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6 Steps to Transform Marketing Data into a Key Intellectual Asset

Marketing databases get a bad rap. Very few business leaders give data its due. It’s often viewed as an inconsequential ingredient to an organization’s go-to-market strategy. Too often, data is an afterthought. Organizations make significant investments of time and money to design a marketing strategy that produces results, and then they look for cheap and easy solutions when it comes to the data that will drive the effectiveness of that strategy. They purchase a list from a third-party data source and then milk it for all its worth for as long as they can.

Marketing data, though, has a short shelf life. It loses its accuracy (and value) over time. Corporate America doesn’t stop. Each day, there are more companies that start-up, expand, relocate, downsize or go out of business altogether. And the employees that work at these companies change employers, get promoted and get relocated. Since third-party data is simply a snapshot in time and often relies on questionable sources, you will never be able to purchase a database that’s 100% accurate or complete.

Is there a better way? There is, but it’s not a shortcut. It’s actually a long-term strategy that requires structure and discipline. It starts with changing the way leadership and everyone in the organization thinks about marketing data. It can no longer be an afterthought. Instead, it must be viewed as a key intellectual asset of the business. Marketing databases aren’t just a list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Your marketing database represents your future customers – next quarter’s and next year’s revenue. As such, it should be cared for, nurtured, and protected. Every effort should be made to ensure it’s as accurate and complete as possible. Following these six steps will help change your team’s data behaviors and ultimately improve the quality of your data resource.

  • Communicate. It’s unlikely that real sustained change will be initiated by mid-level management. Leadership must first buy into the new attitude about marketing data and then communicate this new perspective to the entire sales and marketing organization. Further, it can’t just be Marketing that drives this change. Everyone who touches and/or benefits from an accurate marketing database must get on board. This means that sales people who are communicating with the market and using CRM must see that every interaction they have is an opportunity to build and enhance their data. They also must understand the implications of neglecting their data as well as the potential upside of improving the quality of their data. Finally, they must understand that this isn’t a quick fix or just another short-term program.
  • Process. Once buy-in has been achieved from the entire team, the only way to sustain the new behavior is to make it easy for them to comply. Establish a process for who has authority to change data and when it’s appropriate to make these changes in CRM. Make sure everyone knows the process and how to do it (some CRMs are simpler and more user-friendly than others). Highlight that data fields that are incomplete, so it’s clear what data is missing or needs to be updated.
  • Validate. While it’s is critical to capture new data and populate the empty data fields associated with your target companies and contacts, it is equally important to validate and update existing data. The goal is not just completeness, but completeness and accuracy. Many CRMs provide users with the ability to track when information was last updated. Giving CRM users this insight will help them determine what information they should validate when they are engaging with the market.
  • Integrate. Train your team to integrate data capture and validation into every interaction they have with the market. This includes their interactions with receptionists and administrative assistants. Many organizations develop “sales plays” that map out talk tracks for various sales scenarios. They may develop “plays” and talk tracks for an initial prospecting call, an introductory presentation, a needs analysis/discover call, as well as other interactions with a prospect throughout the sales process.  Integrate data capture/validation into these talk tracks. Weaving them into your dialog allows you to maintain a structured approach without being intrusive or annoying.
  • Standards. Establish and communicate data integrity standards and rules to ensure consistency throughout the database. This may include how company names are entered. For example, will you enter “IBM” or “International Business Machines?” Other examples include “CFO” or “Chief Financial Officer,” including “Inc.” or “LLC” as part of a business name, and if you will use formal names (i.e., “Frederick”) or nicknames (i.e., “Fred”) of contacts.
  • Accountability. Everyone who touches the marketing database and CRM need to be held accountable for keeping it up-to-date and accurate. Set goals and expectations for both teams and individuals. An example of a goal may be to validate/update 25% of the database this quarter. Another example goal is to “move the needle” on data completeness from 75% to 80% this month. Once goals and expectations have been set, performance benchmarks of the team and individuals should be measured and monitored. Is everyone participating toward achieving the data goals? One way to ensure that everyone is on board is to include discussions of data quality in coaching sessions and performance reviews.

Putting the spotlight on the completeness and accuracy of marketing data will help an organization move from the endless cycle of purchase third-party lists to building a key intellectual asset of the business. The results will show in the ability to more accurately segment your data, deliver marketing messages that are more highly targeted,  and improving the ROI of your marketing investment.


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