By Amaan Kazi
When you think about the various business functions you need to close a deal, you probably think about your marketing department and your sales team. Go deeper and you might add in your product and development team, your customer service unit, and the other bits of your business that enable you not just to close deals, but to create products and relationships that keep customers coming back for more.
So how can brands level up their practices? The key is data enrichment — the process of taking your existing resources and simultaneously flushing out degraded or incomplete information, and integrating what’s left with other sources to form a more complete dataset.
Anyone who works with data — which, these days, is just about everyone — knows that even the purest and most complete datasets don’t stay that way for long. Over time, information gets degraded, and falls out of sync with the real-world truths it ostensibly reflects.
Consider your customer relationship management (CRM) database: evenf every single sales rep records their contacts’ data with complete accuracy — and that’s a big if — the dataset will rapidly grow inaccurate as contacts take on new roles, update their contact info, or relocate to new offices. Over time, that gradual degradation can seriously damage your company’s outreach to customers, with emails bouncing, sales calls going unanswered, or contacts feeling annoyed when you address them by the wrong name or title.
The friction created by degraded data has knock-on effects across your organization. Sales reps and support agents who are spending time trying to find the correct email address for a customer contact aren’t spending that time closing deals or fostering better customer relationships, so over time bad data erodes your ability to create value for your customers.
Other forms of data suffer too, of course. Data isn’t just crucial when it comes to staying in touch with your customers — it’s also the key to understanding the market you operate in, and the way your industry is changing due to economic turbulence, new innovations, or other transformative factors. Without reliable data, you can’t truly know your customers, your market, your competition, or even the true nature of your own business.
So how can businesses avoid data degradation, and unlock the value inherent in their data? One option, of course, is to require the people generating and using data within your organization to dedicate time to manually checking, validating, and updating your datasets. That’s a laborious process, though, and creates too much room for further data degradation due to frustration, negligence, or simple human error.
Instead, organizations need to start automating the process of data enrichment, and using streamlined processes to improve the accuracy of their data without the need for manual intervention. Of course, automation always involves some up-front investment, but the rewards will quickly pay for themselves as your sales and marketing teams reap the reward of up-to-date and reliable customer data.
Some data enrichment tools, for instance, can compare your existing customer datasets to public data sources such as corporate websites and social media accounts, helping to ensure that your datasets correlate to the current biographical data organizations and individuals are publishing about themselves. Armed with more accurate customer data, your team can stop wasting time and start closing deals more effectively.
But data enrichment doesn’t just mean making sure you’ve got accurate contact information. It means taking that accurate customer information, and turning it into a true source of actionable intelligence. Leads can be differentiated based on the way individual contacts interact with your website, for instance, and each lead then assigned a score reflecting both the inferred likelihood of an eventual purchase, and the degree to which the lead reflects your idea prospect persona.
Such data can then be used to shape your communication and outreach. A customer you believe is on the cusp of making a purchase might be flagged for additional outreach by your sales reps, for instance, while one who’s wavering might be proactively provided with content or resources helping them to understand the value your product represents for businesses operating in their specific sector. A customer who’s just window-shopping but is unlikely to make a purchase, on the other hand, can be waved on through, conserving precious sales and marketing resources for higher-value prospects.
With personalized messages based on accurate customer information, you can achieve far more than simply getting your marketing and sales emails to the right person. You can hone each message to make sure it reflects the needs and priorities of different kinds of customers as they pass through your sales funnel — and that means closing more deals in the long run.
As the B2B sector matures, and as B2B sellers experiment with ecommerce and omnichannel selling, brands will need to use every tool at their disposal to succeed and maximize profits in an increasingly competitive marketplace. That will require investments in all areas of business, from sales and marketing to fulfillment and logistics. But above all, it will require a serious commitment to generating and maintaining powerful and accurate datasets, and using data to guide all other areas of operations.
Companies that get data enrichment right won’t just get a powerful strategic resource to help them execute effectively. They’ll get a springboard that will launch them higher, help them sell more effectively, and give them a serious edge over the competition.
Amaan Kazi is the Co-Founder and Director at VLMS Global, a premier B2B marketing agency offering 360° services including data-driven lead generation, lead nurturing, demand generation, and content marketing.