Leonie Mercedes
Leonie Mercedes 28 March 2019

Considering Marketing Automation? Get your Data in Order

In this post, we explain why the introduction of marketing automation should be accompanied by a data audit, and look at why having a marketing automation platform will make it easier to maintain data best practices.

Marketing automation can drive great efficiencies for both marketing and sales teams while forging more meaningful relationships with the customer.

Its success, however, hinges entirely on the organisation’s data capabilities and strategy – how it captures data, organises it, and uses it in marketing campaigns. Continued success will depend on fostering a data-literate culture in the business.

In this post, we explain why the introduction of marketing automation should be accompanied by a data audit, and look at why having a marketing automation platform will make it easier to maintain data best practices.

Getting your data in order before marketing automation

Marketing automation is, essentially, a data-driven initiative, and so its success relies on the accuracy and completeness of the data it uses.

Businesses without marketing automation software tend to have data in many different formats and across different databases, as it’s been collected in various ways through a range of systems. This data is likely to be poor quality, inaccurate, incomplete or out of date.

Before adopting marketing automation, this data must be cleaned and standardised. Treat data like the business asset it is. Any gaps or inaccuracies in the data will lead to bad decisions, or compromise the marketing team’s ability to create and send relevant and timely messaging to its customers.

Send something irrelevant to the customer and, at best, you’ll damage that relationship, or at worst lose them for good.

Furthermore, from a sales perspective, the quality of a lead can only be determined if the business has the right data – demographic, behaviour, or otherwise – to build a rich picture of the customer.

Before you can draw up a new data strategy, you must find out how your organisation is capturing data about your customers. What channels are you using? Which teams hold which databases? Do you need all the data you’re capturing?

Ensuring good data management is an ongoing process. Although a marketing automation platform can help you keep customer records in order, it can also be the impetus for introducing a new data-smart culture, ensuring that only the best quality data is collected and stored.

Keeping your data in order after marketing automation

Of course, keeping your data in order is about more than getting a single view of the customer. It has never been more important, as regulations on its management are tightening.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation, which came into effect in 2018, demands that any organisation in the business of collecting personal data can make all the data they hold on any given customer available on request. This is virtually impossible if you don’t have a centralised database such as that offered by the marketing automation platform.

Tim Creek, Marketing Specialist of EMEIA Marketing Operations at Fujitsu, says that his company implemented marketing automation as a way of helping to comply with GDPR.

“We ran a massive two- to three-month campaign, which went out to our entire database across EMEIA with the opt-in messaging… to help us gain either refreshed opt-in permissions across our contacts,” he says.

“This was done with the objective of ensuring we had a really clear, defined set of people that we’d be able to contact in those countries for our marketing campaigns post-GDPR.”

Indeed, it appears offence is the best defence when it comes to data compliance, and so after adopting marketing automation and going forward businesses should take an active approach to their data management.

There are steps you can take at the point of collecting data to ensure what you’re capturing is good quality. For example, add reCAPTCHA to your data capture forms and ask customers to confirm their email address after they submit.

For more information about email deliverability, download Act-On’s eBook Improve Email Deliverability with Quality Data and Email Hygiene.

How do you know what data you need to capture? Work from your KPIs to determine what data is most important for reaching company goals.

After some time, you can start to augment the information you have about your customers. Lucy Dawson, Co-Founder and Director of Ratio Creative, says: “There is a great opportunity in [marketing automation] to start and clean your data through expanding your forms and asking for different things at each stage, as people progressively get more engaged. It’s quite a nice, gentle way of doing it.”

What the customer tells you here, along with the actions they’ve taken on your site, then can make it easier to create segmentations, so that you can start to deliver even more relevant content.

For more expert advice on getting your data in order before marketing automation, download Act-On’s ebook Making Marketing Automation a Reality.

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