The 4 Steps to Marketing Data Hygiene in an Era of Big Data

August 8, 2017 Ari Soffer

B2B marketers love shiny things, which is why we’re such suckers for buzzwords. Account-based marketing, AI, machine learning, social selling, predictive analytics, ad nauseam

It’s not that these things aren’t actually useful — or in some cases even reshaping the B2B marketing industry — it’s just that they’re often focused on at the cost of ignoring more fundamental, yet boring topics.

Like data hygiene. (Ugh.) Your marketing and sales data is among the most valuable assets your company has; yet for all the talk of “data-driven marketing” (another buzzword marketers love to throw around), most B2B organizations are in a state of denial about the state of their actual marketing data. In great part, that’s due to how frustratingly tedious data management and in particular data hygiene is. A study released earlier this year by the Marketing Technology Industry Council for example found that marketers ranked “Data Management” as the aspect of their jobs they enjoyed the least (no kidding).

If that sounds like your company or marketing organization, you will be painfully aware of the many headaches that a chronic lack of relevant, accurate data can cause.

And the longer you leave the problem, the worse it will get. According to research by SiriusDecisions, at any given time, between 10-25% of an average B2B organization’s customer and prospect records “include critical data errors ranging from incorrect demographic data to a lack of current disposition.”

The report — which is recommended reading for anyone in marketing or sales ops — further observes that the average B2B company sees its prospect and customer data double every 12-18 months. And of course, the amount of critical data errors multiplies exponentially along with it.

And all that’s assuming your company has some kind of at least basic data hygiene maintenance process in place, which no small number of B2B marketing and sales organizations simply do not have at all.

Related Articles:

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– How to Fix Your Data Before It Kills Your Campaigns

There’s another layer to this problem too — one which threatens precisely those marketing and martech innovations we B2B marketers so love. Without fixing their fundamental data problems, companies will continue to fall further and further behind the curve when it comes to emerging technologies and demand gen methodologies.

Consider: Account-based marketing has by now established itself as a highly effective approach to demand generation. But if your CRM or Marketing Automation Platform is a total mess, no ABM play, no matter how well-planned, will ever even get off the ground.

And while Artificial Intelligence is promising to revolutionize the demand gen space, a recent WIRED article aptly summed up how those who ultimately miss the train on AI will likely do so for the most basic, and familiar, of reasons:

“For all the utopian dreams and Skynet nightmares that today’s advances in artificial intelligence provoke, the winners and losers in this transition will probably be determined by what computer scientists call “data hygiene.” In other words: No matter how smart our programs get in the AI future, tidiness still counts.”

So what can we — or more specifically, marketing/sales ops and demand gen marketers — do to fix this problem?

First, clean your room

…Or, well, your database.

Given that your marketing database certainly contains plenty of erroneous, outdated or missing data fields, the first step in implementing an effective data hygiene process is to cleanse and enrich your databases to fix up the data you already have.

But cleansing your data really is a lot like cleaning your room, or any living space. A superficial wipe down won’t really “cleanse” anything, and at best will only leave a facade of cleanliness. Similarly, any data enrichment/cleansing process is only worthwhile if you know you’re not only getting accurate data, but that the data you are getting is actually useful. To be more specific: you need enough of the right data to connect with all the qualified accounts and prospects in your database — in fact, to even know they’re qualified in the first place.

It’s not enough to know you’ve got their job title right, or the company size and industry. Even with accurate contact details, if marketing don’t have the right intelligence, or if sales have faulty or sparse information about the prospect or account, the risk of misfiring your marketing content or fumbling a potential deal is very high.

What’s more, just like cleaning your home, data hygiene requires a regular cleansing process for it to be worth anything in the long-term. If you embark on a one-off cleanup, it’s only downhill from there and pretty soon you’ll be back to square one.

What you need is a regular process in place to give your marketing and sales databases a deep clean with real-time, accurate data. Anything less almost isn’t worth the effort and spend in the long-run.

Step 2: Start Your Inbound Marketing off on the Right Foot

As the saying goes: Prevention is always better than a cure.

This is true of your marketing and sales data as well. What use is cleaning up your database if your own inbound efforts on your website, social media, etc, are cluttering things up at the very same time?

To quote SiriusDecisions:

…it is most beneficial (from a cost and process perspective) to build data quality processes at the source; for example, if users are entering data via Web forms or registration pages, it should be validated before it is committed to a database or CRM system.

Enriching inbound leads automatically as soon as they’re received won’t just benefit you in your marketing efforts. Assuming the enrichment process is granular and detailed enough (see above), it also means a better customer experience. After all, if you’re enriching them immediately you don’t need to place long online forms in front of prospects, which more often than not prompts them to either enter false information or just close the page.

Instead, with the right data enrichment process in place, you can both ensure all the right data on each inbound lead makes it into your CRM or Marketing Automation Platform, while simultaneously increasing the number of prospects who actually fill out your forms by making them as short and painless as possible.

This is what SiriusDecisions refers to as “early-phase data strategies.” Businesses who implement practices like this typically see an approximately 25% increase in MQLs.

Step 3: Create a Single Source of Truth

If, as in most B2B businesses, your marketing and sales organizations are working off separate platforms (typically CRM vs. Marketing Automation Platform), simply cleaning each one up individually isn’t enough.

If sales and marketing aren’t aligning on the same data, even if that data is completely accurate it’s a recipe for tension, misalignment and eventually decreased productivity. On the one hand, it adds another level to the data degeneration problem (e.g. sales can register critical changes in a particular account, while marketing remains blissfully unaware); on the other, it can also simply mean each database evolves in a totally different direction, as marketing and sales prioritize different accounts.

Alignment doesn’t mean using the same data platform though. CRM and Marketing Automation technologies serve distinct purposes and it’s highly unrealistic to expect companies to use only one or the other. But according to SiriusDecisions, companies who integrate their databases with each other using “an incremental layer of technology” (what they call “virtual integration”) see increases of up to 12.5% in conversion rates.

Step 4: Without a Layer of Intelligence, Your Data is Useless

When most people talk about data hygiene there is usually a very critical piece of the puzzle they don’t mention.

In the age of “big data”, clean data is essentially useless if it’s raw. The whole point of prospect/customer data is to draw out the intelligence you need to market and sell effectively. But marketers can’t humanly process the sheer quantity of data we possess.

In order to make your data hygiene efforts practically useful, B2B marketing organizations must invest in technologies that draw out the right intelligence from their data.

Specifically — as we’ve written about in this blog many times — Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds the key to marketers (and sales) unlocking the full potential of their data. For example, AI can be used to build effective persona-based and predictive scoring models.

Watch the video below to see how Leadspace Audience Management Platform takes care of all your data management needs on a single platform — to keep your data accurate, fresh and actionable, and give you one less thing to worry about:

If you like what you see, why not contact us for a free demo, or for more info?

Picture credit: iStock

The post The 4 Steps to Marketing Data Hygiene in an Era of Big Data appeared first on Leadspace.

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