Once Upon a Time
It used to be that the machines of business were fueled by oil, but in today’s Information Economy the machines of business are fueled by data.
The impact of the quality of that data on your revenue outcome is as much a natural law as gravity is.
And like gravity, the natural law governing the impact that the quality of your data will have on your revenue outcome will take its effect, whether or not you are aware of its existence.

After its people assets, many Enterprise’s customer data are their most valuable strategic asset.
Yet, it is a puzzling practice of many of today’s most technology enabled and otherwise forward-thing enterprises that their leaders invest more time, talent and attention in their data’s container, in Salesforce or in Marketo, their CRM and MAP, than they invest in the true treasure: the data that those systems contain.

You do know that data is a perishable, asset, right?
It ages like fish, not wine. (Thanks, Pat.)

Imagine this:
Your Salesforce, your Marketo and your Contact & Account data are tangible things.
They’re in your house when it bursts into flames.
You run into the house and grab your child and your dog in one arm.
Your other arm can only carry one thing.
The choice is yours.
Your Salesforce, your Marketo or your Data?
Which do you grab as the house is engulfed in flame?
See what I mean?

Ok, so ask yourself these three things:

How much do you invest in your data platforms?
How much do you invest in the care and feeding of the data those systems contain and are powered by?
Why are you doing that?

Here’s the good news.
First, you’re not alone.
It is not only legions of SMEs who have bad data habits.
Some of the largest, multinational enterprises who are outwardly paragons of efficiency and business acumen, they also invest heavily in their sales and marketing stack and virtually abandon their data to decay.
Second, if you do just one of these five things, your return on your investment will be both certain and swift.

data binary code

1. Understand Data’s Strategic Importance

Data is unique as a strategic asset, it presents both peril and opportunity in every crevice of your business. Can you think of another asset like it? Organizations are increasingly sophisticated at technology deployment, financial controls, and process management. The marginal returns from further investments are small. Investments in data are quite the opposite. The opportunities are limitless. And, more importantly, any investment you make is proprietary to your business. This is the true definition of competitive advantage.
This is not a revelation.
Or, at least not my revelation.
I took it more or less word for word from Data Driven by Thomas Redman.
He’s my favorite data quality thought leader and he should be yours, too.
This will be one of the most valuable business books you will ever read.
While you are at it, read Data’s Credibility Problem a three page blog post on the Harvard Business Review, also by Redman.

Read Redman and you will never think about your data the same way again.
Talk about Redman’s ideas with your team and neither will they.

2. Put Someone Who Has Been Both a Consumer and a Creator of Data in Charge

I met a new bird in the wild this month. He is our new customer, Johannes Deneke.
He is the Head of Global Sales Data at Facelift, a German company getting a ton of traction globally for their social media marketing platform. Johannes was a very accomplished
senior salesperson who spent ten years in enterprise sales at Avaya before joining Facelift.
I love his title.
It is surely a sign of an enlightened company that Facelift took this senior sales guy and created a role for him focused on sales data quality excellence.

Start considering who to put in charge of your customer data right now.
Whomever you pick for this role should come from Sales or Marketing.
They may need a strong partner from IT, but your Chief Data Officer, or whatever title and level you assign the role has to be someone who has been both a creator and a consumer of data.
They need to have a few scars from getting burned by bad data.


Sorry, IT, this is not likely to be you.
You’ll know you’ve picked the right person when the first thing they’ll do is carry out an assessment of the database.

Agree on high but attainable goals for improving the following attributes of your data and make the rewards for achieving them clear.
Make sure everyone knows you’re on of the converted and that the new Data Czar has your full support.

Come see me at the Marketo Summit May 9th-13 in Las Vegas at the MGM.
I’ll show you my scars.

These are (amongst) the attributes that should be measured:

  1. What percent of your total addressable market is known to you?
  2. How segmentable is your Account data? Can you query it by revenue, employee size, location, industry?
  3. How many Contact records do you have?
  4. What percent of the total addressable market do these contacts represent?
  5. How old are the contact?
  6. What percent are duplicates?
  7. How many have phone, email, title, url and social data? Is the data verified?
  8. Is the data standardized or non-standard (multiple permutations of title, uppercase data like GREGG, New York or NY, VP or Vice President, etc.)
  9. What percent of your Accounts and Leads have an accurate url (website) appended to them?

Once you’ve figured these things out shift the focus towards their improvement.
The initial gains will be dramatic.

3. Focus on Getting the Data Right When You Create it

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Popular culture is full of aphorisms about the importance of a focus on prevention.
Superior data requires a mindset to prevent errors at the sources. All of them.
Whatever it will cost you to make sure the data is created properly, and this can be largely automated hence the cost saving, it will cost you 10x that, if you are lucky, to fix it later.
Don’t do that.
Really only two moments matter in the life of a datum, the instant it is created and the instant it is consumed.
Focus on the former and the latter will have the best chance of being used successfully for its intended purpose.

4. Realize that Data Quality is a Journey not a Destination

I first heard this expression from my pal Jason Paquette.
Jason was the first big RingLead supporter I met in social media way back in 2010.
He was a RingLead customer before I joined the company.
“Data Quality is a Journey not a Destination” was the name of one of his many memorable Dreamforce sessions.
Jason really knows data.
We still get people who call us and say. “I just want to do a one time dedupe”.
Uh, no you don’t.
If you don’t want to spend time and money cleaning up over and over, and over, and over, you have to take measures to prevent the bad data in the first place.
Good habits driven by processes and vigilance when acquiring and integrating data will allow you and your team to spend more time using the data and less time wrangling it.
Your company must be persistent in its data habits.
Enterprise-wide persistence in good data quality habits are something that you will have if you are persistent in your own attention to data excellence and that you will not if you aren’t.

5. It is on You to Make Data Excellence Happen

Business cultures follow the strongest personality, which I’ll assume is you, so naturally, the culture needed to drive competitive advantage and peak revenue performance through superior data is squarely on your shoulders.
Getting the most out of data and information is largely an issue of management and leadership.
No technological wizardry can force one department to gather data it does not need for another, force people to adopt new language, or make people share data they really do not want to share. Data are more complex than they appear.
Everyone touches data in some way or another, and getting the most from them will require the coordinated efforts of virtually everyone.
If you put data first, so will everyone else.
Yes, I know, I just made that point.
It’s worth repeating.

The elephant in the room is the generally held perception that data quality is not sexy. Maybe so.
But, the results of focusing on improving it sure are.
In a seminal research brief from SiriusDecisions, “The Impact of Bad Data of Demand Creation”, using an example of a prospect database of 100,000 names at the outset and a campaign response rate of 2%, an Enterprise that has improved the usability of their database by just 15% will see a nearly 70% lift in revenue.
If you want to see the brief, ping me, I’ll share it.

It doesn’t matter what their orientation is, a 70% lift in revenue is one of the sexiest things any CEO will ever see.
Or show to their Board.
Take a mental image of that happening to you.
That is why you should do these things now.

For all of you non-CEOs reading this.
Wish your CEO would read this?
Email it to her, fax it to him, print this post out and leave it on the windshield of their car.
Convert the CEO to to our way of thinking about data and the battle to get and keep awesome customer data will be won before it is fought.

Want to talk data to me?
View my availability here and pick a good time/day to talk.

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