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A guide to finding the most important data

A guide to finding the most important data Shannon Duffy

From our morning coffee to meeting friends for drinks after work, we're living in a world full of stats, info, and records. It's no secret that data have always been crucial to successful marketing -- but today's data are a challenge. Blink an eye and your marketing campaign is drowning in more data than you know what to do with.

But what does "more data" really get you -- is more always better? The amount of customer data at a marketer's disposal is larger than ever before, but more data typically result in wasted time spent weeding through content you don't need and more headaches. The most important thing marketers can do to leverage the rapid influx of customer data is to focus on raising the static from the noise and drill down into the data that truly matter for your business.

Luckily, if you take the right steps, it isn't a long laborious process to reveal the data that matter in marketing. The process starts with defining impactful data points for your business, maintaining data accuracy, and democratizing customer information across your team.

Defining data

Don't get overwhelmed by the volume or velocity of data being thrown at you. Slow down, take a look at your business goals, and analyze what your business needs are and what you really need to understand about a prospect.

Instead of sorting through mountains of data, customize your data search so you're only discovering what you need to know instead of analyzing everything under the sun. Not every piece of data is crucial to your success, and too many data points will paralyze a team, campaign, or project. It's also important to note that every business is different so take the time you need to uncover what types of data will help your team the most. Focus on specific data to keep your team's research streamlined and quick.

Accurate data

Once you determine what data are important to your marketing needs, focus on keeping them up to date. Accurate data (contact data, social data, and traditional business data) greatly increase a marketer's chances of connecting with a prospect.

Let's say you're looking over a database. If every contact has a missing or blank field, that's one more way to fail to connect with that potential customer. Regardless of company size, having instant access to the correct data provides marketers with the unique advantage of connecting with customers in new ways, giving your business a leg up on the competition.

Data are changing more rapidly than ever before. With the emergence of social data, marketers have a new data world to tap -- but social data are constantly changing and updating. With the cloud, it's easier than ever before for marketers to keep important traditional and social data up to date and accurate. Real-time updates are quickly synced with mobile devices, making those data accessible anytime, anywhere. When every field in the database is up to date, marketers are able to connect with prospects in the right way, at the right time. Data accuracy is the portal to connecting with customers better, whether it is through advertisements, brand marketing, viral marketing, or direct mail.

Shared data

To truly unlock your data's potential, marketing teams need to share data across teams and other departments in the business. With the right data and strategy, various teams can work together to turn a prospect into a sale or win anytime, anywhere. Marketers are often on the front lines of prospect engagement -- but by democratizing the knowledge and insights gained from early prospect interactions, other departments and teams are better armed to close a deal.

Marketing is the foundation of growing and sustaining a business, and data are the foundation of connecting with every prospect. Therefore, it's important for marketers to use data properly and share insights gathered from prospect interactions throughout the business.

Marketing and sales teams are always on the go. The mobile revolution gives them a way to access information across departments to immediately capitalize on real-time changes to a prospect's contact information or social update -- all literally in the palm of their hand. The ability to leverage this information anytime and anywhere is priceless when trying to get in front of a prospect and compete with other companies.

The term "big data" is overwhelming to marketers. There are so many data points and so little time to analyze them and apply those data in a useful way. However, by defining data, keeping them accurate, and sharing data across departments, marketers can focus on the data that matter most to connect with prospects and ultimately grow their businesses.

Shannon Duffy is vice president of Salesforce, Data.com.

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"Life buoy in a binary digit sea"  image via Shutterstock.

As Vice President of Marketing at Salesforce’s Data.com, Shannon is focused on building the Data.com brand across web, community and social channels. Her team is tasked with delivering an exceptional experience for both customers and the 2...

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