Data Governance – another byline in organizational alignment

As Marketers we have quickly become the holding place for so much data, from who we view as our Total Marketable Universe (both companies and people) to who we communicate with  to what those people care about.  The volume is not trivial nor is the care and maintenance of this information, however few companies have a true process and policy for the care of their marketing data.  

As we clamor for more and more data (purchase history, invoice information, etc.) we need to establish and maintain data governance policies, not just for compliance and legal reasons but also as another way to enhance the relationship between Marketing and the other departments inside of an organization.  Marketing and Sales must be aligned on what data is coming from what systems, who can fill it in and where the expectation for supplying information comes from.  Marketing and  Accounting need a good working relationship to ensure that marketers can really understand who a “customer” is and can maintain a loop between the systems to flag these people for the appropriate marketing based on their place in the customer lifecycle. IT and Marketing need a deep relationship to ensure that systems are in compliance with both internal security standards and, where needed, external compliance standards that the company is subject to.   To this end, here is a step-by-step guide to establishing a data governance policy.

  1. Create a cross-departmental committee for data governance.  Bring together representation from each group that holds major data and be prepared to explain why you (as Marketing) want and need to share information with this team.
  2. Understand who uses the system and what their goals are.  Everyone from the end-user who accesses the CRM to the Marketing Manager designing Campaigns to the Customer Service Representative who takes support calls should be considered in this process.  Understand who touches the data and at what points as well as what they need to get out of the systems.
  3. Determine what the system of record is.  If your Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) is the system of record then link all of your other data sets to it, or, if you need to maintain a few systems define the use cases.  For example, the ERP system might be the system of record when it comes to determining who a “customer” is but your MAP might be the gold standard with regards to prospects and the pre-sales process.
  4. Assess the health of your current database.  Once you understand what systems should be the standard for your various processes, establish a baseline assessment of the completeness, quality and correctness of the records in these tools.
  5. Understand what your deficiencies are; after you have established a baseline map out where you have gaps to fill and then create an action plan for fulfilling them.
  6. Fill in the gaps.  Pretty self-explainatory 🙂
  7. Build technological process to prevent lapses.  This may take the form of integration between your systems or data washing machines in an external database or even data append programs in your CRM or MAP tools, whatever it is create a process that does not require daily monitoring.  You should be able to build it, review it periodically and let it run.
  8. Build business process and reporting for exceptions.  Knowing what your problems were before you filled in the gaps and what key pieces of data are necessary for the users in each system build out exception repots that can be checked on a regular basis and reviewed for necessary corrections.
  9. Dashboards to review health at a glance, set yourself up for success by creating monitoring dashboards that show (at a very high-level) whether or not your tools are maintaining your systems as you expect them to.

How far along is your company on the path to a realistic data management policy?

don’t go blindly forward

Lately I have been hearing a lot of people talk about ways they are using blind forms.  I think this tool has either just come to light for many marketers or it is enjoying some kind of resurgence.  So, for the uninitiated, what are Blind Forms? Blind forms are a mechanism that allows an email click to translated automatically as if the recipient hit “submit” on behalf of the recipient (they are identified by their email address). Blind forms allow a known contact to be send directly to an asset/landing page/etc. without requiring data entry but still allows the same processing steps behind the scenes (such as the sending of a confirmation email or thank you email).  Sounds powerful, right? Well they are, here is a small list of the benefits:

  • It directly ties clicking a specific url inside an email to the submission of a form within your automation platform
  • It mirrors existing form actions (i.e. if you have a form submission trigger the sending of an email or adding someone to a different campaign a blind form can achieve the same end)
  • It appends campaign response to a contact record

So, what is a good use of a Blind Form?

  • Sharing knowledge with existing customers
  • Moving late-sales stage deals through the pipeline with additional nurturing

Conversely, what is not a good use of a Blind Form?

  • Sending to 3rd Parties Lists/Vendor
  • Any program with potential reach outside of your known audience (known meaning, email addresses that currently exist in your Eloqua database)
  • Opt-In campaigns (this would not only be very inappropriate but also is likely outside legal compliance

There are some caveats to the use of Blind Forms.  They are only applicable in scenarios where a URL is driving from an email to a single asset or landing page. They cannot be used to monitor traffic/clicking inside of landing pages or between landing pages.  Additionally, using Blind Forms is likely to break the way that out of the box reports in your Automation platform work.  Be prepared to do your own, custom reporting on Blind Forms if you plan to use them.  You should also be cautious about how you leverage them if your lead scoring programs are simple in that they score “form submit” vs. submission of specific forms.  While Blind Forms are an immensely powerful tool they also come with a big flashing yellow caution light because you need to consider a lot before you forage ahead in using them.

Do you have a creative use for Blind Forms that I haven’t mentioned?

send, resend, repurpose. all the same, right?

You’ve got some great tools in place, you can see who has opened your email, you can see who hasn’t and now you want to get all those people who haven’t engaged with you yet to open it so why not send it again?  Seems harmless enough, in fact it sounds like a great way to “repurpose” your content, here comes the bad news…it’s not.  In fact, it can do you more harm than good.

Now you’re either angry or confused, that’s ok, let’s walk through this.  The way that the neat little tracking bits work in your email marketing technology or marketing automation platforms is that it embeds a hidden image in the email, when that image is downloaded it registers as an “open” with the tool you are using.  So let’s say the person receiving your email is using Outlook or Gmail a Mobile Device or some other email client that turns off images by default, meaning you get an email that looks like this:


instead of this:


What does this mean in terms of your tracking? Well it means it doesn’t register until (or unless) someone turns on the images or downloads them.  Now, let’s just presume that some portion (maybe 1-2%) of your tracking doesn’t register a true open, is it really fair to send those people the same message twice in a quick enough period of time that they will remember? So you get crafty (or so you think) and you send the same message but with a different subject line, is that really fair either?  Again you are running the risk of sending the message again and inviting someone to unsubscribe (at best) or report your message as spam (at worst).  Neither unsubscribe or spam complaint is a pretty picture.  How about an alternative, how about a true reuse of the content.  If someone did not engage with your message via email, why not try a different mechanism for reaching them, maybe the subject line itself could use some work.

The answer to non-engagement is not to resend until someone happens to open it, the answer is to understand the preferences of your audience. Is a specific type of content better (webinar vs. white paper, etc.) or is a specific channel of communication more popular (live chat, email, social, etc.).  The key to understanding the real problem is not to resend your email, the key is to understand how your audience communicates and to tailor your plan accordingly.