3 Ways to Gather Actionable Data to Improve Marketing Impact
By Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations, Silverpop

Collecting the right data for your lead management program is a big deal. Bad data can skyrocket the cost of CRM implementation and bring your entire marketing program to a screeching halt. When B-to-B marketers collect lead management data, they typically use forms to ask specific qualifying questions, which is how they then screen prospects and segment campaigns for relevancy to the target audience. But prospects often input false or misleading information and this can have a huge effect on how and if they get funneled through the sales pipeline.

Unfortunately, many B-to-B marketers tend to put way too much stock in collecting demographic and firmagraphic information, also known as "explicit data." It's certainly an effective way to collect characteristic information about the prospect such as their name, job title, email address, company name, company size, etc. And it can tell marketers if large companies in the Southern United States have more of an affinity for their product than mid-size companies in the Western United States. However, the data can easily be falsified and it doesn't take into account a prospect’s behavior.

By incorporating three simple methods to streamline the data collection process, marketers can guarantee the information they gather will be actionable and improve their impact.

1. Don't ask for too much information too soon. Because the sales cycle for most B-to-B companies tends to be months or even years, the data collection process also doesn't have to be quick. A huge mistake marketers make is trying to gather actionable data in the early stages of a campaign versus depending on the data in their lead management solution and the product's quality to command the appropriate information in due time.

When your forms or landing pages attempt to capture too much information in one setting, many of your prospects can and will call it quits or simply enter bogus data. Asking someone for their company's financial data doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t yet gathered who you are communicating with. Depending on the size of the company, the prospect could easily be an intern or a CEO. But regardless of the prospect's position, you don't want them to disengage because your form is long and asks questions irrelevant to them. You only want the absolute must haves as a first step to gathering data.

As it relates to lead conversion, more questions on a form does not increase conversion rate. In fact, too many questions will certainly lead to an increase in bogus data and lower the lead conversion rate. Two questions you must ask before you begin:

• What type of data is absolutely necessary to begin the nurturing process?

• What is the right balance between lead quality versus quantity?

Furthermore, the percentage of inquiries/responses that are immediate leads is usually well below 10% according to the Sales & Marketing Institute. Yet, in 18-24 months, two studies have shown that between 20-40% of all inquiries will buy your product or service.

2. Include implicit (behavioral) data as a necessary compliment to explicit data. All good campaigns will include explicit data, but the unreliability of the information necessitates supplementing and enhancing it. For reasons ranging from annoyance to secrecy, people reluctant to reveal personal details will enter incorrect information to download your white paper or attend your Webinar. It's also quite common for people to give aspirational answers to questions on your forms, such as a marketing associate claiming to be the CMO of a large corporation that in reality only has 10 employees and a $5,000 budget for marketing. All of these factors make collecting explicit data alone a poor marketing approach for B-to-B marketers.

What about the prospect's values, actions, attitudes and interests? In other words, an effective campaign must capture a prospect's behavior, also known as implicit data. Web site visits, white paper downloads, e-mail opens and clicks are implicit data that tell you what your prospects are doing and helps you market to them with action. In sync, explicit and implicit data provide the two most important aspects of a lead management solution which are accuracy and effectiveness. You can better accommodate prospects when you know who they are and what they want based on a combination of provided and observed behavior.

3. Collect recency and frequency data. The first behavioral component is the action itself. But beyond that, you must also account for the recency and frequency of the behavior—how often and how recently a person took an action. This is a critical component of a successful lead management solution. Any good sales rep knows that the quality of a lead changes both over time and as more or less interaction with the prospect occurs. For instance, consider the difference between a prospect who downloads a white paper today and another who downloaded it six months ago. The behavior is the same, but the person who most recently downloaded the white paper may be in a more active research phase of the buying cycle. In another example, a prospect who visited your Web site 10 times this month is clearly more engaged than someone who has visited just once the previous month. Knowing this information can help Sales better engage with hot leads and marketing more effectively nurture cold leads.

Data changes for a number of reasons. People leave companies, get promoted, change focus or goals, companies get bigger, etc. Yet, a major reason marketing automation-based programs don't deliver to their potential is due to the poor quality of the data. To make it actionable, you must gather explicit and implicit data and a prospect’s recency and frequency behaviors. Gathering data over time also enables marketers to capture both more and more accurate information from prospects., Actionable data collection combines the right technologies to ensure it captures the proper response and that marketing and sales are able to maximize the response by making informed trade-offs.

---Source: November 21, 2008 newsletter ( Loren McDonald is vice president of industry relations for Silverpop (










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