Did Somebody Ask About Data Quality?

A few weeks ago I attended a three hour “vendor shoot out” between Salesforce.com and SugarCRM hosted by BrainSell.  The BrainSell consultants ran through a series of standard CRM processes including lead management, dashboards, record customization by the site admin, and Outlook integration.  Anybody who was assessing CRMs would have been impressed by the flexibility of the systems, the professionalism of the two BrainSell analysts, and the breadth of the Q&A discussions.

Yet, at no point did I hear a discussion of data quality, data hygiene, contact verification, field standardization, or company and contact enrichment.  Neither the two analysts nor any of the attendees broached these topics.  Except for a short discussion on de-duplication of records, you would think that data was miraculously keyed into CRMs perfectly and wasn’t subject to decay.

So while data quality went unremarked, it is a critical variable in ensuring strong ROI for your CRM investment.

Let’s assume that today your B2B contact database is ninety percent accurate.  We know that most databases aren’t close to this level, but stick with me.  It is generally accepted that contacts age at two percent per month due to job changes, new titles, company name changes, office relocations, and companies going belly up.  So after one year, absent any data quality initiatives, your ninety percent accurate contacts have decayed to 71 percent accuracy (.9 * (1 – .02)12).  After two years, your contacts have declined to 55 percent accuracy (.9 * (1 – .02)24).  That is four out of every nine records being bad after only twenty-four months!

Think about how much time is wasted by sales reps leaving messages for contacts no longer at a firm.  Whether voice mails or quick emails, this activity has zero ROI.  Improving your data quality allows them to focus on actual prospects – folks they can sell to.

Also, think about how much money is wasted on direct mail programs for collateral than is immediately dumped in the trash.

How about your email programs?  Many marketers simply rely on email bounces and unsubscribes to verify their emails.  But moderate to high email bounce rates can cause your marketing campaigns to end up in SPAM folders.  Likewise, poorly targeted messaging will drive up your unsubscribe rate.  ESPs may even choose not to deliver your messages.

So if you haven’t recently cleansed your CRM or setup batch processes for maintaining your data quality, you will find decreasing returns on your marketing campaigns and sales rep outbound calling.

So far, I’ve focused on the costs involved in ignoring data hygiene, but there are many benefits that accrue to sales and marketing teams due to a focus on CRM data quality.  I’ll be discussing those in my next post.

Michael Levy
Michael R. Levy is a contributing writer to our blog and the principal of GZ Consulting, a market research and competitive intelligence consulting firm based in Massachusetts. Michael founded the firm in February 2012 after leaving Infogroup where he was the Manager of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence. Michael focuses on information services including sales intelligence, CRM, data hygiene, and marketing automation.
Michael Levy
Michael Levy


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