Audience Identification & Management – The importance of data hygiene, segmentation, database growth, and CRMs.
In terms of what excites me about marketing, this is not one of those areas. It’s certainly not glamorous and doesn’t offer the thrill of running an event or conference. If I’m to be completely honest, it has to be one of the most boring, tedious, time-consuming and administrative marketing functions, but without question, it’s one of the most vital areas that requires dedicated attention.
A key foundational element of marketing (and Sales) is to ensure you are on top of your customer database, and clear on who you need to target in terms of organisations, contacts and industries. I have always referred to a company’s database/CRM/TAM/target audience list, whatever you choose to call it, as the backbone of all marketing related activities. If it’s not right, everything else will be off, and by that I mean your messaging won’t be resonating with the right contacts or accounts, campaigns will fail to deliver marketing qualified leads (MQLs), and any chance of future collaboration between marketing and sales teams will be fractured, as this is effectively the common denominator that binds both departments together, yet it is also the source of constant contention between the teams.
Let’s break this down so that you are aware of why I regard Audience Identification and Management as a key foundational element, and one of the most vital areas to get right. I also want to highlight why this is a responsibility for several departments to manage across the organisation.
The first area you need to understand and asses is the state of your data – how “healthy” or “clean” are your contacts and accounts. If you have no idea, then you need to conduct an audit and this can be managed either in-house or by a third party. Whether your data exists in spreadsheet format, Outlook, Google Apps, is housed in an off-the-shelf or customised CRM, an email monitoring tool like Mail Chimp or your finance platform, exporting the information (if it’s not in Excel) into a .csv file should be your first port of call. Once downloaded you can filter, slice and dice the information and run a gap analysis review. The more holes and inconsistency you see, the uglier your data becomes. And here’s where it gets worse, if you have inconsistent data sitting within multiple platforms, not linked by APIs, and with no central repository, you’re in even more trouble.
So what are you actually looking for to determine the health or cleanliness of your data? Here’s a list of a few key areas to focus on:
- Field formatting of entered data e.g. are your Accounts entered using their Legal Entity name rather than an abbreviation: National Australia Bank vs NAB?
- Consistent terminology use across your organisational departments
- Required Fields: what is the minimum number you need completed per Account and Contact to save their details in your system and ensure a base level of information is always entered?
- Duplication of Contacts and/or Accounts – are your team searching for Account and Contact names prior to entering them in the system to prevent duplication?
Who should be involved in the auditing and gap analysis process? Marketing primarily will manage this process, but input will be required from Sales (BDMs, AMs, Operations and Pre-sales), Finance and Services (if applicable) to ensure you all agree on the terminology used, minimum set of fields for Account and Contact entry, and segmentation filters.
Segmentation filters? Why did I choose to not mention this earlier? That’s because it’s too important to group as part of the auditing and gap analysis process. It would be sensible to start discussing the main segmentation areas to focus on during your gap analysis review, but you should set time aside to map all the ‘nice-to-have’ fields. I would recommend you identify and define up to five specific pieces of data you require entered per Account that will help you better understand your target audience and assist you in structuring key messages addressing their needs.
At the end of the day, the more information you can ascertain from your customers and prospects by tailoring your segmentation fields, the more personalised your approaches, conversations and campaigns will be. However, to ensure cooperation by all departments who are required to assist with completing/entering data into these required fields, create drop down fields, check boxes, radio buttons, etc. to make it as easy as possible for people to enter the information in the least amount of time.
Responsibility falls mainly with Sales and Marketing teams to define the segmentation parameters, but it’s usually Sales team members who will be entering the data. That said, if you are thinking of using a marketing automation tool like Marketo, please ensure an API has been created to transfer the data into your CRM, and that the segmentation fields are uniform across both platforms.
As this data is built out over time, you will be creating “personas”, but I’m not going to delve into this now as I have dedicated a topic on this discussion for later in the year. Instead, let’s move on to the growth potential of your database as this process is a naturally occurring, organic response to the first two steps highlighted.
By leveraging the information attained from your data audit and your subsequent action of defining the segmentation fields, it’s time to start plugging the holes. Some fields can easily be found by searching an individual’s LinkedIn profile or LinkedIn Company page. Alternatively, you could access an organisation’s website, follow their twitter feed or sign up for a subscription to a Sales platform that already has compiled a lot of this information.
From a marketing perspective, if you need specific customer information to ensure a campaign can target the right contacts and organisations, then you might prefer to rent or purchase a database from an authorised data provider like IncNet. Additional ways to increase your organisation’s database over time is to run events, exhibit at trade shows, create online surveys and gate downloadable assets on your website.
As I stated earlier, whatever you are using to manage your customer and prospect database, it pays to transition to a CRM that can integrate seamlessly, through APIs, with other business platforms in use like your finance system. There are many out there, so do your research. My one piece of advice for every organisation going down the path of implementing a new CRM, if you have budgetary restraints please don’t let this govern your decision. Think global, not local, because as your business grows, you will want a platform that can grow with you.
The choice of CRM, its implementation and usability is a conversation to be had with most, if not all, department heads. Every department concerned needs to buy-in or it won’t get used and the whole decision-making process will have been a waste of time.