Guest Column | January 10, 2019

Leveraging Data Quality To Improve The Performance Of Your Marketing Organization

By Geoff Grow, Service Objects

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Today’s marketers understand the need to engage with their customers and demonstrate their company’s expertise, all while remaining genuine and authentic. This is no easy task. Fortunately, there are some excellent tools to help with this engagement. Whether you’re using an in-house solution or one of the many marketing automation platforms like Marketo, Salesforce, or Hubspot, to name a few, it has never been easier to understand diverse audiences and deliver targeted, meaningful content.

Unfortunately, these solutions are only as good as their contact records. According to SiriusDecisions, between 10 percent and 25 percent of marketing databases contain critical contact data errors, dragging down campaign performance and inflating marketing costs. The good news: these problems are largely correctable.

Where Bad Contact Data Comes From

Think of your contact data assets as being much like a fresh fish market: they are full of valuable information that goes bad far too easily. Here are some of the most common causes of data quality errors in your contact database:

  • People who submit bogus contact information, often to obtain free offers from marketing campaigns. This includes fake names such as “Homer Simpson” or “Donald Duck” as well as nonexistent physical or email addresses.
  • The passage of time. According to one study, over 70 percent of B2B contact data goes bad every year as people move, change jobs, or otherwise take on new contact information.
  • Human error, particularly in the process of data entry. All it takes is a slip of the finger to turn a Gmail address into “,” or a physical address to become undeliverable.

Add in other issues such as vacancy, general delivery addresses and international address formats, and you have a substantial maintenance burden on your hands.

The Impact Of Data Quality Issues

Once upon a time, companies simply accepted a certain amount of bad contact data as an inevitable cost of doing business.

This has changed dramatically in recent years. One of the biggest reasons nowadays is compliance risk, given the advent of stricter data privacy laws worldwide. For example, unwanted outbound telemarketing calls were simply an annoyance decades ago – today, however, falling afoul of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) can result in penalties of $1500 per call. And for those who do business in Europe, their new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) opens the risk of penalties ranging as high as 4 percent of revenue.

An even more important reason, however, is brand image and marketing effectiveness. Customer engagement means targeting your message to people who want to hear it, with content that interests them. Using a “spray and pray” approach with bad contact data makes you look bad and dilutes your message, often substantially reducing the marketing yield from your contact data assets. Plus, there are real and growing human and infrastructure costs involved in marketing to bad data.

What You Can Do About Contact Data Quality

Thankfully, managing your contact data has become a lot easier in recent years.

First, technology has changed the landscape of contact data quality, particularly with the advent of inexpensive, cloud-based services linked to authoritative data sources such as the USPS, Canada Post, email data and more. These tools can interface with operations of all sizes, ranging from simple batch processing of data files to an integrated, 24/7 system linked via API interfaces with your data entry, order entry or marketing automation platforms.

Tools like these have not only made it cost-effective to maintain clean contact data, they also have ushered in a host of associated capabilities including tax calculations, fraud prevention and lead quality assessment. They can even provide strategic marketing insight in areas such as geocoding and demographics.

Second, a growing awareness about data quality in general has led to some clear best practices for organizations. These include cleaning and validating data at both data entry and time of use, as well as common organizational standards for contact data. Finally, at an organizational level, there is a growing interest in corporate data governance, including C-level roles such as a Chief Data Officer (CDO).

According to the same SiriusDecisions study we mentioned earlier, attention to data quality can boost the overall revenue of your sales pipeline by 70 percent or more. It’s a new and more data-driven era in marketing, and today an investment in contact data hygiene can make a substantial difference in your marketing team’s effectiveness.

About The Author

Geoff Grow is the Chief Executive Officer at Service Objects, a contact data quality firm founded in 2001 that has now validated over 3 billion contact records.