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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2020-01-06

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, ‘change is the only constant’ and the idea rings true for data -- especially in 2021. With all that’s happened over the past year, data decay is at an all-time high, which makes maintaining a useful and impactful database even more challenging. At OMI, data quality is at the core of not just what we provide, but who we are as an organization. We view data as a Living File™ that needs to be regularly maintained and updated to reflect the real person it represents. It starts with quality data and requires actively keeping it clean through regular data cleansing.


Recently, my good friend John M. Coe, who is also a long-time champion of B2B marketing, wrote an excellent comprehensive article on data quality and practical steps to fix bad data. John has extensive experience in both B2B sales and marketing, and fully understands how good marketing data drives stronger sales leads. I was honored to share my insight with him on how to select a third-party data provider. His article covers the importance of starting with good data, as well as traditional and emerging methods to remedy data decay, and tools digital marketers can use to build and maintain an impactful database to fuel stronger campaigns.


I’ve included the first part of his piece below and will share the rest in a blog post next week. And please note: a version of this article was recently posted in IndustrySelect.



How to Fix B2B Data Decay

By John M. Coe, President of B2B Marketing, LLC.


Data Decay – A Quick Recap

As a quick recap, data decay is much worse than you think, and here are the shocking statistics when 1,025 individuals were asked what changed in their business card in the last 12 months.


70.8% of the cards had one or more changes in the last 12 months. Yikes!


Here’s the breakdown:

●      3.8% name change (women still change their name upon marriage/divorce)

●      65.8% title and/or job function change (same title/different assignment or new company and job)

●      34.2% company name change (most changed jobs and thus companies)

●      41.9% address change (changed jobs or company move)

●      42.9% phone number change (changed jobs or company move)

●      37.3% email address change (some had a Gmail address so no change)


We didn’t include fax numbers because many of the cards didn’t even have fax numbers.


Now What?


It’s one thing to know about a problem, but another to fix it! We all know the importance of data and it’s becoming even more critical as data-driven marketing, analytics and now artificial intelligence (AI) are in use or being explored by most companies. These are advanced uses of data and won’t work without accurate data on individuals and companies. So, what about the normal use of our data and the impact it has on marketing and sales? Here are just 5 impacts:

●      Emails sent to contacts that are gone or have changed responsibilities in the company obviously don’t reach the intended individual or are not interested due to job change.


●      Obviously, this goes for mailings as well. This incurs an additional cost particularly if sent first class or overnight and the mailroom might toss – particularly true in large firms.


●      The forecasts of the sales pipeline based on CRM data are overly optimistic.


●      Bad third-party data in lists result in missed connections and higher list cost. A more costly problem results if a telemarketing call is part of the follow-up campaign.


●      Time waste and frustration for Business Development Reps (BDRs) when calling bad numbers or individuals who are gone. Worse, finally getting through to a contact to learn it’s not their job anymore, and they’re not interested. A demotivating call for BDRs.


When it’s determined that data is inaccurate, we hope that it’s corrected in the database. For the purpose of this blog will assume that the normal process in your company is to correct it. If you are unsure of this, check the data governance policies and procedures you have, and if you don’t have these, seriously consider instituting ones that fit your business model.


How to Fix Bad Data

What follows are recommendations and references to fix bad data. They start with the well-known data fixes, and transition to newer techniques and technologies.


Input Good Data

Now this seems obvious, but all too frequently bad data is inputted. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘garbage in/garbage out’ and that’s true. Bad data comes from two sources – purchased lists (third- and second-party data) and your own data (first-party data).


●      Third-party data is from sources we all know, such as D&B, InfoGroup, ZoomInfo, SalesIntel, etc. There are many sources and it’s critical to confirm the accuracy before loading into your database. Paula Chiocchi, CEO of Outward Media, Inc. (OMI) suggests the following due diligence questions when purchasing third-party data:

â—‹      Length of time in business?

â—‹      What is their data collection and continual updating process?

â—‹      Does the list vendor offer data update/replacement services?

â—‹      Do they offer references or testimonials from known sources?

â—‹      Does the list vendor provide a quality guarantee?

