October 8

Lead Generation Check list – Part 5: Treat your marketing database as a valued asset

Lead Generation


This is the fifth installment in an eight-part series, the ‘Lead Generation Checklist.’ The goal of this series is to provide a checklist that will help organizations optimize their lead generation process. In my first post a few weeks back, I discussed correcting our mindsets so that we are engaging and helpful; in the second installment, I offered tips for repairing the rift between sales and marketing; thirdly, I outlined steps for creating an ideal customer profile in addition to an Un-Ideal customer profile – helpful for deciding when not to pursue a lead; and finally, I discussed how to create a universal lead definition that fits your company’s goals and culture. Now for part 5…

There’s no doubt that maintaining a clean, updated database is tedious work, making it a struggle for many organizations.The never-ending vigilance required for identifying and removing duplications and redundancies can be daunting. And, unfortunately, that means a lot of databases don’t get the attention they deserve.

Treat your marketing marketing database as a valued asset. I cannot overstate the importance of your marketing database. The quality the marketing database can influence your lead generation or nurturing program’s success by a factor of 50 percent.

A properly designed and maintained marketing database is the well-oiled hub of all lead generation activity. It should be treated as your most valuable asset. Because so many people are involved in the complex sale, it’s important that an abundance of useful information about a prospect be captured in a single location that can be accessed by everyone. Without centralization, the data tends to get lost in a myriad of campaign-driven lists (teleprospecting list, direct mail list, an email list, etc), and no one should be forced to search for information – it increases costs and efforts.

A compelling benefit is the accelerated lead production that will result, not to mention customer retention and growth. As the lead passes through each station along the way, new opportunities seem to manifest themselves. A salesperson about to close on a sale learns of a new potential opportunity that can instantly be brought to the attention of the lead generation team for qualification and follow-up. Or a teleprospector learns of a customer management situation that customer service should know about immediately.

Databases don’t have to be that one big utopian entity that has and does everything.  The basic database will consist of revenue data, number of employees, geography, touch point information and related reference essentials.

Here’s what you need to know to build a strong database:

Every inquiry should be regarded and protected as vital until proven otherwise. Treat them as future customers.

Track and manage inquiries and leads in a single database. Stop using spreadsheets to manage campaign lists. Centralization is the key to avoid many of the pitfalls of lead generation. An organized centralized database permits the analysis of dead-end leads – those that have gone nowhere – and the use of them as learning tools for everyone. Significant time and effort were invested in collecting your data. Why shouldn’t you make every effort to ensure the potential of every lead has been explored?

Tracking or status fields can help track leads through the entire lead generation process and facilitate reporting. These fields may focus on status codes (where the lead is), assignments (specific handlers), activity dates (most recent or impending lead activity), lead source (origin) and forecasting tools (close probability, estimated revenue for sales planning).

All inquiries are subject to database verification process. Keep in mind that verification is a never-ending process. It has been shown that better than 70 percent of business people change one or more elements on their business cards each year, and companies are continuously in a state of flux with name and title changes, etc. Your database will probably never be 100 percent accurate, but the rate can be kept within acceptable limits with attention to promptness.

Distinguish “must have” database fields of information and “nice-to-have” fields. Database fields necessary to lead generation practice reflect attributes specific to the ideal customer profile and universal lead definition, and may include industry identification and description, annual revenue, employment size, geographic information, budget and decision timeframe. Also necessary are standards fields like company name, address, telephone and fax numbers, contact names and titles, web site address, email addresses, division/subsidiary/parent company relationships and a unique identification number.

Assign maintenance responsibility and settle on processes. Most companies lack a defined process and discipline for consistently using and updating their databases. On average, sales people are not held responsible for updating them, and marketers don’t effectively know how to use the data contained in them. You may choose to employ someone for regular and ongoing telephoning to keep the info updated.

Ensure that database is always up-to-date with frequent updates from all stakeholders. A database cannot drive sales. It is of little value to the organization without a commitment by all to use it and to update it.

