A few years ago, I was responsible for global marketing campaigns. My head of marketing operations and I were preparing a highly targeted marketing campaign for a new product. But there was a huge obstacle in our way. 

If you are a B2B marketer, maybe you can relate.

It Went Like This ...

Me: I’ve got a fantastic new offer that I want to send to a targeted group of contacts in our database.

Marketing Ops: Wonderful! We just implemented the most advanced marketing automation application on the market. It will help us get more campaigns out faster with less manual effort.

Me: Great! Let’s make this a really targeted, personalized marketing campaign. My goal is to get high quality leads that convert. I don’t want our sales team to waste time following up on unqualified leads.

Marketing Ops: What are your segmentation requirements?

Me: I want existing customers who have purchased our flagship product.

Marketing Ops: Sorry, we can’t distinguish between existing customers who have purchased our flagship product and those who have not. We don’t integrate product purchase data from the (enterprise resource planning) ERP system with our marketing database.

Me: Ok. How about contacts at enterprise companies with more than $500 million in revenue?

Marketing Ops: Sorry, we can’t segment on company revenue because we don’t append our internal customer data with data from third party data providers.

Me: Can we target companies in the retail industry?

Marketing Ops: Yes, but only 20 percent of our industry fields are complete. We had a higher completion rate this summer when the interns manually updated the information, but we’ve added a lot of new contacts since then.

Me: Can we target contacts that have browsed our new product web pages?

Marketing Ops: No, we haven’t integrated the data from our web clickstream application with our marketing database.


This painful conversation continued. As you can imagine, I was frustrated. 

My attempts to create a highly targeted personalized campaign were sabotaged by data we didn’t have access to, didn’t collect, or was incomplete and inaccurate.

We weren’t ready to do personalized marketing. We didn’t even have basic data management capabilities in place.

It’s impossible to do personalized marketing campaigns when your marketing data is a mess and you’re missing key information you need to segment properly.

What can you do about your customer data issues?

A Strategic vs. a Tactical Approach

John Donlan - Sirius Decisions“Data is a strategic lever, but many struggle to manage it well. Poor or missing data leads directly to substandard results,” explained John Donlon, SiriusDecisions’ Research Director of the Marketing Operations Practice, at a recent SiriusDecisions Technology Summit.

Most marketers take a tactical approach to fixing customer data. 

Because manually cleaning up data is a drain on productivity and morale, many marketers outsource it. 

A marketing executive recently told me his company spent $1 million outsourcing their customer data clean up. 

They fixed the immediate problem, but not the process. Not long afterwards, they ended up back where they started: with a mess of data.

That is the old way to deal with customer data issues. The new way is strategic. It’s the data-driven marketing way.

Rethink How You Manage and Share Your Customer Data

If you want to engage with your customers in a meaningful way by personalizing offers, you need to rethink how you manage and share your data.

MarTech Landscape 2015

As the image above shows, marketers can choose from 1,876 marketing applications, according to ChiefMartec, but more applications create more fragmented and messy customer data. 

If you’re currently having problems with your data, you need to get a solid data management foundation in place to get the basics right. Otherwise, you’ll miss the boat on personalization.

To make matters worse, you’ll fall behind others that are figuring out how to capitalize on exciting new sources of data like social, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) to discover new insights about customer preferences and behaviors that will further their personalization efforts.

Donlon’s advice to marketers is, “Get your data in order. Make data the rocket fuel for your marketing processes.”

Citrix Boosts Conversion Rates

Dagmar GarciaIn 2011, the quality of account and contact information was identified as the No. 1 problem by the sales and marketing teams at Citrix.

Account and contact information was incomplete, inaccurate, and duplicated across the company’s multiple applications, such as Salesforce SalesCloud, Marketo, the home-grown customer support application, and MyAccount.com, the online customer portal.

“Our primary goal is to drive pipeline for sales while improving operational efficiencies,” said Dagmar Garcia, Senior Manager of Marketing Operations at Citrix.

“We asked ourselves:

  • How can we create meaningful customer segments for targeted cross-sell and up-sell offers when we don’t have visibility into all the products they already have?
  • How can we improve lead to opportunity conversion rates if we have incomplete prospect data?
  • How can we improve operational efficiencies if we have double the duplicate customer and prospect information than the industry standard?
  • How can we maintain high data quality standards in our global operations if we lack the data quality technology and processes needed to be successful?”

To be successful, Citrix needed a single source of business-critical data about accounts, customers, prospects and channel partners.

Citrix implemented master data management (MDM) technology. Now their data is clean, consistent and connected. They have visibility into the relationships between channel partners, customers and purchased products. And, they are fueling operational and analytical applications with this great data, including Salesforce Sales Cloud, Business Intelligence Reporting and Predictive Analytics.

“We’ve been able to tie a 20 percent lead conversion improvement to MDM,” said Dagmar. “The holistic view of data and the ability to perform predictive analytics will give us almost fortune teller-like abilities.”

Next time, I’ll cover the five steps to better managing your marketing data for personalization, lead scoring and routing, outbound activities, and reporting and analytics.

Time to Evolve

Do you aspire to be a data-driven marketer known for great personalized marketing? Don’t tackle your customer data issues the old way. 

  1. Make an investment in basic data management capabilities and start strategically managing your customer data. 
  2. Create a trusted source of customer information you can use to fuel your marketing applications, analytics, processes and programs. 

If you don’t, you’ll struggle to personalize your marketing campaigns and deliver high quality leads to sales. And, you’ll continue to have painful conversations about what you can’t do because of bad data.

Title image by Nolan Issac