7 steps to building a better business database

Greg Cooper
LinkedIn Coach and Consultant | Front of Mind Coaching
18th March 2013

We are living in a world of abundant data. For example your LinkedIn profile tells me about your experience, skills and even your hobbies. Your Twitter feed tells me what you are doing today, maybe even what you had for lunch! 

The fact is B2B marketers have never had more access to data about decision makers or better tools to manage that data, yet most businesses are limping along with out of date, inaccurate, and incomplete databases. Here are 7 suggestions for making sure your database is driving your business forward and not holding it back.

1. Audit your customer data

Build a picture of your customer base; what characteristics do they share? Are the contacts up to date? What information are you missing? What does your ideal prospect look like?

2. Decide what information you will collect

The aim is to build a consistent picture of customers and prospects. You should only collect information that it is relevant, practical to collect, and will be useful in the sales and marketing process (this might include personal information such as prospect A likes golf).

3. Structure the data

Putting companies into marketing segments will help with marketing campaigns and reporting. Similarly tracking which stage of the sales cycle a prospect is at is essential. Most CRM systems will have a default method for sales tracking.

Create rules so that data is entered consistently; where possible make use of drop down menus. Simple rules should avoid embarrassing oversights like the database of local authorities where Associate Directors were entered as Ass. Directors.

4. Expand the database

The database can be supplemented with: 

  • bought in data (use existing customer characteristics to find lookalikes)
  • data from sales interactions and other information collected by the sales team
  • campaign generated data e.g. new subscriptions to mailing lists
  • social data (many CRM systems allow you to import social data e.g. from LinkedIn and Twitter)

5. Fill the gaps

Specialist data companies offer a service where they will enrich your database with missing data e.g. telephone numbers, contacts, employees numbers, SIC codes and emails - though the latter is often generic. They can also add flags to identify businesses who have subscribed to the Mailing or Telephone Preference Services (MPS and TPS). 

In my opinion, the best B2B data provider is Corpdata - www.corpdata.co.uk. They are the data owners not brokers.

However, even the best data providers won't have all the data you need so there will be some work to be done to collect the additional data you do need.

6. Develop a regular maintenance programme

Business data can decay at the rate of 25% or more per annum so if you haven't checked your data for 18 months, it is likely to be 40% out of date. 

In my experience poorly maintained data is the most common way in which companies sabotage their marketing. I suggest a rolling update programme where data is updated at least every 6 months if possible. This can be done by telephone (in-house or outsourced) or by email. There are also several applications which regularly send out requests to customers to verify their contact data.

Make sure you also have a method for identifying and merging duplicates.

7. Get sales and marketing to talk to each other

I have made the assumption that the reader is already using some form of CRM system. It goes beyond the scope of this article to discuss CRM systems but clearly a good system is an essential tool for facilitating sales and marketing processes. If the CRM system you are using is not working for sales or for marketing then the sooner it is redesigned or changed the better.

Looking beyond systems, the proliferation of social media means that marketing no longer controls the conversation in the way they once did. It is more important than ever sales and marketing teams work closely together towards the common aim of finding, getting and keeping profitable customers.

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