Time for a data crackdown

Personalised marketing at scale is set to become a game-changer for B2B. The convergence of predictive analytics, intelligence-led content creation and marketing automation is unlocking possibilities the sector could only dream of a decade ago.

But for many brands, data quality will be a limiting factor. Unless action is taken, it could put a stranglehold on the scope and scale of future marketing success. 

What is large-scale personalisation? 

An article in The Guardian earlier this year considered large-scale personalisation from a consumer marketing viewpoint:

In essence, [personalised marketing at scale] is the ability to reach different consumers with different creative messages, rather than having to have a single TV advert that everyone sees. It means you can subtly tailor your executions based on demographics, interests, location or even purchase history, reaching millions of consumers but each with something that seems personally relevant and interesting.

In a B2B context, large-scale personalised marketing goes even further. It enables you to target different types of decision maker with tailored messages relevant to buyer journey stages. It’s inherently complex, but with today’s technologies it is also inherently achievable. 

What part does data play in this?

Data is the cornerstone of personalisation. It infiltrates every aspect of the process, and the most polished marketing activity can unravel if underlying data is not up to scratch. 

At a strategic level, data surrounding purchase history is a powerful indicator of a prospect’s propensity to be in the market for a product or service at a given time. Take the technology sector. If you know when an organisation invested in a particular solution, you can make assumptions about its circumstances and predict pain points it may encounter in the future. This insight can inform the development of content that addresses these problems, subtly raising a flag for additional solutions or services.  

Today’s marketers have the tools to precisely tailor what to say, when to say it, how to say it in the most appealing way. And yet, even with all these capabilities, many marketing endeavours are flailing because of shaky data. There is little point investing in sophisticated analytics and automation if your data is fundamentally flawed.  

How clean is your data?

Most marketing directors and CMOs will admit that maintaining data is a bit of headache. The reality is that their departments are stretched and people-hours are spread thin. It’s easy to neglect back end processes like data housekeeping and focus on more visible activity.    

However, maintaining data is one of those jobs that you have to keep on top of all the time. Think of it like cleaning the house. It’s no good having a spring clean once a year if you don’t bother washing the dishes for the next six months.

We all know that data can never be 100% perfect. Natural churn is inevitable, but its impact can be mitigated with regular care and attention. For enduring marketing success, basic data management has to move up the agenda – and stay there. 

Three steps to improve your data:

1.    Think big, start small. Understand that data needs to be made a business priority. Then set out to improve its quality one step at a time. Set short-term goals within a long-term framework. 

2.    Take a targeted approach. Instead of looking at your whole data universe, prioritise segments that are likely to yield sooner. You might identify existing ‘best customers’ and begin by enhancing your data for organisations that exhibit similar characteristics. 

3.    Take or allocate ownership. The importance of data needs to be conveyed across the entire organisation and multiple departments have a part to play. But somebody needs to be responsible for enforcing data management or it will simply slide back down the agenda, despite the very best intentions. 

So there you have it. Good data housekeeping is not the most glamorous of goals. But getting the basics right is vital if you’re going to seize the marketing opportunities of the day.