I was sitting in my office last week working on a targeted email when I realized something so fundamental - it's a bit embarrassing to admit. As a data-driven marketing guy, you'd think I'd realize the most fundamental building block of any conversion starts with accurate "top of the funnel" CRM contact data. With garbage in you only get garbage out.
There's a lot of talk about convergence of all things. There's the convergence of all the systems we use, and the convergence of new roles - especially those of marketing and sales and building a culture of measurement.
As marketers struggle with all of the new tools, we need to review the most fundamental component of marketing, yet one of the most overlooked - quality information, our small data. Without good contact information these systems are just plain dumb, and they cost us more than they help. According to Gartner, contact information ages up to 50 percent in any year, becoming inaccurate and out of date, only serving to compound the issue. The top of the funnel data just has to be solid. And we have to be agile and act on it quickly.
A Typical Day
At our consulting company, Efectyv Digital, we use a number of tools to help us target and engage our current customers, and find new ones. We use a marketing automation system, in our case HubSpot, and a bunch of Google tools, SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), analytics, and Viralheat for social analytics. We also use various email products so we can test and optimize the send and open rates with tuned messages.
Like many of our clients, we are a B2B firm; we build marketing lists and segment and send targeted emails about our services to specific personas from those lists. The messages vary by role, industry, and need. They contain calls to action and other things you'd recognize as conversion events. We track our funnel and outbound conversions - and let me say we could do much better. Our list bounce rates are high and our open rates are low. We've hired an outbound lead generation person, and we've seen similar results.
We wondered if the issue was with our contact data or perhaps it was our offers and messages or timing (we just started using alerts)? To test, we decided to start one step at a time, and look specifically at the contact information contained within a few of the popular lead-generation tools to see why our conversion rates were so low.
It didn't take us long to confirm, as we suspected, that our data just sucked and we needed to start making it better. Here's our analysis. At least step one. We'll always work on our messages.
The Simple Test
While there are scores of products on the market, including LinkedIn, Zoom, and One Source, and some great new start-ups that have various degrees of content mash-ups like Tempo and Refresh, we chose to test three of the more popular systems that come integrated with CRM systems, including D&B 360, which has contact and company information - mostly generated manually; Data.com, the roots of which are crowdsourced with Jigsaw data acquired by Salesforce; and InsideView, which claims to rely on technology to deliver results. The levels of integration vary, depending on the CRM system, Dynamics, Oracle, Sugar, or Salesforce.
We used a real person and a real institution, in this case Krystin Mitchell, senior vice president of human resources at 7-Eleven Inc. Since 7-Eleven's revenue is in excess of $80 billion and they're public, we thought they might be a good test to see how we can find her in our test systems.
The results. So, where is Krystin? According to their current company Web page, she is indeed at 7-Eleven, but according to Data.com Krystin Mitchell is not included in a "Find Contacts" 7-Eleven search results. When we broadened it, we found there were 16 wrong results with her name, company, and email address. That's crazy and not acceptable. I can see why our emails bounce.
We then tested the trusty old saw, D&B 360. Since much commerce is based on its data, it has to yield accurate results, right? D&B is the gold standard of contact data, the truth, built with human editorial control so we thought we'd get correct results. But, even with D&B, Krystin Mitchell is not included in "Build a List" of custom search results...although this time 65 wrong contacts came up instead.
To find her we needed to do a "general people in search," but like in Data.com it yielded multiple/duplicate results, and different types of wrong contact info that tends to defeat the whole purpose of a contact tool. Interesting and again not acceptable. More bounces and wrong numbers.
We then moved to our free version of InsideView, which works with Salesforce.com. They are one of the companies that include data from multiple sources (thousands), and then validate it through a technology they call "entity triangulation." Using analytics, this process is designed to determine the relative "truth" about people, content, and key event information. For our test about Krystin they got it right, listing her correct title and correct company and contact information, which match the company website and public disclosure. It was CRM Intelligence and we now use their Target product to build our lists and are getting much better results.
All in all we've analyzed vendor results many times, testing with different contacts, and companies and a great percent of the time fundamental results were different between vendors. I admit it's hard to do, to really know where someone is, but that's what we need and I am optimistic that there are new tools just coming to market, like marketing automation company Autopilot, releasing a new prospecting tool for sales and marketing that they claim is generating up to 42 percent reply rates on cold emails.
So, while this column is about conversion marketing and analytics, and I usually write about more meta subjects, I thought I'd share some personal real world issues that impact marketing, and ultimately sales. In this case our sales. We expect to at least double our conversation rate by spending more time creating quality data and lists.
We are drowning in data. It is no simple feat to filter this sea. But, it seems to me that we need to get the basics right about "small data" before we talk about optimizing big data, real-time data, and the impact of attribution models. B2B or B2C, quality contact information is fundamental. It's best to walk before we run and finally sprint to the holy grail of real-time conversions, and revenue falling from the trees.
Images via Shutterstock.
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Rand Schulman is a pioneer in digital marketing and new media. He was founder and CEO of one of the first SaaS-based web-analytics companies, Keylime Software (Yahoo) and lead products and strategy at Webtrends; was CMO of WebSideStory(Omniture/Adobe) through its IPO; was general manager of Unica's Internet Division (IBM); and is a co-founder and board director, and is an emeritus board director of the DAA. He's been a trustee of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation and is an executive-in-residence at the University of the Pacific for New Media and Marketing and was managing partner at SchulmanThorogood Group.
He is currently board member and advises numerous mobile and social media companies and is a managing partner with Efectyv Digital. You can contact Rand at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @randschulman.
March 19, 2014