Toning Your Marketing Automation Core

If you’ve been reading this column regularly, you’ll know the yogi in me is focused on sharing ways to be successful in building a marketing automation practice for your organization. From tips for finding the right technology partner, to managing the RFP process, to building a balanced team, I’ve covered many areas to get you started on the path toward inner-peace and profit.

However, there’s one element I haven’t touched on yet: toning the core of your marketing automation program. If I were to ask you what the core is, what would you say? Is it the technology, the people, or the processes? On, one definition of core is “the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything.”

Let’s draw an analogy to the human body. Let’s say your goal is to one day do a handstand. You may first think you should build strength in your arms so you can hold up your body. This alone may work as long as you have enough momentum and a wall to help you stay up for a few seconds. But if you don’t want to fling yourself up and pray that you can hold the posture (without a wall), then you need also focus on strengthening your core. And, in this case, your core is the transverse abdominis.

So what is the transverse abdominis, or core, of marketing automation? In my opinion, it’s the database you use for marketing. Just like the transverse, it’s the innermost layer of our marketing programs that we don’t commonly give enough focus and attention. By neglecting this area of our marketing, we may see some initial success but, over time, results and effectiveness will become muddled by inaccurate data. And we’ll find it difficult to lift some programs off the ground. I’d argue that your marketing automation practice can only be as good or as strong as the core that lies underneath your technology, people, and processes.

If you haven’t already, let’s lift the shirt up to our core and start exposing areas for improvement. Here are a few signs that your database, or core, needs toning:

1. Invalid email addresses. Let’s face it; this one seems like a no-brainer. If your database is filled with outdated or incomplete email addresses, you’ll have trouble reaching the intended audience. Duh, right? But how many of us have a grasp on how bad this problem is with our database? How many of us have a solution in place to make sure our data isn’t stale and dirty?

2. Not enough fields or attributes. Automation can help us be more sophisticated in our marketing campaigns. This can involve building nurturing streams to specific groups of people that share similar profile data (i.e., industry, title, location, etc.) and behavior data (engagement with your website, response to your campaigns, etc.). This all sounds great but can fall flat quickly if your database simply does not have the fields to support the type of segmentation you are looking to conquer. How do the fields in your database stack up against your creative nurturing ideas?

3. Missing or inaccurate data. Having the wrong data or no data in your system will knock you over faster than a tornado sweeping through the yoga studio. Did you install tracking tags properly? Do you have your systems properly integrated? What systems have you integrated? CRM? Paid search platform? Social? Display? Did you properly QA everything before launching campaigns? If not, your ROI might be upside down.

4. Poor results! Ultimately, results are the best indicator of how badly your database needs help. When you see poor results, you may be inclined to do more tweaking to your programs or try some more testing. But, next time, look to your database. Could that be what’s dragging down performance?

Toning your data core can be a big challenge and may even require a “data trainer.” To start, your marketing automation tool may provide database health reports to help you understand the state of your database. Look for reports on unreachable contacts or contact field completeness.

In addition, I’ve found an Experian post from Beatriz Santin, “Three steps to maintaining a clean email database,” and a Connects Marketing Group post from Thijs Menzel, “The ROI in Maintaining your Database,” with helpful tips to keeping any database up to par.

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