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Long before cloud-based CRM systems, companies largely relied on manual data entry and cleanup processes. But this can leave your contact and company data fraught with errors and inconsistencies. 

Although most companies have now adopted some version of a data hygiene strategy, dirty data is still very much alive and well. How can it be that technology has come so far, and yet data quality issues still plague sales and marketing professionals? 

What is data hygiene and why is it important?

Data hygiene is the continuous practice of eliminating dirty data to maintain a clean database. Dirty data refers to information that contains errors — whether its outdated, incorrect, duplicated, or misplaced.

Using dirty data can lead to lengthy sales cycles, low ROI, unsuccessful marketing campaigns, and misguided decision-making.

With the help of our experts, today’s blog post covers the many different facets of b2b data hygiene and the role it plays in business. Their following opinions about data cleanliness were taken from ZoomInfo’s Twitter Chat about — you guessed it — data hygiene. 

Question #1: What role does contact and account data play in your daily life as a sales or marketing professional?

“Contact and account data fuels everything I do as a marketer— from buyer persona creation to targeted advertising to co-marketing partnerships. None of it would be possible without data. Marketing lives and dies in the data.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“Our goal is to provide value to customers and identify buyers where we can solve their business problems.  We count on the data in our CRM to be right so we can support these groups. This data influences who we market to and when; it influences who we call and when.  It needs to be clean or it impacts business revenue.”

John Moore/The Collaborator, VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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“As a sales organization and go-to-market engine, contact and account data is priority number one for our team. Every minute spent hunting for missing info is time not spent on revenue-generating activities like hitting the phones.”

ZoomInfo

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“If you are hunting for missing data, or worse yet, using incorrect data, you are reducing the impact of your revenue-generating activities.”

John Moore/The Collaborator, VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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It’s no secret: Modern marketing is harder than ever. Spray-and-pray tactics of yesteryear just don’t cut it in 2019. Instead, marketers must deliver more personalized experiences. And in my experience, this cannot be done without contact and account data.

Social Media Management

ZoomInfo

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Any part of the organization that interacts with, or who’s actions impact a customer or prospect, needs that data to be right.

John Moore/The Collaborator, VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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Question #2: What are some of the negative consequences you’ve experienced as a direct result of dirty data?

“Good data transforms struggling companies into successful companies and successful companies into powerhouses.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“Dirty data can cause issues with compliance as it can mean you don’t have proper opt-ins or sloppy targeting.”

2B Advice

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“The immediate results of dirty data are wasted time and lost opportunities. Longer-term consequences of bad data include email deliverability problems, domain blacklisting, burnout and high sales turnover, inaccurate forecasts, and lost revenue.”

ZoomInfo

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“Dirty data can absolutely cripple a marketing strategy. It hinders a marketer’s ability to create accurate buyer personas and reach their intended audience.”

Content Marketing Management

ZoomInfo

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“When customers transition companies, or names and email addresses change, it can mean missed opportunities to support and engage. For example, when a new release is available, if we have dirty data we are missing customers who should be updated.”

John Moore (AKA The Collaborator), VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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“If you’re working with dirty data, your sales and marketing activities aren’t as successful as they could be. Dirty data affects different companies to varying degrees, but no matter how successful you are, you can never underestimate how much dirty data can cost you.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“B2B sales are complex and the buying groups can be 8-12 people.  Dirty data makes it harder to identify those members and harder to close the sale.”

John Moore (AKA The Collaborator), VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtancan

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“Dirty data causes low engagement and ineffective marketing campaigns!”

Caitlin Coen, Customer Marketing Manager

ZoomInfo

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“I do a lot of top of funnel writing, and I need data to know who my audience is… not to mention measuring the impact.”

Content Strategy Management

ZoomInfo

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“Data may be the foundation of personalization, but not all data is created equal. Success relies on high-quality data. In my experience, personalized efforts based on dirty-data has not only resulted in poor performance but an irritated audience, too!”

Social Media Management

ZoomInfo

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“Marketing campaigns count on clean data, sending to the wrong email address, using the wrong name, or targeting someone based upon an old job title is embarrassing and ineffective.”

John Moore (AKA The Collaborator), VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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“Accurate data allows sales professionals to identify and connect decision makers and buying committees faster!”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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Question #3: Whose responsibility is it, in a B2B organization, to maintain clean data?

“If data isn’t a priority in your organization, it has to come from the top down. Maintaining an accurate database is complex and requires input and attention from many different parties— this doesn’t happen without orchestration and support from leadership.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“You need to link it to the strategic intentions of the enterprise. There isn’t a CEO out there who wants to hear you complain about dirty data. They want to understand how it is going to drive their business.”

Scott Taylor, Data Whisperer and Principal Consultant

MetaMeta Consulting

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“The ability to strategically leverage your data is a game-changer. Those that do this well will win.”

