You can’t think of your marketing database as just a list of names and contact information. It’s so much more than that. This data represents what’s possible for your business. It’s your future customers and referral sources. It’s next month’s closed deals and next year’s revenue. A company’s marketing database can be the lifeblood of its revenue growth strategy. Consequently, it should be regarded as a key intellectual asset of the business. As with any corporate asset, there should be a plan to protect it, enhance, grow it and leverage it.
When it comes to data, everyone has heard the phrase “garbage in/garbage out.” This simply means that if you want data that will be useful in the future, it needs to be as complete and accurate as possible. This is impossible to achieve without establishing clear data integrity standards, processes, and KPIs.
Data integrity standards are simple rules that dictate how data is captured. For example, will a user enter “SVP” or “Senior Vice President”? “CEO” or “Chief Executive Officer? “GM” or “General Motors Company”? It really doesn’t matter – until you need to run queries to pull reports. There’s not a right way or a wrong way - just your way. Establish a standard and make sure everyone on the team adheres to it.
Communication is the key to compliance. Everyone who touches the data must have a clear understanding of the data standards and the implications of non-compliance. Many organizations have had success integrating data capture and validation processes into the various sales plays in their sales playbooks. This can help ensure compliance across a large team.
Data integrity compliance can be enhanced further when data quality goals are established, monitored and communicated to the team. For example, one goal may be to populate 90% of CRM data fields for all Sales Qualified Leads.
Inbound marketing builds marketing data as prospects complete and submit lead capture forms. But it’s often incomplete. Prospects will typically only provide the bare minimum information that we ask for. Also, keep in mind that your prospect didn’t get the data integrity memo you sent your team, so they won’t adhere to your data quality rules. Deploying “drop down” fields that allow your prospect to select answers as opposed to typing them will help eliminate many common data entry errors.
It’s a good idea to have one person on your team monitor new leads as they come in on a daily basis. They can “clean and complete” the record. “Cleaning” is just making sure that all the data is entered appropriately into the CRM and the data quality rules are followed. “Completing” the data record requires a little time and research. For example, if we don’t know the prospect’s title, you can do a quick check of their company website or LinkedIn to find that missing information.
Lead capture forms are the most common method of capturing new prospect data with inbound marketing tactics. Your lead capture form can require multiple data fields be completed by the prospect – Name, Email, Phone, Company, etc. You can also capture lead qualification and segmentation questions. For example, “What is your annual I.T. budget?” or “What is your industry?”
There’s not a perfect formula or magic answer for what information should be required in a lead capture form. The more information you require, the more qualified your lead will be. But you’ll also generate fewer leads. It’s a balancing act. If your focus is generating a high volume of top-of-the-funnel leads, then you may want to limit the required fields to just those that allow you to facilitate ongoing communication – name and email. Other fields (title, phone number, company, etc.) can be added, but just don’t make them required. The key is to test different approaches, monitor the results and make adjustments as necessary.
Not only do you want to grow the number of prospects in your database, you also want to grow the completeness of each record. The use of “smart forms” can help you build out your prospect profile data as you interact with them digitally over time. A “smart form” will recognize a prospect who’s returning and adjust the required questions based on their already known characteristics. For example, if we already know their name and email address, it doesn’t make sense to ask those same questions again. Instead, this time we can ask for their company and phone number or any other important data points you may be missing.
Marketing data can have a short life span, especially if it’s not used. Companies go out of business and change names. People get promoted or change jobs. Don’t neglect your marketing data. The best way to enhance your data is to use it. Your data will get cleaner the more often it is included in ongoing marketing campaigns.
Many marketing organizations put so much of a focus on generating new leads, that they completely ignore the leads that were generated last year or even last month. Sometimes the most valuable leads are the ones already sitting in your CRM. They weren’t bad leads. They just weren’t ready to buy yet. Don’t stop nurturing until they are completely disqualified. However, it may make sense to rest them for a period. You don’t want to “wear out your welcome.” But always review, recycle and attempt to re-engage.
Business leaders pay close attention to their assets – buildings, equipment, cash, trademarks, brand. It’s time to add “marketing database” to this list as well. Doing so can pay huge dividends in the future.