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How to Fix the B2B Data Meltdown

B2B marketers are in a pickle when it comes to data. Data insights are critical to boosting marketing and sales performance. Yet the marketer’s trust in data has plunged to a new low that’s putting a damper on strategic marketing initiatives, according to Dun & Bradstreet’s (D&B) recently released Sixth Annual B2B Marketing Data Report.

Just 50% of D&B survey respondents expressed confidence in the quality of their data—down from 75% in 2017. And only 11% expressed extreme confidence in 2018. “The lack of confidence B2B organizations have in their data is hindering the ability to deploy key sales and marketing initiatives,” the D&B report concludes. “Instead of creating opportunity it’s creating chaos.”

A case in point: Only 38% of marketers surveyed said account-based marketing (ABM), a leading data-driven B2B marketing tactic, is currently part of their go-to-market strategy. The report notes that ABM requires quality data to identify and zero in on key accounts and targets, reach them across channels, and deliver relevant content. Marketers are forced to rely on information that’s outdated, contradictory, misleading or otherwise flawed, and that’s costing them. They’re left with a limited or inaccurate view of customers or prospects.

Meanwhile, quality data is the key to providing personalized content, which is crucial to enhancing the customer experience and driving revenue. VisionCritical predicts the customer experience will overtake price and product as the top brand differentiator by 2020, and Forrester estimates that a mere 10% increase in data accessibility will result in more than $65 million additional net income for a typical Fortune 1000 company.

What’s a marketer to do? In my company’s work with data, we’ve discovered eight steps to ensure your data is working for and not against you.

The 8 Steps To Turbocharge Your Data

1. Commit to improving data quality.

It’s important to improve data quality to make sure your company’s data is accurate, up-to-date, complete and consistent, and that it produces the depth of insight required for solid decision making. Define data quality based on business objectives.

2. Assign data quality ownership.

Give one person central responsibility for ensuring data quality. This is your new chief data officer. That person should work with a team, including members with roles such as software developer, program manager, project leader, data steward, and data analyst.

3. Fine-tune your data collection process.

Don’t drown in excessive information. Determine exactly what kinds of data are relevant to answer your questions and help you make informed decisions that fulfill your business’s goal. Ensure your data comes from knowledgeable, trusted sources.

4. Check contact data as it’s collected.

Validate information systematically or manually before entering it into a database. Pay attention to email addresses and missing information. Engage customers directly through a phone call, a web form or live online chat. Once you have updates, make sure your database is complete.

5. Standardize your data.

Because information is collected from diverse sources, your database may include various spellings or formats of the same data point. For example, while you know the United States, the U.S., and the USA are the same, marketing automation platforms and CRMs view them as different—and that can impair your smart lists, scoring, and segmentation. Create standardization, or normalization, smart campaigns in Marketo or use a third-party tool such as RingLead Data Management Solutions.

6. Identify and purge duplicate records.

Multiple fields of duplicate information can impede marketing automation. Set up trigger alerts for automatic notifications. Search your database for suspicious entries to be investigated manually.

7. Integrate marketing and sales data.

Despite years of efforts to align these functions, it’s still common for marketing and sales to use different CRM and automation systems to manage data, causing confusion and mistakes. Organizing all data in one location best supports personalized marketing that delivers the right content at the right time.

8. Conduct regular data reviews.

Develop and implement a strategy for regular database checkups. Augment real-time verification with regular bulk processing to ensure contact data integrity.

These eight steps will sharpen your understanding of your data and help you measure and improve its quality for the long haul. Is it a lot of work? Yes, gathering and maintaining first-class data attuned to your company’s needs requires serious, ongoing effort. But the stakes are high, and the direction is clear.

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