There is an almost satiric quality to a sample customer record shown in the new eBook, How To Improve B2B Data Quality To Impact Your Financial Performance, by Bernice Grossman and J. David Green. Contact A is listed simply as Bob, and the record says he works for IBM. It offers a general toll-free number, and there is no email address. Contact B has a phone number without an area code.
Grossman, the president of DMRS Group, a B2B consultancy, says that these types of lapses harm ROI, and that they are all too common, especially among small businesses.
Email Insider interviewed Grossman to find out how a firm can avoid having its contact list look like a joke. The eBook is published by DemandMatrix, of which Green is chief marketing officer.
MediaPost: How do you avoid having incomplete contact information?
Bernice Grossman: The biggest problem is in the column to the left of Contact A: What does the word 'name' mean? Think of the way people talk. If you’re introduced to Bob, you might ask for his last name. Forms don’t do that. Don’t assume that people know what you mean. You need to ask for the first and last name. This is a very big deal — it’s critical.
MP: It seems like such an obvious thing.
Grossman: Very few companies have software behind the forms. Similarly, I don’t know what "VP" means. I would almost prefer you leave it blank unless you’re looking for C-level people. And definitely specify that you want the business email. If I fill out a form to get a white paper and I use an AOL address, it will reject it — "this is not a business email."
In the consumer world, people have an unmitigated number of emails. You can send them something that is not electronic, and there will be one postal address. If you think of a hub and spokes, the 37 email addresses are the spokes, and they can easily be linked by the hub — the postal address. But I don’t see that happening in B2B.
MP: What about the phone number?
Grossman: When they ask for phone, I’m always tempted to say, "Yes, I have one." I don’t know what they mean by "phone" — cell phone, landline, business, personal? In that example, B has no area code. That used to be not such a big deal: you could look at the address to figure it out. Now you can’t do that. Not to mention that 555-1234 is not a phone number. Ask for the business phone. If I had a single message, it’s to learn how to ask for what you want, or you’ll get nothing.
MP: What else is getting in the way of gathering good contact data?
Grossman: The problem of consolidating companies in the system. Some companies grow by acquisition, and every firm they buy has a different system or a different CRM. It makes more sense to spend the money up front and reformat all of the data in all of the systems, so you’re not starting every day by saying, "My data is a mess."
To make things worse let’s pretend that you have some sort of form. Could you guarantee that you will always ask for things in the same order? People don’t — they’re sloppy. You may have a form that asks for name, title, company, email, phone, in that order. And maybe the next time you make an offer, you ask for company, name, title, phone, email. If we were reading these things, we would know, but it’s all machines. And I would say, "Boy, you better look at your data because it’s going to have name of person, and the other half the name of a company. You don’t ever want to use this data for personalization. Won’t you look stupid when you say, "Dear Mr. IBM?"
MP: What’s the right order?
Grossman: I almost don’t care about right and wrong — I care about consistency. Always ask for the attributes you want in the same order every single time, every place you ask for it. It’s not important what order it is.