John Moore (AKA The Collaborator), VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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“At one point, I may have argued that data maintenance was a company-wide initiative requiring input from sales, marketing, operations, and more. But as the amount of data we rely on continues to grow, and subsequently decay, I think a better alternative is to employ a specialized team of Data Scientists tasked with cleansing, appending, and enriching data.”

Social Media Management

ZoomInfo

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“It’s important to catch bad data at the point of entry, before it goes into your CRM. So marketing is better positioned to maintain clean data. Operations— even better. (People who work on commission probably shouldn’t be doing data entry!)”

ZoomInfo

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“At smaller companies, I say the CEO is responsible for clean data. Larger enterprise companies, a CIO or chief data officer. I think data hygiene has to fall on C-level shoulders.”

Scott Wallask, Director of Content

ZoomInfo

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“There are loads of arguments over (the ownership of data hygiene) in my experience. I’ve even seen companies set up Data Science teams to manage it.”

Kathleen Glass, Founder and CEO

Oinkodomeo

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“Data hygiene starts at the top. B2B business leaders need to make clean data a top priority and equip their sales and marketing teams with the data-driven tools they need to succeed.”

Content Marketing Management

ZoomInfo

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“The ability to strategically leverage data is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have for any company that wants to compete!”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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Question #4: What steps must a business take to prioritize data hygiene?

“Once you have executive buy-in, start at the beginning— your data sources. Implement controls and reduce manual processes. Work with a data provider to clean your existing data and most importantly, come up with a plan to implement ongoing maintenance.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“Prioritizing data hygiene is usually a top-down initiative. It’s hard to do without executive buy-in. Make the case for good data by putting a number on it. How much time or money does your sales team waste responding to errors and gaps?”

ZoomInfo

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“In talking to companies, I think a strong argument for improved data quality is to show the numbers. “What did we gain this quarter because our data was cleaner?” Explain it in terms of time, money, won deals, etc., things that employees can understand.”

Scott Wallask, Director of Content

ZoomInfo

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“All data must reside in one place. CRM adoption rates are terrible so you must make it easy for all customer-facing staff to keep the data up-to-date and clean. This is a great place for sales and marketing technology to help.  Provide teams with the tools they need to keep data clean without having to live in the CRM.”

John Moore (AKA The Collaborator), VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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“We always talk about how critical it is to use technology that integrates and shares data— otherwise, data hygiene is a nightmare.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“Step 1. Don’t call it hygiene. All respect but these words are tactical, project-oriented, campaign-focused. They are not the vocabulary of business leadership.”

Scott Taylor, Data Whisperer and Principal Consultant

MetaMeta Consulting

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“Modern data is dynamic, therefore your maintenance processes must be too!”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“Data hygiene should be instant and automatic, so businesses should work with a data provider and replace manual processes with consistent, ongoing data hygiene.”

Content Marketing Management

ZoomInfo

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“When you keep your data in silos you don’t have a complete picture of your prospects and customers!”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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Question #5: How do you see data hygiene changing in the future?

“Modern data is dynamic and constantly changing, the second you clean up your data it starts to decay again. The future of data hygiene is making the switch from one-time database audits to ongoing, automated, real-time data maintenance.”

Digital Marketing

ZoomInfo

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“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will help a lot.  Those technologies will help identify data issues but you need known sources of truth to correct the issues.  Technologies are a ways away from meeting this need in my opinion.”

John Moore (AKA The Collaborator), VP of Revenue Enablement

Bigtincan

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“Automation and AI will continue to transform data hygiene for the better. We’re seeing more companies recognize that data cleaning must be automatic, consistent, and performed in real-time.”

Content Marketing Management

ZoomInfo

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“I think we can expect the importance of Data Hygiene to grow significantly in the next few years. And thanks to continued advancements in technology like AI & ML, it’ll probably become less of a headache!”

Social Media Management

ZoomInfo

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“Working at a data company, I’d say data hygiene is only going to get more sophisticated as the volume (and type) of data collected increases exponentially.”

Content Strategy Management

ZoomInfo

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Key Takeaways on Data Hygiene Best Practices

The world of data hygiene is complex and ever-evolving, But one thing we can all agree on is this: companies who don’t prioritize data upkeep will not be able to keep up with their competitors. 

Without a data cleaning strategy, you’re not reaching your full potential in terms of revenue, productivity, and more. 

For a more in-depth look at the importance of accurate, up-to-date contact information, check out one of the following articles:

If you’re in the market for a data partner to keep your B2B contact database in top shape, contact our sales team today. ZoomInfo has just the tools you need to make data cleansing easy.

About the author

Rayana Barnes

Rayana Barnes is the Creative Content Specialist at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact database and sales intelligence solution for go-to-market teams.

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