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Why bigger data isn't always better data

Big data is all the rage, but bigger doesn't always equal better. Not when it comes to marketing databases. In fact, the adage is true: "Garbage in, garbage out."

Databases are often the last things marketing teams want to touch, and perhaps it's because of the allure of shiny new
things—the latest idea, the trending concept, the looming deadline. Diving headfirst into a database and swimming around for awhile can seemingly detract from these pressing imperatives. And yet, all of them are intrinsically linked.

Data is the foundation of everything we as marketers do. Any kind of outreach to prospects or customers will utilize the information contained in that database, and the success of every program is reliant on the quality of the data inside.

Unfortunately, missing or incomplete data is the norm. "Database quality has an unprecedented impact on the success of our marketing campaigns," says Michael Bird, CEO of NetProspex. "Simply put—data drives revenue for your company. While enhanced analytics are increasingly seen as a key tool to identifying new sales opportunities and improving marketing efficiency, so much of your success as marketers still boils down to how well your contact and company data is maintained, and how well it aligns with your go-to-market activities."

Two pillars of good databases

    The first is data hygiene, making sure:
  • The people in the database match the target audience profile at the contact and company level
  • Their information is accurate and up-to-date
  • All contact records are complete and standardized

    The second pillar involves data governance, with agreement and established processes surrounding:
  • Data flows and data lifecycle
  • How new data will be collected and managed
  • How marketing data will be aligned with and utilized by other platforms, such as CRM, sales, ERP and e-commerce systems
  • Data handoffs from marketing to sales
    In its State of Marketing Data benchmarking report[1], NetProspex analyzed hundreds of companies, thousands of files and more than 61 million records and found:
  • 84 percent of marketing databases are barely functional
  • 88 percent of records analyzed were lacking basic firmographic data (industry, company revenue, number of
    employees, etc.)
  • 64 percent of records analyzed did not include a phone number

Every company should have a data governance committee that determines how information will be collected, organized and managed, and how different teams and systems will be aligned. These committees should be cross-functional, but they are often driven by marketing.

Successful companies invest in continual database auditing and scrubbing, making sure new records are complete and standardized and old records are refreshed as needed. Routine telephone outreach and data validation activities may seem like unnecessary expenses, but can be worth their weight in gold when they positively impact every marketing program.

According to SiriusDecisions, companies that regularly maintain their database realize 66 percent higher conversions to revenue compared to those that do not.

Cleaning up a database isn't a one-time shot. It has to be an ongoing effort. It's the only way to ensure good data, and good data is the best way to maximize marketing and business performance.

For more details on database best practices, contact Susan Linman at 503.236.4242 or

[1] NetProspex, "The State of Marketing Data," 2014.

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