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The fallacy of more marketing data

There’s no doubt that this is the age of data-driven marketing. In fact, if you’re a marketer seeking new employment, that term better be in your resume and interview answers somewhere. Today, there’s a constant stream of new marketing and sales technologies offering you more data, more insight, more intent, and more buying signals–as if this new data could magically transform sales and marketing organizations into a turbo-charged, quota-smashing machine.

Not so fast.

More data is good, but don’t buy into the fallacy that some third-party-produced data can magically transform your business. Remember, any data you can acquire is also readily accessible by your competitors. True, competitive differentiation is not the access to data, but your ability to leverage it. Investment in data acquisition without equal investment in data processing and analysis is a trap you must avoid. Consider these three, real-life customer stories to avoid this data fallacy.

Linking the Data You Already Have

Most customers we work with at Openprise already have mountains of data sitting in their various marketing, sales, customer success, and product repositories. The challenge is how to bring this siloed data together to gain more insights. One SaaS customer had a very strong freemium offering. They had thousands of new users signing up every month to try their B2B product, but the conversion from these freemium users into paying customers had been very low. The company hadn’t linked the users and their activities in the product database to the leads in their marketing automation platform–Marketo. So while marketing spent lots of effort and budget building a brand, acquiring leads, and convincing the leads to try their product, once the leads made the commitment to try the the freemium service, marketing had zero visibility into how these leads engaged with the product. As a result, the middle-of-the-funnel conversion struggled.

The first task Openprise helped the company with was to tie the users in their product database to the leads in Marketo and Salesforce. The challenge that needed to be overcome was that a product user often had nothing more than just an email address, and that email address was often a personal email address. Also, a user often signed up for multiple freemium accounts using different email addresses. This required filling in gaps in the data, appending missing data, deduplication and merging of user data, and finally linking user records to lead records across systems using a multitude of matching criteria such as email address, domain, phone number, address, and company name. For users that belonged to companies that already existed as accounts in Salesforce, this also required lead-to-account matching across the product database, Marketo, and Salesforce.

After the product user was tied to the marketing lead, the next task was to link the user’s product activities to marketing nurturing campaigns. This company’s product logged most of the significant activities the users performed. They also used a third-party user journey product to guide new users. This user journey product captured major milestones achieved by the new users. The events in these product logs contained valuable signals that marketing needed to nurture, convert, dislodge, and revive the leads at the various stages of product trial. Openprise enabled the marketing team to access these logs, select the events they wanted to monitor and use as campaign triggers by inserting these meaningful product engagement events into Marketo as custom activities, all without any custom integration from the product engineering team.

This Openprise customer already had most of the data it needed right under its nose for years, but they struggled with freemium user conversion because the data sat in silos.

You Can’t Market to a Black Box

This second company had been using a leading predictive lead scoring and lead sourcing service. They had been happy with the results because the leads that were scored high by this service did have a higher conversion rate than the leads that scored low. However, the overall conversion rate was still very low. When the new CMO came onboard last year, the first thing he noticed was that while the predictive service was good at what it did, it was like a “black box” to them. The proprietary algorithm scored leads well, but wasn’t able to tell the company why those leads were better than others. To quote the CMO, “We can’t market to a black box!”

Getting high quality leads is just the beginning. High quality leads don’t just automatically whip out their wallets and buy. You still must nurture and convert. Yet, you can’t effectively convert if you don’t know exactly who you should market to.

The first thing Openprise helped this company with was to understand the prospects in their database, and more specifically, profile highly rated leads and accounts. In order to analyze, profile, and nurture the leads, the lead database had to be first cleaned, enriched, and in some cases appended and verified. Then all the key profiling dimensions were normalized to the company’s specific definitions, which included:

  • Job function and job sub-function within the IT department
  • Job level
  • Buyer persona
  • Industry
  • Company size in terms of both annual revenue and employee size
  • Geography including country, state, and metropolitan area
  • Technology stack

With this data all cleaned and normalized, the CMO was then able to get answers to key questions such as:

  • What common traits are shared by the highly rated leads?
  • How well is my database aligned to the high-value traits?
  • Do I have the right content and campaigns to nurture and convert these high-value leads?
  • Do these high-value leads convert differently or exhibit different buying behaviors than the rest?

Third party insights can be valuable, but you must understand how those insights are produced, because without it, you will be limited to how you can monetize those insights into revenue. Before you acquire data, always ask: how can I fully leverage it?

Too Much / Conflicting Data is Worse Than No Data

The third company Openprise worked with had more than a few regime changes in marketing over the past few years. Each management team that came in brought in its favorite set of data services. Not surprisingly, each time they appended the newly acquired data to the existing lead data in Marketo and Salesforce because it offered “valuable insights”. As a result, today they have over 1000 data fields in Marketo, including at least five different sets of contact and firmographic data, all from different data appending services. Some data was a few years old, but at least three sets were from current subscriptions. Eventually, someone asked these questions:

  • If they are all the same data (they are not), then why do we need all these?
  • If they are not all the same data (they are not), then which one is the best?
  • Is anybody even looking at or using the data not in the primary fields?
  • If we can’t figure out which one is the best, why are we paying for them?

The company decided it was time to clean it all up and stop being a data hoarder. Hoarding data without processing it while it’s fresh costs you money and contributes nothing to your bottom line. You’re spending money on a digital paper weight.

Openprise started by producing an inventory of their duplicate date fields, followed by a quality assessment of each data set for completeness and recency. The customer then created a set of “waterfall logic” on how they wanted the different data sources to be reconciled into a single source of truth based on:

  • Specialty of each data provider (e.g., firmographic, direct dial, social, email verification)
  • Perceived quality of each data provider
  • Recency of existing data
  • Touchpoint in the lead flow process
  • New lead process vs. maintenance process

This waterfall logic dictated which data field would be kept from which provider, which data fields could be filled or overwritten under what circumstances, how often each data field would be maintained, and by which data source. This was all documented using a Openprise Data Governance Agreement template. You can get your own copy of the agreement template for both Salesforce and Marketo by following the links


Now both sales and marketing teams have a best “single source of truth” that has been mashed up from their best-of-breed data providers.

Avoid the Data Fallacy

To conclude, it’s clear that data-driven marketing is fundamentally transforming how marketing is done for both B2B and B2C marketers. However, in a rush to embrace data-driven marketing, don’t fall into the trap of believing data acquisition alone is the key to your marketing success. Data acquisition is just the first step. To succeed in data-driven marketing, you must be able to:

  • Understand the nature of each data source
  • Best leverage that data to support your strategy and execution
  • Digest this data in a timely manner using a scalable and manageable process with the help of technology

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