Our interview series on “How Good Data Turbo Charges Lead Generation” is turning out more exciting with each passing weak and uncovering some really good insights from experts in the B2B marketing and lead generation space. This week we speak to Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions and author of the upcoming book E-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale which you can pre-order on Amazon. I’ve been a fan of Ardath’s Marketing Interactions Blog and regularly picked up useful lessons completely relevant to what we do at DirectContact so I’ve been looking forward to this one and was thrilled when Ardath agreed to do this. Here it is!


You’ve stressed on the value of quality marketing data to readers on the MarketingInteractions blog in a number of your posts , do you think in current economic times CMOs should call for more focus directed toward their customer databases?

Ardath: Absolutely! But not just because of current economic times. Customers are one of the most important and lucrative corporate assets a company possesses.  Often I find that once a prospect buys, the record is not maintained appropriately. Account managers should be charged with not only keeping their customer’s database records clean, but adding information that can be used to segment appropriately for ongoing customer nurturing programs. 

Chances are strong that the customer chose your company for reasons that go beyond your product. Companies have the opportunity to continue to deliver added value to customer relationships, but only if they keep adding actionable insights and information to expand the customer’s database record. It may be tough to segment lead databases in parallel with personas, but there’s no excuse for not delivering targeted communications to your customer base. As long as your database is clean. 


There is often a debate on whether marketers should focus on developing and cleaning their existing data or spend more time and budget acquiring new data. Is one really more important than the other? What is your take on this?

Ardath: I wrote a blog post, Lift Revenues 70% By Cleaning Up Dirty B2B Data. It was based on a research study by Sirius Decisions where they, “found that from 10 to 25 percent of b-to-b marketing database contacts contain critical errors—ranging from incorrect demographic data to lack of information concerning current status in the buying cycle.” And yes, that 70% lift is true for strong organizations utilizing clean data.

What companies don’t pay attention to is the fact that B2B databases tend to double in size every year. In this economic climate more people are shifting jobs or losing them altogether. I read somewhere that a marketer stated over 30% of her contacts were no longer at their desks. At least she knew that, but what if you didn’t? Dirty data impacts marketing program results across the board. And, let’s face it; you can’t create pipeline progression when your marketing communications aren’t getting delivered to actual leads. Especially when marketing is under tough mandates to prove contribution to sales.

As far as choosing between cleaning existing data or acquiring new data use what you’ve got first. I’ve been involved with a lot of projects recently based on re-engaging dormant leads with terrific results. Companies have already invested money in acquiring those leads. To abandon it in favor of new data is often a waste of that investment. Instead, create a “human touch” program for inside sales to reach out and restart the dialog. And please make it more than, “I just thought I’d touch base…” Deliver something valuable if you want to re-enroll them and validate your data. 


How important is data quality from a B2B marketing strategy perspective and what can marketers do better to really tap into the full potential of their databases?

Ardath: Data quality is the holy grail of B2B complex sale marketing. Buying cycles are reported as lasting from 6 to 9 months—or longer. That means multiple touches that need to create engagement over time—despite the attempts of your competitors to distract them. 

To get the full potential from a marketing database, marketers should focus on collecting incremental information to flesh out buyer profiles over the course of the buying cycle. This means reaching beyond demographic and BANT data. The more you know about your leads, the more relevant you can be with your nurturing programs. Over time you’ll see patterns develop in your data that can indicate buying stages and propensity-to-buy that help focus your attention on the leads with the most promise. Trust me, sales will thank you.  

Research is emerging to prove that nurtured leads close at steeply higher rates than non-nurtured leads and also confirms they spend more money when they buy. The key to getting those kinds of results lies in the quality of your database and even more so in how you use the information it contains to increase relevance and add value your leads need and appreciate.


What would you advise readers who are looking to build a high quality lead list / database? Is it worth the additional cost in terms or time or money to focus on acquiring higher quality contacts and more qualified leads versus purchasing or renting pre-built lead lists or database subscriptions?

Ardath: I recommend spending the time, money and effort to build a high-quality list. The more focused you can get on your target market, the better. Most lists you buy or rent are based on title within the organization. Sometimes that works, but what’s even better is when you can target roles. With roles and responsibilities you have a much higher opportunity to generate opt-in and ongoing permission to nurture them because your communications can be tightly tailored for relevance. Precision pays off.


What are the biggest challenges you have seen with managing CRM and marketing databases among companies you have worked with? Are companies doing enough to update and maintain their data at a level where it’s being leveraged to its fullest?

Ardath: Truthfully, no. Here are a few reasons why this is true. 

1. The marketing database and the CRM system are often disconnected, limiting visibility and knowledge about the disposition of leads throughout the pipeline. 

2. The economic reality is that more people are losing/changing jobs at faster rates and that means data is getting dirty faster and takes more time to manage. 

3. Static information. If your database records contain the same information 6 months after the lead was added, what intelligence have you gathered that you can use to progress the buying process? Marketing databases and CRM need to go beyond housing basic demographic information to include activity history and the answers to progressive profiling questions, and even research notes. 

The upshot is that companies need to consider their marketing databases and CRM systems dynamic, not static, if they’re going to leverage them to their fullest potential. Databases aren’t just lists, they’re sources of intelligence companies can leverage to serve existing customers better and acquire new customers to grow the business.



About Ardath Albee 

ardath_100rtArdath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc., helps B2B companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. But, marketing isn’t just about generating new demand. Ardath also helps clients re-engage customers and build loyalty that adds longevity to customer relationships.

Visit her website: www.marketinginteractions.com and look for her upcoming book, E-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale

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