SiriusDecisions Says Bad Marketing Data is Bad News for Demand Creation

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While it may not have the sexy allure of "dirty dancing," the topic of "dirty data" is far more critical if the goal of your company is to make a profit. In fact, a new SiriusDecisions study reveals that best-practice organizations could actually realize nearly 70 percent more revenue purely based on data quality.

From sales qualified lead to close.

A new study by research firm SiriusDecisions reveals that despite its importance to the business, the databases of b-to-b organizations are akin to an attic filled with contents that over time have not been properly labeled, managed and maintained. However, unlike that long forgotten "stuff" in your attic, prospect and customer marketing data can actually make or break your bottom line.

"Most b-to-b marketing executives lament the status of their databases, but have difficulty convincing senior management of the gravity of the problem," notes Jonathan Block, SiriusDecisions senior director of research. "The amount of data in the average b-to-b organization typically doubles every 12 to 18 months, so even if data is relatively clean today, it's usually only a matter of time before things break down."

Mr. Block continues, "The longer incorrect records remain in a database, the greater the financial impact. This point is illustrated by the 1-10-100 rule: It takes $1 to verify a record as it's entered, $10 to cleanse and de-dupe it and $100 if nothing is done, as the ramifications of the mistakes are felt over and over again."

Focusing on b-to-b sales and marketing best practices, the firm has found that from 10 to 25 percent of b-to-b marketing database contacts contain critical errors -- ranging from incorrect demographic data to lack of information concerning current status in the buying cycle. Not updating records after every sales interaction will lessen the impact marketing can have during later stages of SiriusDecisions' "demand creation waterfall," which visually depicts the roadmap to conversion-rate success.

"Organizations must shift their focus from one-time data cleansing to ongoing data maintenance to turn the tide," says Mr. Block. "The good news is that we're seeing a strategic shift in approach in strong organizations, from one of data cleansing (a project with a set completion date) to data maintenance (ongoing policies and procedures to maintain data quality). The fundamental trouble with one-time data cleansing is that the day the project ends, the data is the cleanest it will be until the next round of contacts is added to the database."

Further proof of the need to drive data quality can be found by examining the differences in each conversion stage of the SiriusDecisions' waterfall model between organizations with average processes (minimal data quality standards) and those with a better approach:

  •     "Inquiry to marketing qualified lead." With data tools averaging in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, maintaining data quality is expensive. Thus, it's most cost-effective to build data quality processes at the source. SiriusDecisions also estimates that organizations with an early-phase data strategy can expect a roughly 25 percent uplift in conversion rates between the inquiry and marketing qualified lead stages.
  •     "Marketing qualified lead to sales accepted lead." Maintaining data quality at the source isn't always realistic due to the technology cost, nor does it solve existing data issues. It's also far from confined to a single database, and there may be underlying infrastructure issues. While constructing a single physical database is often unrealistic, "virtual unification" (an integration process driven by an added layer of technology) can be used to bring disparate databases together. The firm's research indicates that this can contribute to a conversion stage increase of up to 12.5 percent.
  •     "Sales accepted lead to sales qualified lead." Up to a five-percent savings in sales time can be achieved with clean data.
  •     "From sales qualified lead to close." Accurate data is a must for applying the right tools and resources to the right audience at the right stage of the buying cycle. Tight integration between marketing and sales systems will promote data quality and consistency, but will ultimately be ineffective if records are not updated in a timely manner.

Mr. Block concludes, "The major impact of bad data on conversion rates really becomes clear when we roll these stages up and look at the difference between an average and strong organization. Using an example of a prospect database of 100,000 names at the outset and a constant campaign response rate of two percent, a strong organization will realize nearly 70 percent more revenue than an average organization purely based on data quality. For those marketing executives having problems convincing senior management that a permanent process upgrade rather than 'quick fix' will pay big dividends in the long run, this is the kind of eye-opening statistic that should prove invaluable."

To learn more details about the study's findings and how SiriusDecisions can help to ensure that companies are optimizing their critical prospect and customer marketing database efforts, please contact Jonathan Block at jblock (at)

About SiriusDecisions:
SiriusDecisions is the world's leading source for business-to-business sales and marketing best-practice research and data. SiriusDecisions Executive Advisory Services, Consulting Services, Benchmark Assessment Services, Learning and Events provide senior-level executives with the sales and marketing operational intelligence required to maximize top line growth and performance. The unique combination of thought leadership, benchmark data, analytic tools, best practices and access to a peer and analyst network allow SiriusDecisions clients to quickly receive the critical insight they need to make decisions effectively. For more information about SiriusDecisions, headquartered in Wilton, CT, visit


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