â—‹      Is data scraped using website monitoring technology? If so, this could violate Can-Spam and CCPA so be careful when using it.

â—‹      Does the list vendor offer samples for analysis?

â—‹      Upon request, will the vendor offer email delivery receipts?


This may seem like too much to ask of a data vendor, but having to clean up bad data inputted is worse, so it’s worth the effort. The answers will then allow an evaluation as to purchase or not.


●      Second-party data is less frequently used and is another company’s first party data that can be utilized for your marketing. It is bought directly from the original source or data aggregator. Second party data represents a way to supplement your insufficient first party data and/or expand the depth and breadth of your database. Access is obtained through an agreement between a first party data owner, data management platform and/or a second party data network. Due diligence is also recommended here, and some of the questions above apply.


●      First-party data obtained and/or sourced from your direct efforts such as responses to campaigns, input into CRM from sales, customer service calls, etc. This data is typically stored in the software used by that functional department. If so, this creates the obvious data silo problem, and I’ll deal with silos later in the blog.


Regardless of which software or database the data is inputted into, a data input and governance policy should be developed and enforced. One of the biggest areas of poor data quality is the data in the CRM software, particularly if the sales staff is expected to keep it current.


If updating data is expected to be done by sales, there will certainly be a data problem. A number of studies indicate that on average, 30-35% of CRM data is inaccurate. One recent study from Oracle reported that 66% of sellers would rather clean the bathroom than update their CRM system – an interesting choice that underscores the problem. Trying to change this attitude is futile, so the responsibility of keeping the CRM data accurate needs to be done by others, and marketing is frequently assigned the task.


Traditional Fixes                               

While it is likely you know the traditional data fixes, it is worthwhile to briefly list them.

●      NCOA (National Change of Address) is a database held by the U.S. Post Office and was started in 1986. It compiles changes of address for both individuals and businesses and holds the address changes for a period of four years. Unfortunately it does not track an individual businessperson’s change of address, which leaves tremendous gaps in data integrity and quality, not to mention lead-gen programs.

●      CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) is a certification system from the United States Postal Service for address accuracy and validation. A CASS-certified address validation service will standardize your mailing list, update outdated addresses, and verify that the addresses are valid and complete. Improves deliverability.

●      Updating data with NCOA and CASS is easily done by sending an address file to a certified vendor, typically either a data compiler or mailing house. On average 5% of a file is updated when run through NCOA and CASS. The good news is the cost is minor and is usually around $2.65/1000 records.


●      Email PING is used to determine if the email address exists and accepts the PING. If so, it is assumed that the email address is active and hopefully deliverable to the individual on the database. Unfortunately, in B2B when an individual leaves the company, not always is their email deactivated.


While no statistics are available, two reputable firms who specialize in business emails feel that as much as 50% of emails are not deactivated when someone leaves. They are forwarded to someone else who has assumed the responsibility for a period of time ranging from several months to a year.


Typically, someone in your firm can do Email Pings using standard tools. If not, email firms such as Fire Drum (, Outward Media ( or others will do this for a reasonable fee.


●      Telemarketing to update data may seem too costly, and this may be true. Yet, a case study from Northern Safety found that even paying an outside telemarketing firm to call and update 90,000 customer records had a payback in nine months based on incremental sales. One recommendation is to place a value on your data to determine if such an expense is justified. Lost sales are the most common valuation approach and in B2B a lost sale could be in the thousands, so in comparison the cost of telemarketing is justified.


●      Customer Service – One More Question: If you have a customer service department, there is a golden opportunity to update the customer record upon providing service. I call this the Colombo question, and if you remember the TV series, Peter Falk would always ask “Just one more question...” that usually uncovered the criminal. Customer service has this opportunity as well. Before hanging up, they can ask – just one more question – and then inquire about the accuracy of a key individual(s) data as seen on the database. A satisfied customer will answer.


Check back soon for part two of this blog series – and thank you again to John for his permission to post this informative article.


Outward Media’s proven data cleansing services and targeted, accurate B2B data can enable you to achieve better digital marketing ROI and, ultimately, convert more prospects into customers. Read about our innovative approach to ABM account targeting here.

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