The Benefits of Data Management

Last month, DemandGen Report ran a cover story titled “Data Tops List of Tactics & Technologies that Marketers Can’t Afford to Live Without.” The article went onto discuss the importance of having reliable data in order to ensure campaigns are successfully executed via marketing automation platforms.

This issue of data management is not new.  For years, marketers have wrestled with keeping their data clean.   However, with the rise of marketing automation, keeping data clean is now at the top of marketers’ list of challenges.  This view of data underscores how valuable clean and relevant data is to marketing and sales success.  But maintaining solid data isn’t something that just happens. It requires a process and constant attention.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure that you have a marketing data that serves as a powerful asset rather than a detriment to reaching your objectives.

1.  Establish Controls

A few years ago we conducted a discovery exercise with a client to determine the gaps in their lead management process.  As we began to look at their data and the process by which it was managed, the Director of Marketing Operations confessed that their “data was a mess”.  We discovered one reason for the “mess” was the lack of any data control policies.  And when I say “none”, I mean “none!”  They had allowed any sales person to access or modify any opportunity, contact, list or lead regardless of whose territory in which it resided.  Even the office administrator had full authority to access, change, or add to the data structure. It was truly a Wild, Wild West approach to managing data with each person managing it the way they thought best.  The result was indeed a mess.

If you want to avoid this type of scenario, consider the following:

  • Establish a set of business rules that will determine who has access to your data.  You can even assign controls based on function.  For example, marketing operations may only have administrative access to marketing data, sales operations has administrative access to sales data, etc.
  • Determine what changes/additions/actions can be taken by which personnel.  Will you allow sales to delete, or create a record? Will you allow marketing managers to upload new lists on their own?  What are your data export rules?  These are rules that you will need to establish and enforce in order to ensure proper control
  • If you have multiple databases, determine which one will serve as the master database.  Too many times marketing and sales share data, but do not take the time to determine which one will serve as the master.  This leads to chaos and perpetuates duplicate, inconsistent data.

2.   Develop a Data Map

One of the keys to a healthy database is knowing what you are going to put in it.  It seems simple, but many companies are stuck with a database that has too many fields and partial data. When asked, “Why is this here?” the answer is often “We don’t know.” The best thing a company can do is to create a data map. A data map shows the “flow” of data from intake to output, shows how the various systems (marketing, sales, etc.) integrate, and defines the uses for each field.

It’s important to understand that data mapping is not just a one-time exercise. The data map should be reviewed and updated at regular intervals to keep your data fresh.  For example, if your company acquires another, it may be necessary to add data fields that denote a record was a customer from the acquired company.  In this case, it would also be important to note that these are static fields, not applicable to new records.

The data mapping process can be tedious. But if done right, and monitored regularly, it will go a long way to supporting the controls that have been established, and will ensure better data consistency.

3.  Segment Your Data

Companies spend a lot of time obsessing about the number of names they have in their database. It seems that “trying to increase the number of names” is a key objective.  While a large database can certainly pay dividends, it’s vital to have the right names in your database.  Correctly segmenting your database will help you identify them.

Segmentation is the process of “sectioning” your data so that you can use it more efficiently to qualify your prospects.  Segmentation allows you to more effectively gain their attention with your outbound messages, and maintain engagement.  One of the best places to begin the segmentation process is your existing customer base.  By taking a look at the demographics and other characteristics of your customer base, you’ll be able to develop a profile (or persona) of your target organization and audience.  Also, don’t forget to connect with your customers and gather their input.  They’ll provide information that you cannot acquire anywhere, information that will be vital to building an accurate profile.

In reality, you’ll most likely build several profiles depending on the product or service you offer. Once the segmentation profiles are complete, you’ll have a framework for whom you should target and a better understanding of the key messages to send them, leading to better engagement.

As with the other components of data management, this is not a one-time exercise.  Revisiting your segmentation strategy and adjusting to keep pace with your buyers will be key to success.

4. Establish a Regular Data Hygiene Process

Many studies have shown just how fast data can decay. Many campaigns fail due to the simple fact that the data is old and hasn’t been updated.  Keeping data updated and clean (known as data hygiene) should be one of the key budgetary considerations for every organization.  Determine how frequently you will conduct  data hygiene, and how data will be appended from outside sources.  There are a variety of data service companies that can assist in developing a consistent hygiene process.

The importance of good data cannot be overstated.  No matter how relevant the  message, how robust the marketing technology, how great looking campaign; if it’s not sent to the right person, it won’t succeed.  Take the time and effort to develop your data management processes.  It’s one of the most vital activities an organization can complete to increase the value of their marketing and sales investments.