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On average, people don’t like dentists, they don’t like cleaning bathrooms and they don’t like doing dishes. The common element with each is that if you don’t maintain them on a regular basis, it only gets worse over time. The same holds true for maintaining data quality in your marketing databases.

Fortunately, experience has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between the quality of your data to the success of your associated marketing programs. Combine this with the advent of numerous new technologies that allow us to better track, manage and record interactions with prospects, and you have a winning formula for building even more successful, marketing lead generation programs.

Infinitely Better Data
The first thing to remember is that data quality is a process, not an end state. Regardless of your investment, there will always be more you can learn about your customers and inherently, errors in your data because people move, change jobs, get married, retire, etc., etc. And because data quality is a process, it takes commitment and repetition simply to maintain the current standard of quality before you can even consider moving forward.

Where to begin depends on the size and quality of your current data. If you’re just getting started with a data quality program, it’s probably a good idea to compare your current databases against public records to check the basic quality. This process will identify and update postal codes, address information and highlight companies that may have gone out of business.

If on the other hand you are starting from scratch to develop a new database, where you get data is critical. In this age of media saturation, people are increasingly protective of their personal information so when you identify a quality source, it is paramount that you maintain its integrity. On the flip side, it is equally as important to avoid questionable sources of data that can degrade the value of your existing data.

Building a Lead Generation Database
As a rule, homegrown lists are better sources than lists purchased from third parties. Customer service records, point-of-sales information, website inquiries and sales records are all prime sources of good quality data. Organizations and business events with a specific focus are also good sources of data as they tend to have an exclusive membership with common characteristics. Trade shows and magazines can also be valuable sources of information but care needs to be taken to measure the timeliness of this data as it is often outdated. Sources to be used only as a last resource are list brokers who collect information and are actively selling lists online.

Enhance Your Data Daily
Once you have a database to work with, the next step is to develop a strategic plan for measuring and managing how you interact with customers and prospects on a daily basis. This foundation should be based on a clear understanding of “what you need to know” about your customers to increase sales and conversion. From here, you can build a plan for how to capture this information and profile individual customers.

Focusing internally can often accelerate this process by aggregating data from existing sources such as marketing, customer service and sales. Each of these groups owns valuable data and combing it into a single tool can significantly improve your knowledge of target accounts. Once this is done, training each group to recognizing when data changes and to make the necessary updates in real-time will dramatically improve your data’s accuracy and allow each group to be more productive.

Additionally, investing in technology that allows you to customize outbound communications and track the recipients’ behavior can significantly enhance your knowledge of that person. For example, if a customer clicks on a link in an email to learn more about a specific product among many presented, you can record this information and use it to customize future communications.

A Data Quality Process, not a Destination
Across your organization, continue to preach that data quality is a process, not a destination and that it is everyone’s responsibility to manage it. Treating it as a process allows you to visualize the road ahead and measure progress by small increments of improvement.

This process should be incorporated into your marketing and lead generation programs as a way to customize your communications to capture additional data from your prospects, while at the same time presenting meaningful information. This will not only help you improve the results of all of your integrated marketing campaigns, but it can also help develop a detailed profile of which customers are the best possible targets for new sales and who needs more time.

Along the way, continue to further clean your database by building into the process steps to collect changes or additions to your data. This can be done by collecting returned mail and monitoring inboxes for email bounces that can be used to make updates to your database.

To make this easier, include a unique code somewhere on each card or email that identifies the person in your database by number rather than name to avoid editing the wrong contact. Additionally, if you have the time, monitor positive replies to your inbox such as “out-of-office” messages to gather and validate data such as direct dial or mobile numbers which are often hard to find. This added information can help facilitate future communications such as telemarketing or sales calls

Most importantly, don’t ignore returned printed mail or email. Remove these people from your database to avoid wasting money on postage and printing, or being blacklisted by ISPs who might view your email marketing efforts as spam.

Plan for the Future
As marketing professionals, we need to recognize that accurate information is the cornerstone of success. The more you know about your customers and prospects, the more you can customize your offer to their unique needs. The good news is that in today’s over exposed media environment, it is possible to learn virtually anything you want to know about your customer over time.

If you’re looking for help improving your database or simply want advice on how to improve your current marketing processes, ResponsePoint can help. Our expertise is on identifying and improving the performance of B2B lead generation programs from the ground up. This starts with building and managing quality databases to developing innovative, integrated marketing programs that appeal to your customers and prospects. If you have a project, big or small, give us a call to learn more about how ResponsePoint can work for you.