Data Strategy – Not a 1-Size Fits All

Jacqueline Davis

Everyone in marketing who is focused on personalizing the engagement is keenly interested in how to get, maintain, and optimize contact data – but are not always bought into the processes or costs associated.

Why?  Why are we so gun-shy in spending money and building strategic processes to maintain an operative understanding of our customers and their digital engagements when we know there is a driving force on the client side to be more personal and prescribed in order to garner their attention?

As a believer and advocate for data being the backbone of all marketing campaigns, I set my sites on trying to understand how marketers can formulate and execute a strategy that propels them towards a more prescribed personal engagement approach without breaking the bank.

So, I decided to sit down with leading expert and Head of Strategy and Analytics for Data Reef, Sonia Javed.  Sonia collaborates with large enterprise organizations to provide the best, most effective client data possible.

I asked Sonia what are some of the most common data challenges modern marketer’s face? I was not surprised when she highlighted these few critical areas as being at the forefront of marketing data frustrations:

  • Making sense of the data they have
    • Does it accurately represent your target market(s)?
    • Can I see clearly the distribution of my data by relevancy?
  • Data Usability
    • Are the contacts valid? It is not just about hard bounces, you must also consider elements such as job title, company name, address, and phone number if important to you.
    • Have these contacts opt’d-in or unsubscribed?
    • Do sales allow these contacts to be engaged by marketing?

Interestingly, Sonia highlighted that 79% of marketers are missing critical information for segmentation and 90% don’t tend to have proper persona/decision making coverage.  These statistical trends have reinforced that “mass marketing” is very much alive and well.

Of course, we do see a shift in the personalized approach but is it enough?  Are we attempting to prescribe to the 1:1 engagement without understanding who exactly we are engaging with? Sonia has seen the impact of mass marketing where, in the end, it begins to breakdown the power of your overall brand.  It impacts your campaign ROI and in turn revenue marketing attribution.

Simply put:


Your data strategy is a framework for productive customer interaction.  And, as Sonia explains, “You don’t subscribe to a data strategy that is a 1 size fits all, you contribute to a customized strategy based on your company’s offering complexity.”

You must first understand the current state of your data.  Take a step back and begin to audit and analyze what type of contacts you have.  Sonia states, “a health check on the completeness and relevancy of your data is always a good starting point in formulating a sustainable and scalable data strategy.  From this you can begin to structure an overall unified approach to data and the corporate governance that must follow.”

Further to that, Sonia explains that data is typically acquired by multiple sources through either inbound, sales, list build or list purchase.  I asked Sonia, “What is important to note about these sources of data and how should we be optimizing them?”  Sonia replied, “There is definitely a place in the data base for all sources of acquired contacts; it is how you rationalize the effectiveness and validity of those contacts.  For example, you may have contacts that are not relevant to any area of your business, while other contacts could be key decision makers in the opportunity cycle.  Inbound can be a high converter for marketing but it can also quickly erode your data with falsified information.  That said, testing the deliverability and validity via the data audit will ensure the database is a true enabler of your marketing objectives.”

Finally, during my interview with Sonia I asked the burning question we all have – “what is the cost to have an effective data plan and how much does it cost to execute and maintain the plan?” She said, “In short, cost sharing among your organizational groups is the best approach to keeping the impact on individual budgets at a minimum while maintaining best in class marketable data.  This cost contribution model can offer the freedom for various business units to invest in specific data requirements for a campaign while corporate governance is maintained.”

As I closed my discussion with Sonia, it became pretty obvious to me that data audits are critical to marketing success and that sometimes we take for granted how valid our data may really be.  I know now that getting a benchmark on the relevancy of my data and sharing costs among internal users of the data is the primary step for personalized engagement.

It begs the question – what next?  I have my audit and funding in place but how do I grow, update and maintain the overall data base as the demand for my business develops and changes…….I guess I have the topic for my next blog – You have your data audit results – now what?  How do you prioritize your data optimization for long term success?  Watch for my posting later this week. In the meantime, for more information please contact Data Reef.