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To Duplicate Or Not To Duplicate

July 27, 2016 | By Jen Horton

  • How do duplicate records in your marketing automation or sales force automation system affect lead management?
  • Organizations commonly take one of two MAP/SFA integration approaches to deal with duplication
  • Assess reporting requirements and capabilities to determine the best approach

When I find a great piece of travel clothing, I have been known to buy more than one of the same item and wind up with a lot of duplicate pieces in my wardrobe. When it comes to marketing automation platforms (MAP) and sales force automation (SFA) systems and their integration, however, duplicate records are usually frowned upon.

Some systems allow for “leads” to be created even when a record may already exist in the system to represent an individual person.

We are often asked about the impact of duplicate records on architecting the systems to support a given lead management process. In general, minimizing duplication in the SFA environment ensures that data is stored centrally so that sales or other customer-facing individuals can see a complete history of interactions in a single record. Workflow rules for assignment, nurture triggers and dynamic content will work properly, and reporting is consistent. As for having the MAP create a new “lead” where a record may already exist in the contact database, we would strongly recommend simply appending the existing contact record. However, we also see organizations structure the integration so that the MAP call creates new “leads” in the SFA. These organizations have strong process and governance in place to manage the risks that duplication can present. Organizations can take either of the following MAP and SFA integration implementations:

  • Unique. With this approach, only a single representation of an individual is represented across the entire SFA environment. In other words, if a record for an individual person already exists in the SFA database, a new record should never be created. Instead, additional data (e.g. activity data, campaign response data) is appended to the existing record. This approach minimizes duplication and ensures that there is a single record of all activity and history with each individual. In systems with distinct “lead” and “contact” databases, this approach may require certain fields to be replicated across both record type profiles (e.g. original lead source, waterfall stage, status/disposition, rejection reasons) for lead management and reporting purposes. 
  • Point of interest. With this approach, a “lead” may be created even if a record already exists for the individual person in the database. This approach is often employed where organizations have defined a tele function to be the stewards of data governance and have defined processes for qualifying new campaign responses from known customers or prospects that have previously been rejected or disqualified to determine whether there is a new buying opportunity within that buying center or account. This approach also helps to “preserve” a common lead reporting structure so that SFA reports can easily show how all of marketing-generated or tele-generated leads pass through the conversion process. This process, however, requires strong process and training so that tele reps know how to merge duplicate records (i.e., preserving the original record as the master record) and understand how to properly engage followup for individuals already well familiar with the brand (e.g. potential existing customers).

Reporting challenges can often trigger an audit of MAP and SFA systems and their integration. To determine which approach to record-keeping is best for your organization, start with identifying your reporting requirements, then assess your current reporting capabilities and determine if a change in integration is appropriate or if other technology is needed to support desired reporting requirements.

Jen Horton

Jen is a marketing executive with more than 15 years of experience in high-growth b-to-b organizations. An early adopter of marketing automation technology and closed-loop lead management processes, she is passionate about sales and marketing process improvement, sales and marketing effectiveness measurement, demand generation strategy and execution, product and solution marketing, sales enablement and customer experience marketing. Follow Jen on Twitter @jenhorton