Building Quality Customer Engagements With Standardized Data

Legoblocks_Brunurb_clip_art_hightMarketers are inundated with data. From lead files, to web traffic reports to marketing automation data, marketers can’t – and shouldn’t - get away from it. Data provides the basis for optimizing marketing performance. In fact, data elevates marketing to the role of trusted business partner with sales, according to Pete Koliopoulos, VP of Marketing for Arrow Electronics, who spoke at this year’s Sirius Decisions Summit.

The problem is that data from diverse sources lives in different systems and formats, making it difficult to gain a consistent view and take action. Koliopoulos said data strategy often isn’t given adequate priority in enterprises because business executives overlook the impact that data has on sales and marketing productivity. How can we possibly still be failing to see the full impact data has on our business?

Unstandardized data is difficult to transform into valuable insights that can be used to power the marketing organization. As Scott Vaughan posited in a recent post:

“How much time would you waste if you haphazardly switched between measuring your house in feet, yards and meters in your effort to determine how many gallons of paint you needed? A lot. Because you didn’t select a standard type of measurement.”

Without a standard basis of measurement, marketers can’t accurately compare results to make informed decisions, hamstringing the ability to optimize with success.

Data standardization impacts your whole marketing program

Key functions that require standardized marketing data to properly evaluate performance results and optimize customer engagement include:

  • Analytics – An inaccurate understanding of lead source-, campaign- and program-level performance can result in ineffective optimization efforts and continued use of underperforming techniques. Further, the value that marketing delivers to the business can’t be correctly represented when data isn’t standardized.

  • Segmentation – Eliminating “spray and pray” email practices in favor of a targeted email strategy results in higher open rates, lower unsubscribe rates, improved deliverability and greater revenue.  Without standardized data, segmenting your audience is difficult and less precise, impeding the effectiveness of a targeted email strategy.email_seg

  • Lead nurturing and scoring – Assigning values to leads (lead scoring) so they can be appropriately routed results in hot leads being turned over to sales, and leads that are not engaged being held back for nurturing or other forms of follow-up – obviously an important determination. If the prospect data upon which these leads are scored isn’t standardized (e.g., overlapping ranges for anticipated time of purchase – one lead having 1-3 months and another with 2-5) it can result in ineffective nurturing, scoring and lead routing.

  • Personalization – When prospects are sent emails with information that does not pertain to them based on their defined needs, profile and digital body language, the result is that they’ll likely emotionally opt-out.

As a leader in Eloqua’s modern marketing community Topliners, I recently polled my fellow marketers on the question: “What is the biggest benefit you get from standardization?” Respondents stated that standardized data has more benefit than any other variable in enhancing analytics and segmentation strategy. This highlights the marketing organization’s need to focus on optimizing engagement for leads and customers.  

Some simple standardization solutions

Include important data fields: Standardization is only possible when there is a solid underlying data structure. At a minimum, the structure should include necessary fields for analyzing performance including campaign ID, lead source and lead source type. It should also contain “picklist” fields for standard data points including job role, industry and company size. The relationship between different data types, such as demographics and digital body language, should be based on a key field that uniquely identifies each lead. 

Ensure correct data formatting: While data hygiene processes can be used to massage data to enforce compliance with a structured format, it's always best to have data correctly formatted when it enters marketing systems.  Lead entry points such as registration forms should enforce data standardization. This can be done with drop-down list boxes, check boxes, or radio buttons.

Use lead templates (or data validation software): Lead templates should be used to ensure that batches of leads from third parties meet standards. The lead templates can be highly customized spreadsheets that enforce compliance for each data point. Unfortunately, these spreadsheets are sometimes inadvertently modified by the lead provider. Another option is to leverage data validation software that will systematically review and approve each record for compliance with predefined rules.

With the marketing organization’s need to focus on optimizing prospect and customer engagements, lack of data standardization is not a viable option. Without standardized and structured data, marketing's potential is hindered by activities such as normalizing diverse lead spreadsheets. This is especially true as more marketing efforts focus on a consistent path to discover, engage, nurture and acquire customers. 

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