• Dump those old contacts; they’re probably not worth hoarding
  • Marketing operations still needs to control the list upload process, but that doesn’t let everyone else off the hook
  • Data unification is an increasingly hot topic for marketing

One of the things I love most about my role as an analyst for SiriusDecisions is that I regularly get to talk with some of the brightest minds in marketing operations to understand how they’re tackling our most pressing issues. Over the last few months, we’ve held a series of roundtable discussions on data management with our clients in the U.S. and the U.K., and the conversations have been filled with insight, commiseration and laughter (those last two often went hand in hand). Here are some common themes we heard across all sessions:

Data Roundtable

  • Don’t wait – dump those old contacts. Our research shows that 25 to 33 percent of the contact database goes stale every 12 months, so any contacts who haven’t raised their hands in three years almost certainly have changed in some aspect. And here’s the sanity check – over the last three years, hasn’t nearly everyone you know professionally either changed companies, changed jobs within their organization or adjusted the focus of their responsibilities?

    The consensus among our clients is that those “Hail Mary” campaigns (“Hey, we haven’t heard from you in a while!”) aren’t worth it. These campaigns take effort to plan and produce, they can hurt your sender score, and the yield from them is negligible. Give yourself the opportunity to drop below a pricing threshold with your marketing automation platform (MAP) provider – dump the old contacts.

  • Run list uploads through marketing ops. Is this a control freak thing? Maybe. Do we have trust issues with the rest of the organization? Perhaps. Is it still the best way to do things? Yes… but with a caveat.

    Marketing ops is responsible for data quality and the governance that surrounds it. From a purely process-oriented viewpoint, the most efficient approach is to arm everyone in the organization with the rules for data quality (e.g. contacts have to be added with these 10 fields, values for industry have to match our pick lists) and then rely on them to follow those rules, rather than channel everything through marketing ops, which can lead to a bottleneck.

    In practice, though, few companies adhere to these guidelines, and most see marketing ops as a service organization that should be assuming this busywork anyway. Resoundingly, our clients agree that marketing ops should own this function to drive consistency, but that education on the standards still plays an important role. Tell demand managers, inside sales teams and event staff what’s expected, reinforce the expectations when less-than-stellar lists are submitted, and celebrate the people who follow the processes to a tee.

  • Data unification is a hot topic. What do we mean by “data unification”? Bringing data together, either to form the golden record or to connect disparate data from across the organization to get a more complete picture of a contact or an account.

    Our clients shared horror stories from all corners of the disjointed data universe: “We’ve made tons of acquisitions, and we need to rationalize all these systems.” “We’ve got 23 instances of our SFA system across the organization.” “IT has turned a simple request for a billing data feed into a six-month requirements-gathering exercise.”

    There’s no silver bullet here, I’m afraid, but there are three primary strategies you can apply to bring data together:

    • Name a current operational system (e.g. MAP, SFA) to be used as the source of the truth, and sync all other systems into it.
    • Build a new database to combine the relevant data sets in a separate physical location.
    • Use a unification tool to connect data virtually across multiple systems.

Naturally, each of these approaches has pros and cons. I’ll be explaining them in more detail – along with an assessment tool that can help you decide which approach is right for you – in my presentation, called “The 360-Degree View of Marketing Data: Are We There Yet?,” at our Summit in May. I hope to see you there and to continue the discussion, and in the meantime, leave a comment about some of your lessons learned around data management. We’d love to hear from you!