How to increase database integrity to crush your 2018 targets

As you start planning your budgets and targets for the coming year, data will be front and center. Columnist Scott Vaughan shares four strategies to help you commit to a data integrity plan in 2018.

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Data Security Ss 1920Planning, budgeting and target-setting for 2018 are in full swing. I’ve been comparing notes with B2B marketing executives about their keys to hitting or missing their 2018 growth targets. A surprising make-or-break topic bubbled up in the conversations: data.

We know prospect, customer and account data is essential fuel for sales and marketing demand, pipeline and revenue effort. However, marketing execs are becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of bad data wreaking havoc on our ability to execute. To amplify the point, a mere 6.6 percent of B2B marketers believe their data is complete and up-to-date, according to the 2017 “State of Pipeline Marketing” report produced by B2B companies Heinz Marketing, LinkedIn, Bizible, Uberflip and Radius.

For perspective, just a decade ago, we B2B marketers were starving for any kind of marketing data. We pored over customer data to better understand what our prospects, customers and partners needed and desired.

Fast-forward to today. We’re overwhelmed with an insane amount of data — a huge percentage of it unmarketable — generated from customer acquisition programs, marketing channels, shiny systems and the explosion of “data” salespeople offering miracle data lists. Like that second slice of pumpkin pie and that third serving of stuffing consumed at holiday dinner, it looks so tasty until we try to digest it all. What a difference a few years makes.

To hit growth goals, we must take control and develop an intelligent, standardized data integrity plan. It’s time to make the commitment to break bad habits and proactively shore up how we manage data. Here are four proactive data integrity strategies to invest in and commit to in the year ahead.

1. Budget explicitly for data accuracy and health

“Out of mind, out of sight” has been the mantra for many stakeholders when it comes to allocating budget for data health. Because data integrity doesn’t have direct ROI like other demand and revenue marketing activities — i.e., it’s difficult to measure — it often gets underbudgeted or de-prioritized. We end up living with and using duplicate, incomplete and outdated data. And the more data we generate, collect and purchase, the worse the problem gets.

The answer is to allocate budget for data talent, tools and services required to:

  • assess the health of your data once a quarter, minimum; this includes integrations with key systems and sources.
  • commit to global, standardized data formatting, terms and usage.
  • establish robust processes for data hygiene and governance, making it easier to identify and update data.
  • train all the users of company and customer data, including field sales.

2. Validate and govern data before it goes into your database whenever possible

“Garbage in, garbage out” is a well-shared phrase for those who must manage databases. The good news is that there are data validation and governance tools that verify, append and format data before data is transferred into the database.

By filtering data up front, we can immediately put accurate prospect and customer data to work to qualify, score and nurture opportunities in the sales pipeline. This proactive approach allows us to avoid the “mickey mouse” data being populated on your web forms and the preponderance of bad data coming from third-party programs such as content syndication and events.

The reality is that many of us wait to clean up data after it’s in our database. We use database “washing machines” that come with our marketing automation and CRM (customer relationship management) systems or data appending services.

This is fine. But by not formatting and validating data before it goes into our databases, we’re loading expensive databases with bad, incomplete or duplicate data. The odds of catching all the problem data later is slim.

Moreover, most of us pay for our databases on a cost-per-record or usage basis, so the extra budget adds up quickly. You can often subsidize the data integrity budget by not putting in bad data in the first place.

3. Deploy a permission-based marketing approach to ensure global compliance

Marketers are being held to higher expectations of data privacy compliance than ever before. Most countries have laws that protect people’s personal data privacy, and companies that collect and share this information must either comply or risk enormous fines. The poster child is the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the European Union.

At the same time, marketers are being driven to gather more and more detailed data to help brands convert potential customers. A successful marketing team must be able to walk this fine line with care.

One of the most effective ways to ensure compliance with global data laws is to put in place a permission-based marketing approach. This means all people that you capture or that are already in your database must explicitly opt in for communications and have clear, easy access to control how their data is used, collected and stored. This transparent approach means more accurate, actionable data with those who matter to your business.

Your database will likely be smaller in size. That’s a good thing. It ensures you’re communicating and engaging with professionals who are interested in your brand, solution or industry, which is much better than storing every record ever entered into the database.

4. Establish data usage and access roles for all stakeholders

One of the best ways to establish and maintain database integrity is what I call the three “Rs” of database effectiveness: roles, rules and requirements. (Note: these are top-line fundamentals; sophisticated data management requires a much deeper walkthrough.)

Here’s a definition of each of these keys to database integrity:

  • Roles refers to who plays what role(s) in developing, managing, governing and maintaining the database. This includes the core database team and sales and marketing ops, but also any pro on the team who is entering data into the system.
  • Rules outlines who has access to the data, under which circumstances and how often. This needs to be documented, communicated and enforced, including getting sign-off and unwavering support from the C-level executive team.
  • Requirements indicates what is required to set up, manage and use the database effectively and efficiently to maintain desired levels of data integrity.

Incomplete, inaccurate and duplicate data will hamstring our sales and marketing efforts and cost us substantial time and money. The answer is a proactive, appropriately funded database-integrity initiative to hit our growth and revenue targets in the coming year. In this “pay me now, pay me later” scenario, I’d advise you to choose the “now,” and nail the data integrity levels you’ll need to crush 2018 targets and beyond.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Scott Vaughan
Scott Vaughan is a B2B CMO and go-to-market leader. After several CMO and business leadership roles, Scott is now an active advisor and consultant working with CMO, CXOs, Founders, and investors on business, marketing, product, and GTM strategies. He thrives in the B2B SaaS, tech, marketing, and revenue world. His passion is fueled by working in-market to create new levels of business and customer value for B2B organizations. His approach is influenced and driven by his diverse experience as a marketing leader, revenue driver, executive, market evangelist, speaker, and writer on all things marketing, technology, and business. He is drawn to disruptive solutions and to dynamic companies that need to transform.

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