Truthfully, I had difficulties determining a most appropriate title for this content piece, as I initially intended to use something along the lines of “red-headed stepchild” or something close.  Research shows that this term is equally referred to a “beating like” as opposed to the general neglect, hand-me-down, dismissed status as originally intended.   Can’t go there!

So I thought perhaps Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens famed character, may aptly personify the general theme of orphan, misfortune and miserable existence of the message I hope to convey about data.

Particularly, the data that business use to drive their CRM, their Marketing Automation efforts, new market opportunities and overall revenue growth.  Does it is suffer misfortune and a miserable existence?  Is it orphaned?  Is your data an “Oliver Twist”?

You may be reading this introduction and say “not us”!  We value our client and prospect data.  We cherish the leads that come into our system via inbound web-forms, lists uploads and sales professionals’ data entry.  Perhaps so…but answer me this riddle?

Let’s say there is a 100 person sales organization.  A premier CRM system, Salesforce, outfitted with all the goodies will run a company about $ 150.00 per user/per month or about $180,000.00 per year, not including the costs associated with one or multiple salesforce administrators or some 3rd party administrator.  Then of course are the actual personnel costs of the sales organization itself.  Let’s be ultra-conservative and stamp a $ 10K per month (base/variable/benefits) per sales professional, which runs this particular organization $ 1M per month.  So with these lofty expenditures, why do most organizations go kicking and screaming when ask to invest in tools and solutions to improve the quality of the company and or contact and lead data that fuels their engines?

I’ve seen some of these organizations have to scramble to find budget dollars or go through hoops and hurdles to get $ 15,000.00 approved for a better quality list, data integrity tools to keep the CRM running smooth or solutions that expands the top of the funnel target lists of Market Automation Systems.

This just doesn’t make sense.

Why buy a shiny Porsche, line up the best drivers you can recruit and train, and then give them enough gas to make down to end of the driveway?

Perhaps it is due largely to the sheer volume of lists, data and data quality providers willing and able to provide their solutions, mostly of questionable quality, at lower prices than the next provider.  Maybe it is because sales and marketing executives, who are now decision makers, grew up on using antiquated data providers and have a “low bar” expectations as to the quality to be anticipated…and therefore only willing to spend a nominal amount.

I do see a change “a coming” though.  More and more attention is being paid to list and data quality than ever before.  This past 2013 Dreamforce conference, one of the many breakout and topic sessions highlighted that the number 1 or 2 topic of concern amongst Salesforce implementations was Data Quality within their CRM.  Now, I’m uncertain as to if this was the primary concern of the Salesforce CRM administrators, the “data gurus” who have to spend their life in the bowels of the CRM or the senior level sales and marketing executives.

I know one thing for certain…the faster Data and Data Quality becomes the primary concern and initiative of the senior and executive management, the better the quality of the Marketing initiatives on lead flow, the better the CRM on delivering the company and contact data needed, the more productive the sales operation will be and the greater revenue growth will be recognized.

Take two organizations of similar size, focused on the same markets and selling a similar or competitive solution:

One organization has 10 high-end sales professionals with the best of CRM solutions; sliced and diced to align perfectly with the sales process and reporting requirements.  But like most organizations, the Account, Lead and Opportunity records are riddled with duplicates, incomplete records, one or two contacts per company…that may be a year or more old, limited to no data standards and a manual and time intensive data input process.  Oh…and someone who’s primary role is office or operations manager is tasked with administrating the system and the data within.

Basically a shiny Porsche with qualified drivers and enough gas to go in circle around the cul de sac.

The other organizations has 5 high-end sales professionals, a CRM system that adequately supports the requirements, 2 people dedicated to Marketing Automation initiatives to drive top of the funnel prospect data and qualified lead flow, 1 “Data Czar” that does nothing but focus on data quality of account, contact and opportunity records, and the investment in a comprehensive data quality and enrichment solution.

How about we call this the reliable Ford, with capable drivers and a seemingly endless and perpetual supply of high-octane fuel.

Who wins?

I would probably place my chips on the latter of the two.  Plus, the appropriately proportioned investment in marketing and data personnel, along with data quality solutions, will be less expense than option one.

A parting thought on this topic.

For many companies, their B2B data; accounts, contacts, opportunities, history, etc. is now being recognized as a strategic and competitive asset…often times listed on the balance sheet.

When is the last time someone listed their choice of CRM as an asset in an investment document?

So what will you do when you’re CRM, the Marketing Automation Systems, you’re sales and marketing personnel finally gather up the nerve to ask for more gruel?

“Please, sir, I want some more”