Though it’s trite to say so, data really is the fuel for B2B sales and marketing. Whether it’s stored in your CRM, your marketing automation platform, or an enormous spreadsheet with 27 tabs, you need your data to market, to sell, to operate — to do anything, really.
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Let’s be honest. When we talk about data, we’re usually talking about people (contacts, leads, prospects) and their stated and implied attributes. That means if your data is unreliable, you’ve lost touch with the human decision-makers that control the fate of your business. What do you do to fix that?
When their data fails, most marketers correctly turn to data scrubbing, but they see it as a separate activity from lead qualification. I.e. data scrubbing is a reactive quality control measure — a necessary evil — that paves the way back to business as usual. But what if the two were actually connected?
With the right tools and process, you can combine data scrubbing with lead qualification to support your larger lead and revenue goals. In this blog post, we’ll tell you how. First, a little background on data quality.
The State of B2B Data
It’s no mystery that B2B data has some major problems. CRMs, especially, are notorious for being the cobwebbed basements of the business world, full of outdated records, duplicate entries, and non-existent accounts.
According to a popular study by Integrate, 40 percent of all B2B leads suffer from “poor data quality.” A separate study by Demand Metric corroborates: only 30 percent of B2B companies say their data has a high degree of “completeness,” alluding to problems with missing firmographics data.
All of that “dirty data,” as some call it, can cripple your marketing campaigns and stifle sales productivity. You’ll make costly mistakes, waste time with duplicate outreach efforts, and waste money on programs that target the wrong people. Here are some of the biggest ways your business will suffer:
- Email marketing takes on risk (issues with deliverability, spam, sender score)
- Personalization becomes a bad joke (wrong name or firmographic details used in communication)
- Lead scoring breaks down (skewed scoring algorithm)
- ABM fails (inaccurate account maps, company info, etc.)
The obvious and typical response is to clean your database once in awhile and improve data acquisition practices. Figure out what data you have, where it’s located, and how you can clean/append it (either with one of your own data strategists or through an outside service). Then create a data governance plan to prevent recidivism. That should fix it, right?
To an extent, yes. But why limit data scrubbing to policing and maintenance? Why not use it to propel growth by mining for new opportunities? Most companies don’t realize they can actually use database restoration as a prospecting tool.
If cleansing and governance are analogous to hygiene, integrating lead qualification could be said to promote “whole body health” for your B2B data. In the following sections, we’ll show you how.
If you aren’t overtly familiar with data scrubbing, it’s basically a process for sorting through contact records and correcting or removing problematic entries. There’s a whole lexicon of peculiar terms surrounding data scrubbing, so it’s easy to get confused. Examples: “dirty data,” “coarse data,” “data wrangling,” “fuzzy validation,” “parsing,” and “appending.”
You could spend months learning what all of these terms mean, or you could hire a data scientist, or you could outsource to a third-party service, which many companies do.
The decision to outsource should be based on your available resources and the immediacy of your data problems, although some experts feel more strongly about it. Brian Hansford, director of marketing tech practice at Heinz Marketing, wrote in 2013, “Plan and budget for data hygiene, or lose your job.”
In the event that you do outsource, here are a few services to consider:
- Netprospex:data cleansing, data appending
- Experian Marketing Services: address and email verification, data enhancement
- Unlock the Inbox: email validation and verification
- Reachforce: data cleansing and appending
At minimum, the service you choose should be able to verify contact information, remove duplicate entries, correct typos, and validate that each record belongs to a real human being. Some may also add missing firmographic data — referred to as “appending” or “enhancement.”
A good auto mechanic knows how to save money and conserve effort. For example: you go in for a timing belt replacement, and the mechanic suggests replacing your water pump at the same time since it’s attached to the timing belt, will cost more to access at a later time, and will eventually need replacement anyway? Keep that mechanic. He’s smart.
Data scrubbing and lead qualification are similarly related. If you’re already sifting through your database, verifying individual contact profiles, why not conserve effort and vet those same contacts through a basic lead qualification sequence. Since many of these profiles were previously erroneous and either weren’t receiving your outreach or weren’t receiving effective outreach, you’ll inevitably create new opportunities.
What it might look like:
- Marketing automation: With contact data now amended, reassess each prospect based on their lead score.
- Phone: Assign a team to call your list and confirm whether prospects are interested.
- Email: Use an email blast to verify addresses and see which prospects engage with your content.
The objective here is to see which leads are “cold” and which are “warm” and take action appropriately. You might even end up discarding some, which will help slim down your marketing budget, even if you paid for an outsourced service.