Creatives obsess about fonts and graphics in marketing material, and lawyers fret about legal compliance in marketing and advertising campaigns—and all that is important—but the core driver of campaign success is deeper down... in the customer data that fuels it.

Because data's harder to get a grip on than logos, it can be tough to "shape" your database in a way that gets your message in front of the people it's most suited to. So here's a 12-item checklist of questions to ask yourself based on Marketscan's latest report on campaign data, from which most of the figures cited below are drawn.

With luck, answering these questions will save you time, effort, and money when planning your next campaign. Here we go...

1. Am I starting with the data instead of the audience?

This is one big question any data consultancy asks. Oddly, it's not even about databases! Rather, it's about finding what the data should look like.

Starting simple: if your campaign's prospecting for fresh leads, you need one type of data—companies you haven't approached recently—whereas if you're selling upgrades, only your existing customers need apply.

Twice as many campaigns are for lead gen as customer retention (84% vs. 43%), so make sure you start with the audience, on every campaign. Approaching longtime friends as if you're perfect strangers can actually turn customers off.

2. Am I using the same-old, same-old metric every time?

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image of Julie Knight

Julie Knight is one of the founder directors of Marketscan, a provider of business data and marketing database optimization.

LinkedIn: Julie Knight