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When Data Is Smarter Than Its Users
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InfoCommerce Group -- Specialized Business Information Publishing Expert InfoCommerce Group -- Specialized Business Information Publishing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Friday, January 17, 2020

 

In my review of the decade past and my predictions for our new decade, the common thread is that the quality of commercial data products has advanced immeasurably, as has their insight and predictive capability. As an industry, we’ve accomplished some truly remarkable things in the past ten years by making data more powerful, more useful and more current.

This said, data buyers remain far less sophisticated than the datasets they are buying. While buyers of data used for research and planning purposes seem to both appreciate and use powerful new data capabilities, marketers – generally speaking – do not. Even worse, this problem is ages-old.

Earlier in my career, I spent several years in the direct marketing business. Even back in the 1980s we were doing file overlays, assessing purchase propensity and building out detailed prospect profiles based on hundreds of individual data elements. It was slower and sloppier and harder back then, but we were doing it. We even had artificial intelligence software, though one project in particular I recall involving a million customer records required that we rent exclusive use of  a mainframe computer for two weeks! And not only did we have the capability, we had the buy-in of the marketing world. There was a fever pitch of interest in the incredible potential of super-targeted marketing.

But what we quickly learned as mailing list providers was that while sales and marketing types talked quality, what they bought was quantity. If you went to any organization of any size and said, “we have identified the 5,000 absolute best prospects in the country for you, all ready, willing and able to buy,” you would get interest but few if any takers. At best, you’d have marketers say that they’d throw these prospects in the pot with all the others – as long as they weren’t too expensive. 

From this experience came my epiphany: marketers had no experience with high quality prospects. They were so used to crappy data they had built processes and organizations optimized to churn through vast quantities of poor quality prospects. As to our 5,000 perfect prospects, we heard things like, “we’d chew through them in a week.” Note the operative word “chew.” 

We have new and better buzzwords now, but the broad problem is the same. Nowadays, when it comes to sales leads, companies are literally feeding the beast in the form of their marketing automation platforms. And everything has to flow through the platform because otherwise reports would be inaccurate and KPIs would be wrong.

Companies today will pay handsomely for qualified sales leads – sometimes up to several hundred dollars per lead. But these top quality leads won’t get treated any better than the mediocre ones. How do I know? Because the marketers spending all these big bucks will insist the leads be formatted for easy loading into their marketing platforms, and I’ve also been told, “we’re not interested unless you can guarantee at least 100 leads per week.” And that’s how far we have progressed in 30 years: marketers have solved the tension between quality and quantity by simply insisting on both. And the pressure to deliver both will necessarily come at the expense of quality. This essential disconnect won’t be solved easily, but when it is, a new golden age of data will arrive.

 

 

 

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