Determine necessary dashboard reports regarding activity, results, and analysis. Reports are the window to the database and the means by which vital feedback can be brought to bear on the program’s progress. An underdeveloped reporting system is usually the downfall of database systems, especially those with CRM implementation.

These just a few questions to ask during the analysis of your database:

  • How many leads are we passing to sales each month or quarter?
  • What has happened with each of our leads?
  • What is the return on investment for based on lead source first touch?
  • How many inquiries fit the ideal customer profile?
  • Where are the major points of deviation from the ideal customer profile?
  • How many touchpoints do we have per contact and company in our database?

These are real-world metrics that every marketer should track in their lead generation program:

  • Number of inquiries? (people who raised their hands)
  • Number of early nurture leads? (leads are a fit but not “sales ready”)
  • Number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales accepted leads (SALs)
  • Number of sales leads (qualified as “sales-ready”)
  • Number of opportunities? (leads that move to pipeline)
  • Number of closed sales? (generated from marketing leads)

If you know those metrics you can start to track the following key performance indicators:

  • Inquiry to lead ratio (cost-per-lead) – this isn’t a enough
  • Lead to opportunity ratio (cost-per-opportunity)
  • Lead to pipeline revenue ratio (cost-per-pipeline revenue)Lead to sale (win) ratio (cost-per-closed s

It is all too easy to get locked into a database format that takes an act of Congress to adjust. Databases must change pace with the status of your company and its operations. Make sure that your database reflects changes in your state of business, value proposition, ideal customer profile and universal lead definition.

And, remember the database is only as good as the buy-in of everyone who subscribes to it as a necessary part of day-to-day lead gen activities.  The sales team should feel that the database helps do the job better, and an IT team should know exactly what is expected of it.

Related posts:

How to do lead management that improves conversion

Lead Generation Check list – Part 8: Lead nurturing for lead development

Tips on how to use LinkedIn for Better Lead Generation

Who should own lead generation for a complex sale?

Lead Nurturing: 5 Useful Tactics to Get More Opportunities

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Hi Brian I absolutely admire your blog.I can see you are putting a lot of effort and hard work on your posts, unlimited license with quality data is always important for Sales leads in targeted business with every database.

    I’m sure I’d visit here more often.

  2. You make some good points, Brian, and truly the perception by typical marketers is that updating a database is tedious work. But this is not necessarily the case provided the operations workflow is well understood and controlled. This is where most marketing organizations fail when it comes to building or relying on a B2B marketing database.

    A database is like a heart, and when you speak of assigning maintenance responsibility and settling on processes, as you did above, you’re speaking of the very life blood of that database, because you’re referring to that tool’s circulatory system that will keep the tool “alive”. If that circulation process is not well understood far in advance of loading any kind of data into a database, the database will have a “cardiac arrest” only too soon.

    In more than a decade that I’ve been building B2B marketing databases, I can attest to the multiplicity of steps required to ensure such a heart attack not happen, and I’ve written about it too, titling one of my pieces “Can a Marketing Database Save Your Marketing Career?

    That’s how important a well designed B2B marketing database can be.

    Thank you for a good summary of what is indeed a valued though often poorly understood marketing asset.

  3. I agree with Lauren and Kate. For a lead generation campaign to kick well, good quality data is necessary.In my company we also do a lot of things to verify the accuracy of our data, and we assign several staff to clean the database to prevent duplicates and also to update the information and contact details.

  4. Brian you are 100% correct, as someone who works with our own internal database but also assist customers in cleaning up their own, I can’t stress enough the importance of a clean database. Especially a cohesive and clean database, having everything centralized is o important. I’ve seen too many disastrous customer databases that appear in a variety of Excel sheets and then when it all boil down there are hundreds of duplicates and no one knows what messages have been sent to what folks, such a waste of a database!

  5. Great post Brian. I couldn’t agree more that good quality data is essential for lead generation. My company has a number of processes in place to ensure that we collect accurate data right from the start – such as email address verification, telephone checks etc.

    First time I’ve read your blog so I’m going to enjoy reading more!

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