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Your Marketing Database Is Growing — Now What?

March 08, 2012 | By Ross Graber

Your marketing database is growing faster than ever. Your inbound programs are taking off. You’ve found the best ways to acquire the right additional names from your favorite providers. Additional contact discovery efforts are clicking. Good for you. Now, how much thought have you put into what you’re going to do with those names?

Your marketing database is growing faster than ever. Your inbound programs are taking off. You’ve found the best ways to acquire the right additional names from your favorite providers. Additional contact discovery efforts are clicking. Good for you. Now, how much thought have you put into what you’re going to do with those names?

Don’t let a growing marketing database turn into a larger junk heap. B2B contact records go bad at a rate of nearly 30 percent per year as contacts change jobs, responsibilities and companies. You need a plan for what happens to each and every record from the moment it enters the database; otherwise, it will become worthless before you figure out what to do with it. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Follow a forward-or-out principle. Records belong in a marketing database when they show value or potential – usually in a selling process. If marketing can move the contacts forward by making them more valuable through acquiring additional information or generating interaction, great. However, if the contact can’t possibly become more valuable to the organization (e.g. they represent an industry that you’ll never serve), don’t waste time or resources on them. Move them out of the active database.
  • Pick a path. From the moment contacts enter the database, place every one of them on a defined path to improve their value to you. A pre-MQL nurture stream could be appropriate for contacts that have made an inquiry. Maybe the contact is better suited for data enhancement through a third-party vendor so you can learn enough about them to deliver more relevant content. Or it may require a phone call, or a series of low-obligation offers, so contacts can prove they’re still out there. The important thing is that there are defined paths in place and that each contact is assigned to one of them.
  • Have a next step. Paths should all have defined next steps, even if that next step is simply be the start of another path. Next steps are easier to decide upon when you’re getting positive reactions; however, they’re also necessary when you’re getting no reaction whatsoever from a contact. Place time constraints around how long you’re willing to wait to receive a positive response before moving contacts to another path. Continuing to do the same ineffective thing over and over again may be a next step, but it’s certainly not a smart one.
  • Know when to move on. Following the forward-or-out principle, you don’t want useless records in your active database. If you learn along the way that contacts can’t fit any profile you’ve defined as worthwhile, archive them, make them inactive, or do whatever you need to do to indicate that you won’t be wasting time on them. Do the same with contacts who have aged out of all other reasonable programs or have proven that they can’t be useful to you (e.g. opt-outs).

For many marketers, the larger the database, the larger the struggle. While we’ll never stop records from going bad, marketers can stop treating the database as a holding tank for records we can’t decide what to do with. Do not become a database hoarder! Place every record on a path to help the best contacts move forward and the worthless ones to move out. That will be a big stride toward getting more value out of your marketing database.

Ross Graber

Ross Graber is a Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He brings over 15 years of b-to-b marketing experience with focus spanning marketing measurement, demonstrating ROI, data management, process development, marketing technology, customer marketing and sales enablement. Follow Ross on Twitter @rossgraber.