s one of the key tools that you need to expand your number of relationships with them beyond Dunbar’s Number. Whether a lead is at the top of the funnel and just engaged with your company, an MQL who’s interested but not ready to purchase yet, or a new customer that just signed, your marketing automation system lets you track and analyze their behavior throughout each stage of their journey. By tracking their behavior across all of your channels—be it on mobile, social media, or your website—you can segment them into the proper campaigns to send them targeted content (that’s valuable to them) and nurture them over time.

Marketing automation helps you keep your brand top-of-mind for your buyers. You certainly don’t want them to forget how important your product is to their business growth, especially when they’re getting close to making a purchasing decision. Simultaneously, it helps you keep track of the right buyers and automates your processes so that you can nurture them until they’re ready to purchase without having to actively keep tabs on them every day.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A CRM works in conjunction with your marketing automation platform to manage your leads. It integrates with your marketing automation system to keep track of your leads as they flow through your marketing funnel. Then, when a prospect or customer performs an action that indicates that he is finally ready to buy or upgrade, your sales team will know right away when to reach out. Furthermore, your customer success team will have access to information that’s critical for ensuring your customers’ long-term success, such as how long they have been a customer, products and services they have purchased, and conversations that have taken place. When a customer upgrades or purchases an additional product, your customer success team will have the information they need to make the onboarding process smoother.

This type of information empowers your customer-facing teams to prioritize and maintain relationships with your prospects and leads. This way, you don’t miss out on developing and nurturing valuable relationships, defeating Dunbar’s Number and increasing the number of stable relationships you can maintain.

3. Referral Automation

Referral automation incentivizes customers, partners, and employees to facilitate a warm introduction between your business and their network, while tracking their referrals on the back-end to attribute them back to the advocates. While most people think of referrals as a consumer marketing tactic (e.g. DIRECTV or Uber), forward-thinking B2B marketers are also leveraging customer, partner, and employee referrals, and it’s not hard to see why. Studies have shown that leads generated from referrals convert 4X better than marketing leads, according to eMarketer.

Many SMB and enterprise companies use a referral platform in addition to their marketing automation and CRM platforms to automate the process of capturing and closing referral leads. Referral automation software gives you the ability mine your customer, partner, and employees’ 150 meaningful relationships and extend the trust they have created to your business.

So how exactly does this work? Once a referral is accepted by the invitee, it gets routed into your lead flow, where your sales team can follow up and close the business and the “inviter” gets rewarded. From there, you can continue to prioritize them and nurture them by integrating your marketing automation, CRM, and referral platforms together to create a seamless lead management experience from first touch to final signature.

Dunbar may have been onto something, but with so many valuable tools at your disposal, it’s easy to beat the odds. People have a lot of choices, and sometimes, a decision to go with one vendor over another comes down to a rapport they have or don’t have with them. Fill up your 150 limit with personal relationships and leave your professional connections to MarTech that does the heavy lifting for you.

What other technologies have helped you beat Dunbar’s Number? Share them in the comments below!