How a Master Data Strategy Helped Accelerate Sales & Marketing
Imagine carefully planning to launch a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform to 30 offices across 20 countries on five continents – in six weeks. While it might sound impossible, Getty Images’ Greg McLaughlin made it a reality. “It was a whirlwind project,” McLaughlin recalls. “But we set a plan, executed it very well, and as a result, it went as smoothly as possible.”
Managing and implementing CRM and master data management (MDM) solutions comes as second nature for McLaughlin. He’s been honing his craft for more than two decades, long before either of those acronyms meant anything to anyone. As Getty Images’ Vice President of Global Sales Operations, McLaughlin oversees sales enablement, sales operations, learning, and development and manages the company’s global CRM platform. Last year he was tasked with streamlining and optimizing the majority of Getty Images’ front-end sales, marketing, and customer support processes. Getting that right, on a global scale, is no easy task. It’s a massive undertaking that starts and ends with data, specifically master data.
“Data is critical to our operation,” explains McLaughlin. “It ensures us that we’re reaching the right audience and that we understand our customers and prospects.”
McLaughlin recognized that the company needed a really strong foundation in order to find a way to manage the company’s CRM, including a complete 360-degree view of the customer, to ignite its sales and marketing strategy. “Ultimately, we wanted to drive increased pipeline and accelerate close rates, improve productivity for our sales team, and deliver a better overall customer experience,” says McLaughlin. “This project would help get us there.”
“Very early in the process we began thinking about how to clean our data, which is how a lot of companies start.” But McLaughlin knows from experience that it takes more than just cleaning your data to create a trusted view of your customers and prospects. “It’s about creating a structure for your data and having a regular rigor around maintaining that structure – identifying how data gets into your systems, where it goes once it gets in, and how you master it across those systems,” says McLaughlin.
Enter Master Data
Tackling a project of this nature can be overwhelming, especially for a sales and marketing specialist like McLaughlin. “I’ve worked in marketing, in sales, and even operations,” he explains. “Ironically, the only department I haven’t worked in is IT. But I’ve been able to learn from the different leaders that I’ve worked for, in all of those different functional areas, what’s important to each part of their business. As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into my career, I’ve been able to take all those learnings, put them together, and recognize how a master data strategy can address the full set of business needs.”
Through the years, McLaughlin has learned that master data is the foundation on which a company should build its data-driven strategy. That’s because when data is mastered – meaning it is consistently structured and governed – it centralizes all your critical sales and marketing information. The customers you sell to, vendors you buy from, parties you partner with, prospects you are interested in, products you make, and services you provide. And once it is mastered at the application level, like a CRM system for instance, the data gains more value. Because then it can be seamlessly shared across applications, departments, and even the entire enterprise to form that elusive, 360-degree customer view needed for better decision making and for creating better customer experiences.
McLaughlin has some advice for organizations looking to implement similar strategies.
“I think about it like cleaning a basement,” McLaughlin explains. “You’ve got this big basement full of old stuff, and you have to start somewhere. Start small – define the core attributes that you need to master; structure and connect those key pieces of information. Before you know it, you give yourself a little breathing room to widen the project.” In other words, don’t try and do everything at once: You’ll only set yourself up for failure, according to McLaughlin. Instead, he suggests taking it in steps.
“First, understand where your data lives. Where is it across all these disparate sources? And where did it originate? You need to know who’s creating the data and why.
“It’s important, before you even try to engage in your strategy, to start to look at your processes and figure out how to minimize the unique creation points of data,” says McLaughlin. He believes the fewer points there are, the easier it is to govern and master your data.
Ultimately, data should give your teams insight into customers, prospects, and partners across geographies, industries, and segments. You can leverage all your teams and third-party systems to achieve breadth, but depth usually comes from a third-party system that can enrich your data with insight and information that your teams don’t or can’t collect.
“You can’t do it yourself; you need somebody who’s got the expertise,” says McLaughlin. “That’s why we partnered with Dun & Bradstreet to help us structure and connect the data.” The last step is developing a persistent strategy around how you’re going to regularly refresh and maintain that data.
Sales & Marketing Must Have a Seat at the Table
As a business leader who’s implemented a lot of CRM systems, McLaughlin knows that without support for the project across the organization, it will never get off the ground. “Driving adoption is all about selling internally and influencing people to buy into a common vision,” he explains. “You have to show people what I call the overwhelming benefit … a vision where the value of engaging in a process or adopting a technology is so much greater than the level of effort to engage or to perform a certain set of tasks or processes that [the benefit] completely overwhelms the effort.”
As to who owns this process, McLaughlin believes everyone has to play a part. “I think that it really should be a joint effort between finance, technology, and sales and marketing, so that finance can govern and drive the back-end processes and make sure that the customer experiences are good. IT can really manage the delivery and the storage of the data and possibly the flow back and forth with a third-party like a Dun & Bradstreet.
“At the end of the day, sales and marketing needs to give the customer perspective, certainly the internal customer perspective,” explains McLaughlin. “I think all of those elements come together to form a strategy, because master data cuts across the whole business.”
Listen to more insights from Greg McLaughlin as he sits down with Dun & Bradstreet’s Former CMO, Rishi Dave, for a data-inspired conversation about Getty Images’ data transformation strategy.