When companies develop modern B2B Marketing campaigns, their databases are at the center of nearly every conversation.

Time and time again, people rely on databases to move their Marketing plans forward. Marketing leaders will talk endlessly about building their “lists,” the power of personalization, and targeting at every turn. Want to target a particular market? Great, let’s find out if our contact list is segmented in that way. Need to nurture old customers? First we need to figure out who they actually are.

Yet, when you ask them who is responsible for managing their database – arguably the most powerful asset in their B2B Marketing arsenal – they go quiet.

At best, they’ll list a few names (though if you dig, you might find out these are systems people who just set up data collection instead of managing it). Or maybe, they’ll reference a cleanup that happened a few years ago (though they aren’t quite sure who has been maintaining it since then). But a single individual or team keeping watch over the database itself? That’s usually left out of the equation. Once CRMs and automation systems are put in place, people assume it will all run smoothly going forward.

In my experience, it never does. And the revenue consequences can be extreme.

What impact can a dirty database really have on my campaigns?

A dirty database can sabotage your B2B Marketing campaigns in two distinct ways: it can cause you to miss opportunities (and thereby lose revenue), and it can injure your reputation with existing customers.

First, let’s talk about missed opportunities. Businesses invest a lot into building their lists, but when it comes time to use them many challenges can get in their way. For example, imagine you need to send a targeted message to all contacts in California. You type “California” into your database and come up with 20,000 contacts – but you know you have a whole lot more customers in the state. The problem is that some are categorized as “CA,” “CAL,” or “Cali.” Others are misspelt and fall through the cracks. These issues can cause you to lose tens of thousands of potential contacts for your campaigns – contacts you invested lots of money to acquire.

Now, let’s take a look at those 20,000 California-based contacts you pulled from your database. Are you sure they are listed correctly? Are the names spelt properly? Are there duplicates? Do you know where in your sales funnel they are? Without a properly maintained database, things can go wrong in a hurry. For example, you could send a discount code to a customer who just bought a product at full price. Or you could email a person who is no longer at the business you’re targeting, even though they’ve informed you of the turnover (twice). When these things happen, you are essentially spending money to turn someone off of your brand. That’s bad news.

The myth of “set it and forget it” database automation

My MarkOps team at MASS Engines has spent thousands of hours cleaning up databases. When undergoing this process, we do just about everything a team like ours can: we switch free text to picklists (drop-down menus) for standardization, we consolidate multiple lists into a central system, we integrate CRMs and Marketing Automation software. For large enterprises, months and months can be spent getting a database squeaky clean.

Many people mistakenly think this “clean-up” is a long-term solution. After all, shouldn’t a system that works today also work tomorrow?

Here’s the problem: Tomorrow, someone could buy a contact list and improperly load it. Or, your CEO could introduce a brand new vertical that requires you to gather lead data from new sources. Or, you could purchase a new tool that throws off your current system.

Your database is always vulnerable as things change, and it’s far too important to keep on the periphery as time goes on. If your contact list is at the center of your strategy (and in B2B, it almost always is), then it must also be something you invest in managing day after day after day.

How to keep your database in working order

My recommendation is to have a dedicated person (or department in larger companies) whose main responsibility is to be a data steward. No, that doesn’t just mean one person on MarkOps who checks in once in awhile. That means a person or team who spends time each day reviewing overall database health. It means having someone who can advocate for your database when campaigns shift, tools are introduced and forms are developed. That person or team should be involved at every touch point of your database – from testing every form, to quality controlling the CRM integration, to making sure the right information flows into your Marketing Automation platform. This new emphasis and attention on your database will ensure your hard-built lists aren’t sabotaged by a single, costly misstep.

Keeping a database in working order is all about establishing the right rules for how and where information flows. If these rules are too microcosmic or vague, you can end up with a database that hurts your company more than it helps. A data steward would take constant stock of the rules and make sure systems are always serving current marketing needs and sales goals.

 

 

 

 

After all,  good data is the most essential element of an effective revenue engine. Your contact list is the fuel that powers that demand generation machine, the driving force behind your B2B Marketing campaigns. Don’t overlook the integrity of that data or it can backfire on you in a serious way.