Marketing has progressed significantly from the days of direct mail addressed to "occupant." Or has it?

  • I recently received a snail-mail letter from a major corporation addressed to Rondo Greg, not Randall Craig.
  • My wife recently received an email addressed to her work address, asking whether her company — a major financial institution — would be interested in using the financial services of their direct competitor.
  • And, of course, most people have received emails that begin "Dear [Contact Name]", where it actually says "[Contact Name]" instead of their own name.

For the first time ever there are low-cost tools (Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua and Infusionsoft, among others) that allow any organization to do sophisticated marketing automation/database marketing.

There is an eerie parallel between marketing automation today and desktop publishing in the mid-to-late 1980s. Back then, the newfound ability to choose between so many fonts/sizes/styles gave the writer incredible power when it came to formatting and layout. Some of what was produced was brilliant, but most was a disaster.

Today, marketers have been given similar superpowers. Some superpowers are being used brilliantly, and some ... not so much. (And some marketers don't even know what these marketing automation superpowers actually are.)

While organizations will eventually develop the knowledge and skills to incorporate marketing automation into their plans, they will never be successful unless they pay attention to the definitely unsexy foundation: their actual data. Consider the following 10 questions:

  1. Who has executive responsibility for the quality of the organization's databases?
  2. Which staff member is tasked with day-to-day responsibility for the quality of data? (They sometimes have a title, such as "data steward.")
  3. Do your databases have a well-structured architecture?
  4. Do key fields have a well-thought-out taxonomy?
  5. What processes currently exist to continuously improve data quality? (Review, testing, verification, etc.)
  6. Do you continuously collect data across the entire "journey" for a 360-degree, end-to-end view of your clients/members/stakeholders? (Including from internal systems, real-life interactions, Web and social media.)
  7. Are all email and outbound messages legally compliant? (eg CASL, CAN-SPAM, etc.)
  8. Is there a process to change implicit consent to express consent, and then track it?
  9. Is there transparency of data to those in the organization who need to see it? (Including dashboards, exception reporting and ad-hoc reporting.)
  10. Is the data adequately protected from external threats, but also with internal rights restrictions?

This week's action plan: Great data drives great marketing decisions and improved conversion, and it is the rocket fuel powering newer technologies such as marketing automation. This week, strengthen this foundation by improving how you answer these 10 questions.

No whiz-bang tool will prevent human marketing errors from occurring but having accurate data will solve the most egregious ones.