data hygiene & acquisition- where to begin

As high as 70% of a marketing database will go stale in the course of a year because of contacts changing jobs or changing roles within a company. Inaccurate data can have a detrimental impact on any business, affect its credibility, and can also lead to decreases in productivity. Maintaining a high standard for data entering your database is crucial, elements of data hygiene include:
• Enhancing, correcting and expanding a record
• Appending and validating the data
• Finding missing elements in the database
• Identifying duplicate entries

Data management begins with understanding what qualifies a record as good or bad. A good record meets the minimum requirements for entry into your CRM and make that the standard for what can enter your Marketing Automation Platform (which means that all required fields are complete and accurate), better is when this record has extra data points that allow for proper segmentation. A bad record is one that does not contain the all of the minimum required fields to enter your CRM or has incorrect/inaccurate data in those fields.

A few questions to ask yourself:
• What fields are required to create a record in your CRM?
• What explicit/profile data points are used in lead scoring?
• What other data points are good to collect and include in a record?

As you prioritize what data points you request on forms, from data providers and from those who submit files to be added to the database it is important to keep in mind the required fields should always be included and then the addition of the four explicit fields for lead scoring should follow closely behind. Everything beyond that should be considered optional but highly valuable all the same.

Once you understand what’s good and what’s bad, assess your database against those standards so you know where your gaps are. As much as I hate the idea of ‘acquiring’ contacts via purchases it is a necessary evil so here is a quick checklist to use if you plan to purchase your data:

• Complete due diligence on the list and the broker.
o Understand the subscriber experience from sign-up through inbox (if your content is being broadcast to a new audience through a system other than your own Automation tool this is important)
o Speak to actual clients, run a credit check, and confirm that the mailing address is a real office.
o Confirm opt-in and unsubscribe process and management of unsubscribes and opt-outs.
Understand what you are buying/renting
o Verify the source of the records.
o Verify the permission level of the records.
o Find out if the sign-ups are incentive-based.
o Confirm that the list is never used for porn or spam offers.
o Make sure that the vendor is CAN-SPAM, CASL or EU Privacy compliant (depending upon the region of the data you are purchasing).
Ensure the ability to Segment.
o Prevent oversaturation by segmenting by category selects, demographics or past behavior
Test. Measure. Repeat.
o Always send a small test and adjust.
o Test subject lines, headlines, offer language and placement of links.
o Ask for benchmark data on response by your chosen segments.
o Know the inbox deliverability, not just bounce rate.

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?

How well do you really generate leads?

I am in a transitional phase right now, moving from one agency to another.  It’s exciting and fun but also has caused me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished with my current clients and where there is room for growth still (for me and them).  One of the topics that comes back to me over and over again is Lead Generation, when I first got into B2B marketing this phrase was the term, everyone was a Lead Generation expert, every agency and vendor did “lead generation” and therefore could make you better at it too.   My issue isn’t so much that I feel it’s a buzzword (it is) or with what it is intended to mean but more so what it doesn’t actually meant.  For every success story out in the marketplace of a company who is doing all of the right things there are four or five quietly sitting on the sidelines wishing they could join the ranks of modern marketing.

A recent study by B2B “2013 Lead Generation: Optimum Techniques for Managing Lead Generation Campaigns” bares testimony to the same sentiments, according to the study 55% of marketers only think of their lead generation efforts are average and that the means by which they measure their success remains relatively unsophisticated, 76% say their definition of a lead is a prospect asking for contact.    What happened to lead scoring?  What happened to nurturing your contacts through the buying cycle and speaking to their needs at the time it matters most?  Is it unattainable to believe in these ideals or is it just to hard to align sales to the idea of quality over quantity?

I know it has fallen out of favor to talk about marketing and sales alignment but that is the heart of the problem.  Understanding how leads are managed by sales, expectations of velocity through sales stages and the messaging sales uses to bring home the deal will help marketers better understand how their story helps drive the process home.  Having a unified definition of a lead is a great starting point.  Does sales really feel like any working email address that gets submitted when someone wants to read a whitepaper is an indication someone is ready to buy?  Not likely, now I am sure there are a few choice whitepapers that sales feels are stronger than others (hint hint: score those higher) but in general it is likely that they view a person reading a single asset as only moderately interesting.  Why not leverage the expensive and powerful automation technologies to hand them prioritized leads instead of just leads, or better yet the all important “hot” lead.  Gathering sales leaders and marketing leaders together to create a portrait of the idea lead can start the conversation towards a more aligned team and a more productive lead scoring model.

Start simple, the key to not being part of the 55% of marketers who feel like their efforts are “average” is aligning with your sales team.