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Data Sources: Balance Your Portfolio

February 16, 2011 | By Megan Heuer

As more companies embark on account-based or named account marketing efforts, the importance of contact and account data moves front and center. The more you know about the target audience, the more impactful and efficient the marketing. The challenge is determining which data sources are best.

As more companies embark on account-based or named account marketing efforts, the importance of contact and account data moves front and center. The more you know about the target audience, the more impactful and efficient the marketing. The challenge is determining which data sources are best. Consider this: If a financial planner suggested putting all your money into a single investment, you’d know it was bad advice. It’s simply not prudent to go “all in” unless you’re playing poker and holding a Royal Flush.

Now, apply the same analogy to marketing data. While it might seem convenient to get everything from a single source, a “bet the farm” model for sources of contact and account data will work about as well as the average single-stock portfolio. Instead, build a balanced portfolio of internal and external information sources that provide the most complete insights about your market as well as the companies and prospects you need to reach. Here are some resources to consider.

Internal Sources. Start by taking an inventory of what you have. Marketers can build a wealth of account knowledge using their available resources and incorporate them into planning, including campaign message and tactic development. The goal is to create a rich understanding of accounts and contacts so that marketing can get the right message to the right prospects at the right points in the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle.

  • Market intelligence/insights. What data is already being collected about the accounts and  contacts you need to reach? Leverage existing knowledge sources to answer the  questions you have. Make every campaign as informed as possible, especially in an account-based model. Be sure to include any customer data collection, including loyalty or satisfaction  survey results.
  • Competitive intelligence. Don’t miss out on valuable information from your competitive  intelligence (CI) team, which can help ensure your messages and offers will resonate with the  right accounts based on the competitive environment you (and they) are in.
  • Sales. Typically, sales has frequent interactions with account contacts; this data is valuable to  maintain an up-to-date view of what’s truly important. When it comes to account and contact  knowledge, marketing must leverage what sales knows; in return, marketing can  contribute more insights from its resources.
  • Service. If contacts within target accounts work with a service organization, either professional services (e.g. implementation) or for ongoing maintenance or account service needs, be sure to capture the learning from these interactions. This can include contact data updates as well as identifying relationship health issues valuable to both marketing and sales.

External Sources. Different resources contribute different information. The key is understanding what you need and who best provides it. Shop around inside the company as a first step, both for references on quality and value as well as possible shared access. Beware of overlapping investments that drain budgets, especially if you can get access to the same tools that other groups in the company already have.

  • Contact databases and list providers. When new names are needed, a first stop is often an external resource. It's important to select a service that has good coverage for the roles and titles you need, not just sheer volume of contacts. Be sure to leverage existing contracts as well.
  • Competitive intelligence providers. Some vendors collect specific data on accounts and the products/services they use. This can be helpful in prioritizing and targeting marketing tactics to their specific needs. As with lists and database providers, be sure these sources have good  coverage for your specific requirements and that the data obtained is actionable.
  • Account monitoring services. These services provide an always-on search for information  about key contacts and accounts. Sales is the typical audience, but marketing can find this type  of information very valuable to track changes within specific groups of accounts and to better  target activities. The element to watch out for here is volume: Too much data may not be  useful due to the time it takes to review and distill it. This information source works best for well-defined target  groups.
  • Teleservices and other custom research/profiling techniques. When all else fails, phone calls and online searching can be used to gather the contacts and account information required for  specific marketing objectives. If off-the-shelf data doesn’t suffice, consider using a service  that can profile accounts, do specific contact discovery and deliver the customized data  that will have the biggest impact on marketing results. The cost may be well worth it in  the long run.

The bottom line for data is that it always pays to put multiple resources to work. The key is having the right mix to deliver the right information at a reasonable cost to support your objectives. If you do your homework to learn what’s available internally and externally, and then weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each source to address your specific needs, you’ll make a smarter investment.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.

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