Sales and marketing data providers: How to choose the best from the rest

sales and marketing
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Poor or inaccurate contact sales and marketing data results in significant losses in revenue and customer retention – both things no business can afford to lose.  In addition, implementing a sales contact data solution purely in the spirit of “cost effectiveness” can be a fatal mistake.

On the flip side, good sales contact data can fuel your company’s successes and minimize some pretty epic fails.  Implementing a clean, accurate, and up-to-date contact data service can lead to a 20-40% boost in sales and a 50% reduction in outgoing sales-related expenses – arming you with huge ROI and revenue gains.

Unfortunately, the truth is that bad sales and marketing data is more common than you might think.  A recent research report revealed that an astonishing 90% of organizations report errors in their contact data. This includes duplicate records, missing information, inaccurate contact records, and of course, outdated contact information.  Organizations dump thousands upon thousands of records into a contact data resource that results in hundreds—if not thousands—of wasted man hours, not to mention costs to hire and pay sales reps to chase bad data.

It’s time to take inventory of your sales contact data and put forth a plan to correct your course. Here are a few non-negotiable, imperative things you should look for in a data provider:

1.     Verified Contact Data

The quality and integrity of sales contact data really comes down to the “how”: How is the data gathered? How is the data verified? How is the data updated?

This becomes a critical consideration any time you want to identify your target prospects and actually plan to contact them (so, basically, it’s always important). With unverified data, you’re constantly left guessing if the contact will pick up the phone on the other end, or if your email will reach your intended prospect. In fact, more often than not, data providers cannot verify the accuracy of their contact data on the level you need it – if at all. Plus, most data providers are not giving you anything you couldn’t find through a Google or LinkedIn search anyway.

Unfortunately, with most contact data or sales intelligence platforms, the data has been gathered using one of two sources: end-user submitted data and/or technology-sourced data.

End-user submitted data completely relies on a user’s motivation to actually update their own information (think social media profiles). As a result, this data often lags and doesn’t include updated, direct contact information. 

Technology-sourced data almost always relies on web-scraping and search technologies that are basically just pulling data from the web that is readily available to anyone. If that’s the only method you use, there’s almost no way to verify if the data is correct.

The bottom line: If your data provider isn’t supplementing technology and end-user gathered data with a real human-based gathering and verification process, it may be time to move on. With the rapid rate at which your data goes stale, using poorly-sourced data only adds fuel to your bad data fire.

2.     Data That’s Always Refreshed

Sales and marketing contact data changes really, really fast. It’s not just enough to have clean contact data at one point in time when nearly 30% of your contact data will be out of date by the end of the month. According to the Ovation Sales Group, the average salesperson makes eight dials every hour, and prospects for more than six hours every day to set one appointment. Now imagine how this could impact your yearly sales goals.  To hit this point home, here are just a few ways your contact data will change this year:

  • 21% of your target CEOs will change positions
  • Over 30% of your target emails will change
  • 60% of the contacts at your target organizations will change jobs

The bad news is that if you don’t ask (or don’t know what to ask), it will be hard to know if your data is regularly refreshed. To help you navigate your fact-finding mission, here are a few quick questions you should be asking your vendor right now:

  • How often is their data refreshed?
  • What’s the data gathering process like?
  • What steps do they take to ensure contact data is regularly refreshed?

Your provider should also be acutely aware of the critical role that data plays in integrating with the tools that sales and marketing teams use and rely on every day—particularly CRM, marketing automation and sales development systems. You have to view data as the “fuel” for all other sales and marketing systems that your teams are in every day, and poor data integration will absolutely yield poor results, regardless of how much you invest in your sales and marketing tech stack.

3.     Context Beyond the Contacts

Without context, your sales and marketing contacts are little more than names, phone numbers, and email addresses on a page. Lack of quality contextual insights forces many to get stuck in a research feedback loop that starts with Google or LinkedIn and ends in frustration – or worse – failure.

When you are equipped with the “what,” “why,” and “how” behind the “who,” you’re able to have meaningful conversations with prospects – positioning you as their greatest ally in the fight to solve their business problems.

This context could include anything from online content consumption behavior, big leadership changes, major projects and initiatives budgeted for the upcoming year, as well as current reporting structure, job responsibilities of each individual, and the company’s current technology stack. You can now tailor your messaging to engage your prospects, speaking directly to their unique perspective and connecting the value proposition dots early on, and moving them through your sales funnel quickly and effectively.

Contextual insights gives you real-world visibility into key initiatives and changes that are influencing their buying behaviors right now.  Remember, in the B2B sales space, context is king!

4.     Compliance, Compliance, Compliance

This is a less sexy requirement, but a requirement nonetheless of any data provider. Ensuring your data is 100% compliant with data-gathering and sharing laws around the globe should be a high priority.

Why? Simply put, you are legally responsible for the data you use to sell into IT and Marketing departments. This means that if your data is non-compliant you and your organization can see some pretty severe penalties. Check to see if your data provider is in full compliance with Safe Harbor, Can-Spam and CASL regulations.   

There’s no aspect of your business that isn’t or won’t be affected by the data you use. From the marketing and sales departments to the C-Suite, data quality is a primary concern for everyone aiming to move business in a forward direction.

Marketers need quality data to ensure they are targeting good-fit leads and accounts for sales and building highly relevant and segmented campaigns. Sales reps need in-depth, accurate data to ensure they’re reaching out to the right decision-makers at the right time with the right messages. And C-level executives need to know the foundation of their business strategy is built on quality data so they can focus on their vision for future growth.

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Henry Schuck is co-founder and CEO of DiscoverOrg, a leading global sales and marketing intelligence tool used by over 4,000 of the world’s fastest-growing companies to accelerate growth.