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What do you get when you put an analyst, a consultant, a practitioner, and a ringleader on the same panel?  You get smart answers to your most pressing questions around data hygiene and management, best use of all your data, targeting and segmentation, and aligning demand gen and marketing ops.

At the MarketingProfs B2B Forum earlier this month, Maribeth Ross of NetProspex led a lively discussion featuring Ross Graber, research director of marketing operations at SiriusDecisions; Ellen Valentine, evangelist at SilverPop; and Edward Burke, demand generation manager at Ness Technologies.

Here's a summary of the smarts that the panel imparted.

Data Hygiene and Management

Ross GraberRoss Graber: First, figure out what you need out of your data to do your job effectively, and also figure out how your data isn't supporting your needs.

If you spend money trying to get a perfect set of data, you'll fail. The focus should be on making your programs successful so you can better engage buyers and influencers.

Ed BurkeEd Burke: Benchmark your campaign performance to make sure your segmentation is complete and accurate, and to determine whether a data issue is prohibiting success.

Ross Graber: Incomplete records used to be a bad thing. Not anymore. Smart marketers don't ask for all information upon first interaction with a site visitor. It's more important to focus on sending those people additional, relevant content to better engage them.

Ellen ValentineEllen Valentine: Many B2B marketers make the mistake of not allowing people to use their personal email addresses to fill out a form or opt in to a list. You can append information over time from readily available data sources, or you can use social sign-in to gather more information.

Now is also a great time of year to find out what segments are going to be top priorities for your sales reps in 2013; as a marketer, you can get ahead on data-quality issues by understanding that.

How to Best Use All Your Data

Ellen Valentine: You're limited only by your imagination in terms of what you capture in a marketing automation system, such as Web form completion data and behaviors (e.g., did they watch video, download a whitepaper, click on or open an email?). Bring in as much as possible and associate it with other information, such as which of your products they're already using, when they last called the support desk, etc. Then design rule-based communications: for example, "If someone watched this video and is already a qualified sales opportunity and in XYZ industry, serve this content."

Ross Graber: Map out and compare successful deals with failed deals so you can understand what to anticipate about the buyer's journey. And make sure you're prepared to deal with any data you capture.

Ed Burke: The set-it-and-forget it aspect of marketing automation is a godsend. If you have the content your buyers are seeking, you can put communications in place and let the system, on your behalf, respond to the behavior of your targets.

Ellen Valentine: Employ dynamic content to tailor messages for dramatically better response. The more data you have, the more personalized you can make your communications, such as by associating a sales rep's name with an email or customizing by industry, etc.

Targeting and Segmentation

Ross Graber: For account-based targeting, start with who you're selling to and how effective you've been. Understand the attributes of the account, including how many of those accounts exist, including how many of different sizes (i.e., number of people in those accounts).

Ellen Valentine: Combine on-[web]site behaviors of prospective buyers with segmentation. Include geography, segment, ZIP code, and industry as part of traditional segmentation, and pull in on-[web]site behaviors of prospective buyers, such as what they're viewing, downloading, etc. Watch for signals, such as a very active person or multiple active people from a single account. If you see flurry of activity and then it dies down, you need to reflect that in your scores.

Ed Burke: Engage with your sales team, especially one or two reps who are willing to spend time and brainstorm ways you can help them understand how to use data collected via marketing automation. They can also help you understand when they want to be alerted about prospective buyers based on behaviors.

Ellen Valentine: Empower your reps to do targeting and segmentation, such as by allowing them to enter leads back into re-nurturing programs.

Ross Graber: When personas get really complex, the chances of seeing them reflected in your database are very low. You need to be able to actualize them in your database. Those responsible for buyer personas need to sit with those who need to make them real in the database and come up with ways that the data can show you when people meet the persona descriptions.

Ellen Valentine: Now's the time to develop personas and your data plan for 2013. You need to be ahead of your sales counterparts to hit the ground running.

Aligning Demand Gen and Marketing Operations

Ross Graber: Data is not sexy, but it's core to big campaign planning, and smart marketers recognize its importance.

Ellen Valentine: Data is the core of digital marketing. Without clean, accurate data, you're still living in an analog world. Bring in analysts and marketing operations folks as soon as possible to convince executives of the importance of accurate data.

Ed Burke: Have a production meeting every week with marketing ops, demand gen, product marketing, and the VP to get everyone on the same page.

How are you handling your hairy data challenges?

If you're not sure whether your database is ready for prime time, get a free assessment from NetProspex.

Continue reading "Solve Your Four Hairy Demand-Gen Data Challenges" ... Read the full article

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Stephanie Tilton is a B2B content marketing consultant at Ten Ton Marketing. She writes case studies, e-books, whitepapers, etc. that advance the buying cycle. She is a founding member of the Savvy B2B Blog. Reach her via