B2B Marketing Zone

The 7 Deadly Sins of Data

The 7 Deadly Sins of Data

Marketing DataSales and marketing sales data holds so much power … but only if you use it correctly. The following is a critique of the seven mistakes most frequently encountered in the world of marketing operations today, and how you can avoid them.

Introducing … the Seven Deadly Sins of Data

1. Adding the Wrong Data

Adding bad data to your marketing automation, email, and/or CRM tool is one of the worst things you can do. It’s hard enough just keeping these systems running smoothly to begin with, but if they get clogged with bad data, the struggle is greatly augmented. Actions you can take to avoid this include:

  • Get data from reputable sources
  • Make sure to give the data a proper cleansing
  • Make sure the data is matched up to CRM values perfectly
  • Make sure the data you’re importing is worth importing (is this data that sales actually wants?)

You’ve got to think of the quality versus quantity debate. At some point, the “This many leads gets me this much revenue, so doubling the input of leads should double my revenue” way of thinking will begin to fail. Really take a deep look into your data and find out what you’re really trying to get from it. You may just discover new insights. (I’m not even going to go into what bad data can do to your email deliverability, but this post does).

2. Having an Incorrect, or Obscure, Data Movement Structure

One thing that kills me to see is companies that aren’t experienced with CRM systems start off by using it a certain (not-good) way, and upon receiving enlightened guidance from experts, still refuse to change their ways for fear of upsetting their end users.

I’ve got news for you … building a database is like building a house. You can decide whether you want it made of straw or bricks. In the end the choice is yours, but ripping the Band-Aid off quickly (aka fixing the problem early on) and suffering that little bit of pain is going to be much easier than letting the wound fester to the point where you won’t be able to scale upwards without a major structural overhaul.

Heed the warning my friends; do not be afraid of change. There will be milestones in your operational setup. Things will change overtime. You might as well get used to it and embrace the change. It will make your marketing and sales ops teams very happy.

3. Having Incorrect or Absent Metrics

One of the best dashboard widgets that I love to use is the tachometer-looking one, otherwise known as the gauge. Not only will it show you numbers like a pie chart or a bar graph, but it will show you those numbers in relation to a goal you have. That is a very important distinction.

George Verey looking at tach screens

It’s very important to have goals set for your team. Just make sure that they are within reason. If you don’t know where to start, begin by looking at existing data and use averages to get a baseline. Then say that you want to increase (or decrease) those metrics by five or 10 percent each quarter. If you make it, brilliant! Take note of what made it successful and take it up a notch. If you don’t reach the goal, then start dissecting the data to see where the error occurred. Once you know that, you can make a better plan. Working towards a goal is much more rewarding than just simply collecting data. Plus, it gives you something concrete to show your CXO team.

4. Not Knowing How to Analyze Your Data

data analysisAnother mistake you can make is not knowing how to analyze your data. I can tell you right now, categorization and standardization of your data is absolutely key to extrapolating meaning from it. Think back to the movie, the Matrix. There’s a scene where Neo is looking over Tank’s shoulder at the computer screen with the cascading symbols and numbers. Neo asks, “What is that?”–to which Tank responds (this is not exact), “This is the matrix. Most people look at this and see nothing but what’s on the screen, but I can see through it. There’s a cat, some, food, a woman.” That encapsulates the problem people have with their data. They see a spreadsheet with numbers and letters that means nothing to them. But when you combine that data with creativeness and statistics, unknown insight will be revealed, which can spur change.

5. Wrong People!

Another cardinal sin: having the wrong set of hands on your data. You really need someone who can look at all of your systems and understand the realm of possibilities in each. If someone is just siloed on one system, get them to work with the admin of the other system and vice versa. (CRM and marketing automation is a very typical example). A complete, end-to-end picture is absolutely crucial to getting the most out of your data. If you don’t know how it moves from start to finish, there is no way that somebody will know how to perform analysis, prescribe repairs, or be able to suggest meaningful change that will optimize a workflow. Diversification is the name of the game … and you should trust your data to people who see the big picture and understand how to make the bits all work together.

6. Wrong Tools

The knight is only as good as his sword. Similarly, the digital marketer is only as good as the tools he or she uses. There are so many different tools out there that you can leverage and combine to creatively find ways to gain better insight into your data and business processes. Having someone who keeps up to date on all of these tools is crucial to continual success of your data management. Suggestion: A great way to keep up with it is to check out the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic that Scott Brinker of Chief Marketing Technologist comes out with annually. Each time it comes out, I will go through and look into every single company in the areas that matter to me. I suggest you take some time and have a good look at it. At first glance it’s overwhelming, but drill down into the sections that affect what you do; you may find a few gems that can help you do your job better.

7. Wrong Attitude

Last, but certainly not least, having the wrong attitude towards your data will greatly impact the experience you will have with it. Data is like fine art … extremely fragile, extraordinarily beautiful, but ultimately, the appreciation differs through different sets of eyes.

Data can be a hard lesson in “learning to love” for some people. You know it’s endless and tiring to be a slave to it, but when you get that final percentage back that you’ve been trying to get for ages, you can’t help but let a little smile creep onto your face. Data is a cruel mistress and commands respect; you cannot take it lightly nor enjoy it without loving it.

What marketing data sins have you committed in your career? Tell us in the comments!

If you’d like to learn more about how you can turn data into actionable insights, watch the demo for Act-On’s Data Studio. Online behavior like web page views, email clicks, and content downloads tells a story about your audience and reveals the true impact of your marketing programs. It’s time to put that information to work. Act-On’s Data Studio makes it easy to uncover new insights about the performance of your marketing programs to help you make smarter marketing decisions.


As the Marketing Operations Manager for Act-On Software, George is able to turn vast amounts of data into digestible and insightful narratives in order to enable his executive team to make strategic decisions. He is inspired by aligning marketing and sales teams through funnel measurement, strategic insights, and data analysis. Connect with George and check out his LinkedIn Group West Coast CRM & Marketing Automation Professionals.