September 10, 2015

Why Every B2B Marketer Needs to Know About Data Verification

Everyone wants to be data driven. Using data to test hypotheses and inform decisions is a much better formula for developing marketing strategies than pure intuition. It also paints marketing more as a science than an art, which appeals to executives and engineers alike. the contact data marketers endeavor so diligently to collect decays

It’s en vogue to talk about causation versus correlation and statistically significant sample sizes at parties (well, at some parties). But the contact data marketers endeavor so diligently to collect decays — a fact often left out of the conversation.

Data decays constantly at a rate of 2.1 percent per month or 22.5 percent annually.

Why? Because people change positions and change employers. Because they change email providers and unsubscribe from emails they don’t like.

But there is a solution.  

Data verification services of all types have become relatively common. They allow marketers to remove duplicates from their databases, identify inaccurate contact information, and pinpoint emails likely to trigger spam filters.

Given the average rate of data decay, data verification and database cleaning should be a routine part of data-driven marketing.

Still unconvinced? Let’s examine multiple areas where inaccurate data can reduce your marketing effectiveness.

Email Marketing Takes on More Risk

Deliverability is huge for both email marketing and your marketing department as a whole. Spam filters vary by ISP, but they can be aggressive on a broad scale. Return Path reports 20 percent of “legitimate” emails get caught in spam filters. Further, Experian reports 66 percent of companies experienced deliverability issues in 2013 – 2014:

experian's email deliverability research

A database full of inaccuracies will only compound this email delivery problem. If you’re sending to email addresses that have hard bounces or don’t get much engagement because you’re sending to the wrong person, your reputation with ISPs will be affected. Old, inaccurate data will lower the rate at which you make it to the inbox and clip the rate at which your emails get read.

If the problem persists, you could even be blacklisted by certain ISPs. Of course, that’s an extreme circumstance. But making sure you deliver emails to active email accounts used by the actual person stored in the contact profile should be a priority for every marketer.

Personalization Becomes a Bad Joke

In any vertical, personalized marketing is nearly always better than broad messaging.

However, whether you’re personalizing particular pieces of your message (like including the person’s first name) or delivering an entirely different message based on the lead’s profile information, you need clean data to pull personalization off.

When you use any type of personalization, you’re attempting to convince a lead that you’ve been paying attention to their behavior on your site and that their preferences have not gone unnoticed. By sending them personalized content, you’re taking a calculated risk that the data you have on them is correct and indicative of certain interests.

Using someone’s first name or last name in the subject line of an email is a simple yet effective example of personalization. And according to Mailchimp it works quite well:

name personalization

But if the contact information attached to a lead is incorrect, then you’ve just addressed an email to the wrong person. Instead of coming off as a suave marketer and gaining trust points with that lead, you’ve tripped over your own data and fallen flat on your face.

The same effect can happen when you send contact to a list that’s segmented by job title or persona. If the job title information is out of date, you may be sending content intended for social media specialists to the CMO.

Personalization based on bad data isn’t only ineffective; it’s also damaging to your brand in the long term.

For example, when an email is mistargeted recipients…

mistargeted email chart

For organizations practicing account-based marketing, inaccurate data will torpedo the entire operation. ABM relies on pinpoint accuracy in order for emails sent to specific stakeholders to have the desired effect. If the data you’re using for ABM hasn’t been verified in 6 months, you’re taking a massive gamble using it as the intelligence for your account-based campaigns.

Lead Scoring Breaks Down

All the pain you endured to create a lead scoring and qualification system with which your sales team agrees will be for nothing if the data in each lead profile is inaccurate. Say you’re scoring leads based on job title, because you know your sales team only wants to talk to decision makers within an organization.

That’s a sound strategy, but it quickly falls apart when the information in your database is inaccurate or incomplete. If the information is incomplete, your scoring algorithm will miss important accounts and hamstring your attempts to rake in ROI.

If the information is inaccurate, then the scoring algorithm will highlight leads who don’t actually qualify for the criteria you’ve agreed on with sales. So even when these leads hit the lead threshold and become marketing qualified, sales will be left disappointed when they call someone who doesn’t have the right qualifications or doesn’t even match the information in the contact profile.

Data-Driven Marketing Requires Maintenance

Data maintenance is easier said than done. Employees often adjust to margins of bad data and the real problem becomes hidden from the marketing leaders. Hidden behind those bounces and unsubscribes is a pit full of discarded money wasted on marketing to an inaccurate database of contacts.

The 2015 Data Hygiene & Enrichment Report recommends a 5 step process for enriching your contact database to improve your customer experience — and ultimately the effectiveness of your marketing:

  1. Evaluate the current state of your database.
  2. Build a data governance plan.
  3. Formulate a data standardization strategy.
  4. Identify channels for appending data.
  5. Assess the tools at your disposal.

Building a data governance and data standardization strategy are critical components to data-driven marketing, but it’s the very first step that’s the most important: evaluating the current state of your database.

This is where data verification tools become so important: at the very beginning of the process. By partnering with a verification service to update outdated records, discard faulty information, and reconnect with old leads, you’ll eliminate many of the email deliverability problems that plague so many marketers.

Making a commitment to data-driven marketing means prioritizing the quality of the data you use to make cool dashboards and inform ingenious strategies. Because in the end, if your contact data isn’t accurate, it will skew all of the resulting data and undermine your marketing efforts.

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Looking for more advice on big data and marketing? Make sure to check out Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco on October 25-29th, where you can learn about the latest data management trends and how to provide personalized digital experiences and one-to-one marketing at scale. Industry experts include Meagen Eisenberg, Chief Marketing Officer at MongoDB; Alistair Pereira, CRM Manager at Oceaneering International Inc; and Annalisa Church, Director of Experience Design & Automation at Dell, Inc.

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