Following the great reception of our blog series on data deduplication and data enrichment, we are starting a new blog series on the topic of automated data onboarding and list loading. This blog series walks you through the mechanic of how to automate your list loading process. Let’s get started, shall we?

Introduction

Despite the widespread adoption of sales automation and marketing automation platforms such as Salesforce and Marketo, there are still a large number of processes in marketing and sales that remain manual. Data onboarding/importing data is probably the poster child of these still yet-to-be automated processes. It’s a slow, tedious, and error-prone process. For marketing teams that are active in lead generation, data onboarding can be a major time suck, if not a full-time job for one or more team members. We often see customers paying consultancies $50,000 to over $100,000 a year just to manually load lead lists, and the result is often inconsistent no matter how much time and effort is spent on documenting the process. It’s an expensive process that no one loves. In other words, it’s a perfect candidate for automation.

That said, list loading is not a trivial process to automate. It touches many internal systems and external services. The diagram below illustrates common  steps involved in a typical list loading process, which can include:

  • Preparing data (blue steps in the following diagram)
  • Making decisions (orange steps)
  • Executing actions (green steps)

It’s worth noting that companies tend to make their most junior team members responsible for list loading, and many companies often skip steps in the process above like normalizing the data and cleaning up formats. These two factors often contribute to dirty data that affects many processes down the road, like lead scoring, lead routing, and segmentation.

Technology Options

Marketing and sales operations teams usually use a collection of point solutions to accomplish the list loading process. To automate the entire end-to-end process on a single technology platform requires a highly flexible platform with extensive connectivity to different systems and third-party services. There are two technology options for this:

  1. Develop your own custom solution using a collection of middleware technologies like data integration and business process automation, or
  2. Use a comprehensive, self-service data orchestration platform like Openprise

We think Option 2 is better. It’s a whole lot cheaper and faster than rolling your own solution, but hey, we’re biased.

Developing your own middleware options often requires at least $250,000 in technology purchases and another $250,000 in consulting services, and often takes a minimum of nine months to complete. In contrast, the Openprise Data Orchestration platform starts at $2,000 a month, and automates quite a few other processes as well. Automating this process can easily save your team 75% of the current cost incurred for list loading. A simple back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the return-on-investment (ROI) is clear. If you can save just four hours a week in manual list loading at a cost of $60 an hour, that’s $12,000 a year at a minimum. Most likely, you spend way more than four hours a week and pay more than $60 an hour for the resource, so the savings add up quickly, If your own employees are doing the list loading manually, automation will make them much happier, as  it will free them up for more interesting work, and deliver leads to sales faster, with more accuracy.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Automating Data Importing

In this blog series, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to deploy an automated data importing process, including all the different tasks that can be automated. Not all steps may be relevant to your situation immediately, so you should only implement the subset of tasks that makes sense for your business.

List loading is commonly a process that applies to B2B companies, but B2C companies have similar processes for onboarding purchased leads. The fundamental steps and technology involved are the same. The differences are:

  • B2B process tends to be more complex and have more steps involved than B2C process
  • B2C processes tend to deal with higher volume and higher frequency, as well as more importing sources

For this discussion, we will focus on the  B2B process, but much of it applies to B2C as well.

We will dive right into it in the next blog entry.

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