More than ever before, the U.S. job market is in a state of flux. More people are changing jobs with greater frequency; in August, 2011, for example, 3.1 million people changed jobs. By August, 2012, 4.3 million people per month were changing jobs.
For B2B marketers this is more than an interesting employment trend. It's proof that their own databases – full of names, contact information, job titles and other key records – can be increasingly difficult to keep accurate and up to date.
Combine this with a recent Demand Gen Report study that found 67% of all B2B buyers now involve more team members in the buying process, and marketers must also deal with more people swelling their databases for lead generation and lead management.
Bottom-Line Impact For Data Decay Challenges
These trends explain why data quality is now such an urgent and difficult issue for marketing organizations.
“If you’re a B2B marketer, data decay has always been an issue,” said Mary Firme, Chief Lead Accelerator and Director of Marketing at ReachForce. “As people change jobs more often and more people get into the buying process, you simply can’t deliver what you’re supposed to if the data decay issue is not addressed consistently.”
There are a number of practical problems associated with data decay. It interferes with the ability to maintain contact with personnel at key accounts. It can also alienate prospects on the wrong end of outdated or irrelevant messaging, and it puts companies at a competitive disadvantage due to lagging lead scoring and identification.
ReachForce, like other vendors, has created new software platforms and product upgrades to address these data quality issues.
Firme said that ReachForce believes more efficient data-gathering processes can help to address these problems. Last year, it introduced SmartForms, a website registration form solution that appends data in real-time as leads are submitted. SmartForms uses rich media to capture lead data from webinar registration, paid search landing pages, content marketing, email response landing pages or contact forms.
According to the company, this automated approach was used by one top B2B marketer earlier this year to increase conversion rates by 30%, resulting in a decreased cost- per-lead of 20%. Leads were routed immediately enabling faster follow up and increased pipeline creation. Non sales-ready leads were ready for targeting and segmentation, enabling better one-to-one marketing. Nurturing and scoring improved, thereby increasing their return on marketing automation investment, and data was shifted to the sources driving the highest conversions from their target industry verticals.
The Bigger The Database, The Bigger The Problem
NetProspex president Michael Bird also believes that data quality is job one for B2B marketers. His company’s research shows that a 2% monthly data decay rate is almost unavoidable for any company with a sizable database, even a B2B database. The way Bird sees it, data quality is a “huge potential nightmare” for marketers that threatens proper targeting, email integrity and the ability to close deals by key dates.
“Look at it this way,” Bird said, “if you have 100,000 records in your database and you don’t do anything to update and maintain them, in four years they’re gone.”
Bird said that NetProspex takes a "refinery" approach to solving the problem. The company's data quality algorithm, he stated, involves a continuous process of collecting the best customer data from reliable sources, identifying the most potential value for clients and refining those contacts into the most relevant contact information and responsibilities within the company.
In early September, the company announced the launch of TechProspex, a premium technology intelligence service. It allows B2B technology marketers to find contacts at companies using more than 1,200 selectable technologies with 90 percent accuracy.
“As 67% of marketers only segment by geography, industry, and title, there is an enormous opportunity to gain a competitive advantage with precise targeting criteria based on what technologies are used at target companies, down to the specific model or version,” Bird said.
“The TechProspex service allows marketers to build lists of contacts at companies using complimentary technology or that of the competition. Customers can also append technology insights to accounts in their current database.”
Social Media's Role In Data Quality
Both ReachForce and NetProspex are also looking toward social media as a source of intelligence for B2B data, as is Salesforce.com’s Data.com service. The latter recently announced a new product, called Social Key, which will deliver what a company spokesperson called “the missing connection between the social information available on the web and the core customer and account data you keep in Salesforce.”
If a lead generation initiative is only as good as its data, the drive toward increased quality makes sense. The state of flux in the job market makes this new area of focus urgent. As Bird said, to ignore it is to promote data decay: “Lead performance and measurement needs to be built on the best foundation.”