Master Data Management (MDM) isn’t new, but marketers need it now more than ever before. 

As marketers, we have a multitude of tools to help us find prospects, manage messages across channels, follow web behavior and sell more effectively. Our apps give us information about who, what and when so we can infer why and what next. This information is unique to our companies, but we often overlook the strategic data management we need across these applications. 

Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot, Demandbase and other popular marketing tools are purpose-built, earning their success on the strength of stand-alone features. Many of these applications tout data management features, but the downside is they exist within that application only. 

While that’s a start, the data that exists across our ecosystem of tools remains fragmented. 

Do You Know the Signs of Data Fragmentation?

The more tools we use, the worse our data fragmentation problem. 

Data exists in too many places. When data changes in one place and not in another, it becomes incomplete, inconsistent and disconnected. 

When extended across the number of applications in use, we lose the ability to leverage all that we know about a campaign, channel or customer. Our offers lack relevance and become more generalized. Customer experience not only suffers, it isn’t differentiated. And that’s a big problem.

Most marketing teams are painfully aware of the symptoms of data fragmentation, but there is far less understanding of how to effectively address them. At a marketing forum of CMOs I spoke at recently, Michael Lacorazza, EVP and head of integrated marketing at Wells Fargo, said, “You need to own the data discussion in your company. The CIO and CDO are your partners, but you need to lead it.” 

Keeping Your Data In Sync

Any discussion about data in marketing should begin with the strategic importance of centrally managing it. The battle against data fragmentation begins by using modern processes that decouple data management from the application purpose and the connects the data across systems. It ends when a single, actionable view of a customer is created out of the many inputs from our applications. 

You may have been told that an enterprise data warehouse does this, but what actually delivers on this promise is software called master data management. Its core capabilities are what’s needed to address marketing’s biggest data challenges. 

With MDM, you can link households with purchases and then use that knowledge to guide your marketing activity. For instance, if someone in a household is shopping for a television and another person buys it, you’ll know as a marketer to send a more relevant offer instead of one designed to sell a television. Add social media data into the mix and you’ll understand not only how much they like the television, but also what they thought of the overall experience with your brand.

These insights are possible because MDM actively manages your data across applications to keep it trustworthy, of high quality and in sync. 

End-to-end capabilities ensure the trusted data is shared back to the original systems. This not only improves productivity — because data updated in one system can be automatically updated in others — but also ensures that data is consistent across the company for the agility that’s needed to meet customer expectations.

You Should Know Much More About Your Customers

Customers are growing intolerant of poor experiences and increasingly value recognition from the companies they patronize. The few companies that get data management and customer recognition right, make the others look worse by comparison. 

In this environment, an incorrect address, misspelled name or ill-timed message can provoke enough apathy to shift competitive loyalty. 

Learning Opportunities

Highly data-driven companies have used MDM for years to raise the bar when connecting with their customers in industries such as finance, healthcare and retail. They cut the path. 

Now, more choice in business and marketing solutions and more emphasis on customer experience is pushing MDM to even greater relevance. Increased reliance on data and changing business needs are driving new capabilities in MDM to be business-friendly, adaptable and scalable. 

MDM has evolved from its origins of reducing data errors and duplicates to now link new data types, transactions and interactions with traditional business critical data to deliver a next-generation view of customers across companies. 

Think of the many ways your LinkedIn profile communicates who you are. It includes not only the information about you, but the different levels of connections you have and share, what you’ve published, your group interests, your history.

Similarly, customers tell us about themselves all the time.  We should know a lot about our customers. What they’ve bought and what they’ve returned, where they live and who they live with, where they work, how much they spend, and when they shop. The information is there in our apps. Add new types of data, and you have the potential for a very detailed understanding of a customer.

But it’s all of limited use unless we can weave the threads together and deliver it at the right time to all the people, applications and processes that need it. MDM gives organizations a complete record so customers get the best experience possible. 

Tap Into Your Data's Value

The bottom line is this: The data a company holds is exclusive to that company — no other company can replicate it. 

No marketer should overlook the importance of deliberately building a strategy to manage this data. Your end-to-end enterprise data is a tremendous source of untapped value. It is unique, powerful and can transform how you deliver value to customers. But first, you have to make it usable, and that means you need to find it, integrate it, merge it, validate it, enrich it and deliver it.  

Piecemeal and outdated data management efforts that focus on individual applications won’t meet the expectations of most customers. Keeping data matched, merged, updated and unified takes constant effort. 

MDM automates data management in a common repository and leaves applications free to do what they do best, whether that’s web analytics, marketing automation, lead scoring or something else. The difference with MDM is that your applications will be fed by clean, complete and consistent data.

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