How Bad Data Damages Business Relationships
It’s been over a year since I joined the content marketing team here at Dun & Bradstreet. In that period of time, I’d like to believe I’ve made some hefty contributions like crafting some lively content for this very blog. (Yes, that is a shameless plug.)
Nevertheless, while it was certainly exciting to embark on a new career path, I was nervous about leaving the ad tech industry where I spent more than a decade leading corporate marketing efforts. But it’s been a smooth transition and there’s been no looking back. Except for that fact that until just a few months ago, I’d repeatedly get calls from vendors who believed I still lead marketing efforts at my previous company.
This was not just a random occurrence, either. More than six months after being here, half a dozen vendors contacted me to schedule meetings. I always let them know that I was no longer with my former company, but the message didn’t seem to resonate. Some sales reps even went so far as to ask me for the contact information of the employee who replaced me. I wondered, would that entitle me to some of their commission if they closed the deal?
One of the misguided calls I received was actually a pitch for a CRM solution, which (of course) emphasized the paramount importance of targeting and understanding your customer. If these marketers and sales reps didn’t know who the right decision maker was when they called me, why would I even think about using their solutions?
I’m simply using this scenario to paint a picture of how frustrating this may be for marketers like myself who are inundated with sales calls every day. And it’s certainly not a new phenomenon. It has happened throughout my career. If not by phone, it was via my inbox, receiving emails with the wrong name or title. For example, if you are going to send a templated email communication, please don’t call me Mork. (I may be guilty of using that moniker on a rogue landing page in the past.)
Nevertheless, it is your responsibility to know your customer. Admit it, you’ve invested time and resources to prepare for a sales call, only to find you had reached the wrong contact. It’s frustrating for both parties, isn’t it?
But I can’t lay all the blame on the sales executive. The data is mostly to blame.
Long-term success in business has always been about more than just whom you know and what you do. It is dependent on what you do with your customers, prospects, suppliers, and partners to help them succeed. For example, if these vendors leverage fresh, accurate data, they may find I’m actually a potential fit for other solutions they offer. Relationships are the longest-standing, most proprietary differentiator for any company. But you need updated data, usually called your master data, and insights to inform the right conversation. As Dun & Bradstreet’s resident Master Data expert Scott Taylor likes to say, “Good decisions made on bad data are just bad decisions you don’t know about yet.”
As far as potential customers dropping out of the sales funnel goes, I am not alone. Thousands of people quit, retire, or change jobs every year. In fact, according to a recent study by the Institute of Leadership and Management, 37% of workers and managers plan to leave their current jobs. As people move from one company to another, their email addresses and phone numbers change, meaning the accuracy of your records degrades, opening the door to some really awkward sales calls.
While you should be concerned about information that's wrong in your database, you should also think about what's missing. Is there anything else that enriched data can tell you about your customer or prospect? Incomplete data presents its own set of challenges throughout the funnel—namely, low conversions and missed sales opportunities. It also causes duplicates, wrong categories, missing hierarchies, and incorrect location information.
Complete business records give you more options for segmenting and delivering targeted messaging, resulting in a higher probability for success. For example, enhancing a record with firmographics (this data can include everything from a company’s geography and employee size to the organization’s annual revenue and total assets) allows for more robust lead scoring, as well as proper routing to sales. What's more, having detailed industry information for a company allows vertical-specific messaging for outbound marketing as well as the dynamic delivery of relevant content on your website. In addition, enriching company data with individual contact information will help you narrow down your audience to focus in on the decision markers with whom you should be engaging. These insights can help you understand where to spend time prospecting and upselling (instead of wasting money and fixing spelling).
Ultimately, bad data results in bad decision-making, poor customer service, and a damaged reputation. But, most importantly, a lack of high-quality and accurate data is going to cost you time and money. However, if you proactively clean, enrich, maintain, and master your database, you’ll have more confidence that you're reaching the right people to drive qualified leads and ROI. Here are few steps worth repeating so you can get your customer relationships on the right track.
- Clean – consolidate duplicate records, standardize formatting, remove outdated/wrong information to get a consolidated, up-to-date view of your customers and prospects and prevent erroneous communications
- Enrich – add key/missing elements such as industry, company size, and contacts, as well as layer in intent data to deepen account relationships
- Analyze – a clean database allows you to identify your best customers and look for more like them while being able to identify revenue-growth opportunities
These three steps will help you achieve quality master data, which is quickly becoming the most important data companies have. It’s the foundational information about an organization’s customers, vendors, and prospects, and is the basis for making smart business decisions so you can ultimately contact the right contact.