Why the Data will Dictate CRM and Automation Success in 2013

Companies that adopt a solid data maintenance strategy will see greater results this year from marketing automation.

The only thing worse for a marketer than giving sales people no leads, is giving them bad ones. Lack of information on prospects such as their organization size, industry sector, job title, or just simple contact information can stop a record dead in its tracks, even though it may be a quality lead. Marketing processes like lead scoring, which prioritize the most important leads, are dependent upon correct information at the contact, demographic, and company level. As a result, data quality is especially critical when every aspect of demand generation is under a microscope to prove its contribution to revenue.In the process-oriented world of marketing automation, every percentage point counts, and every factor that contributes to conversion must be scrutinized. Successful lead generation within both CRM systems and marketing automation relies on an abundance of good, clean data.

One certainty about 2013 is that marketers will have more data to comb through and analyze than ever, due in large part to the rapid growth of socially generated data.For instance, a multitude of data on customers and prospects in every campaign registration and response will be at marketers' disposal through traditional and social channels. The harsh reality is that roughly 25 percent of that data in 2013 will be incorrect before the end of the year simply because people change jobs. With new data coming in over the transom every day from campaigns, registrations, and sales activity, marketers are sitting on piles of "bad data" that have been aggregated over time and sometimes contain millions of records.

"Bad data" comes in several common forms:

  • Duplicate records include two or more of the same contact, causing activity tracked on a lead to be diluted, resulting in missed MQLs
  • Obsolete contacts are no longer in the position or at the company where they are listed as working
  • Incomplete contacts are missing fields such as job title, phone number, industry, or email address
  • Incorrect contacts contain a non-working phone number, old job title, or undeliverable email address

In a world of automation, "bad data" is the friction that will gum up the engine, stalling the very efficiencies these tools are meant to deliver. While marketing automation will clearly continue to gain momentum in 2013 with innovation and new tools coming into the market, marketers will only leverage just a small fraction of the full potential until they turn their marketing data assets into clean and well-segmented data operations.

The idea of Big Data, where the wealth of information on potential buyers can be analyzed to identify useful information for sales and marketing, has become a de-facto North Star. Marketers know the answers are in the data. But while these strategies are the key, they are rather difficult to accomplish.

Data cleanliness is of paramount importance to these marketers today. In a world of process orientation, moving the needle a few percentage points at each stage of the funnel can have significant benefits. While the bad news is that most companies still face much work in order to clean up "bad data," the good news is that tightening down the screws on any process can deliver significant improvement. For those companies that adopt a solid data maintenance strategy, I expect them to see greater results in 2013 from marketing automation.

Despite the reality of bad data's existence, I'm extremely optimistic about the adoption of sales and marketing automation in the coming year. Marketers are recognizing that no matter how strong their messaging, it will fall on deaf ears if it's not being shared with the right people, at the right time.Automation delivers a highly functioning sales and marketing operation, and because of this, data quality will become an equally significant focus for marketers in 2013. The days of accepting "bad data" as a reality are over.