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Database Debacle: Could You Send Christmas Cards to Your Best Customers? (Most Couldn’t.)

4 Simple steps to solving the fundamental data problems many B2B orgs struggle to solve.

If you had to send a Christmas card or an expensive gift to your most high-value customers right now, could you do it? Welcome to Christmas in July… er, June. Yes, it might be a little strange to spread holiday cheer in the middle of the summer, but that’s sort of the point here. Regardless of the time of year, your database, which is arguably the biggest asset in your business, is likely filled with dirty contacts, outdated customer information and a whole host of land mines making it nearly impossible to send a meaningful communication to the very folks you hold most dear.

On the whole, marketers know they have a problem with data, it’s not a new realization. There are however few times per year where data issues rear their ugly heads than in December, and not just from a holiday perspective. We recently helped one of our customers solve a really BIG issue. They bill their subscription customers once a year and when they do they average a 45%+ bounce rate on the billing email! People change – their job, their contact info, their preferences. To stay ahead you have to put a purposeful and strategic process in place.

We’re not breaking any ground by talking about the importance of clean databases.

Having dirty data leads to unnecessarily wasted resources that cost companies an average of 12% of their annual revenues. But that’s just it—we are still talking about it because most marketers are still missing the boat.

B2B companies are aware the hard work they put into marketing strategies hinges on having up-to-date data—and yet a quarter of all B2B databases have incorrect information. 

“Every bad record in your database has a real cost to the organization: wasted rep time, lowered email deliverability, lost deals, and poor morale – and our estimates show that it costs up to $11 per record,” said Katie Bullard, Chief Growth Officer of DiscoverOrg. “Data decays at a rate of 30-70% each year, so if you have 100,000 records in your sales database, you could very realistically have 50,000 bad records—costing you more than half a million dollars every year.  Data might not be ‘sexy’, but it absolutely impacts the bottom line.”

(Check out this great infographic from DiscoverOrg on the topic)

Dirty data has a huge, sharp teeth.

If you’re sending tokens of appreciation and they’re ending up in the wrong hands (or worse, returning to sender), they’re wasted. If you’re billing a customer who’s moved on from their role, you’ll be in permanent scramble mode. This should be common knowledge, but companies don’t prioritize data cleanliness as an ongoing process. And it always comes back to bite them.

Cleaning up your data today starts by taking a high-level look at your information. How much of your target database do you actually have represented? Are all of your current customers in there? What about current prospects? If anyone is missing, you have to add them first before tackling the different dimensions of a robust data clean.

If dirty data is a pressing issue, addressing key components can keep you from falling further behind.

Here are four key steps to tackling your data problem once and for all:

Get your House in Order

  1. First is the initial clean. This is where you determine if the key fields in your CRM that need to be populated are actually getting captured—revenue, employee size, standard demographics important to your business, etc. Then comes the hard part: figuring out how healthy the database is in relation to those fields.
    Proper process in nomenclature is one of the most important processes to systematize. This means setting (and sticking to) the named values within each field. It’s all about proper process so one guy doesn’t go in and mess it up for everyone else—trust me, it happens.

Get your relationships in order

2. Next ensure people are where they belong. You’re probably also aware of the process of de-duplication. Make a point specifically to examine your leads vs. your contacts, since leads often exist separately in most CRM databases. Are there leads that should actually be contacts because you have an established relationship with them? Having un-merged contacts existing in different locations is an enormous waste of resources for sales. Decide how each relationship is defined and proceed accordingly.

Get a little more familiar with their world

3. The third and newest dimension to data is gathering insights. Knowledge of what your customers are talking about and what is going on in their worlds recently is business intelligence now being built into CRM directly. In the past, those items resided in different platforms and it was difficult to capitalize on intent. With increased relevance comes a premium on making sure the information is correct and in the right place.

Set it (and DON’T forget it)!

4. Finally you need to implement an ongoing hygiene strategy. After shoring up these aspects of your database, you could probably send that Christmas card to key accounts with confidence. But what about next week? A month from now? What about when December actually rolls around? 

We haven’t solved the issue of dirty data because companies don’t think about it in terms of a never ending process. The next trade show, new partner, or update from a data provider will bring with it a whole new set of inputs that can easily get confounded if you don’t have a process in place to standardize them.

Every element of how information enters your database must be thought out in order to keep up. Companies should be prioritizing systems that intercept all data, standardize it, and wash it clean before allowing it to pass through. All of your CRM and marketing automation software should be encased in a data layer that only lets the clean stuff in.

You’re paying for it whether you fix it or not.

Unfortunately, solutions like that cost money, and data management sadly ranks low on the priority pole despite organizations’ concessions about its importance. Ultimately, how you choose to clean your data depends on your mentality and your bandwidth. Do your marketers want to tinker with settings on a regular basis? Then work with one of the many vendors offering data solutions, keeping in mind you’ll be paying for it on a recurring basis. But you also be paying for it in lost revenue if you don’t…

The bottom line

Old cliche’; when’s the best time to plant a tree? 20 Years ago. When’s the second best? Today. 

With data, the bottom line is you have to start now. There is no way to brute force the solution yourself. Be up front about how much you’re willing to spend to determine who you’ll work with, then commit to working with someone—even if it’s your in house team. Most of the time, no decision is made—but now is the time to end the cycle of dirty data and make it a merry Christmas (card).

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