Business.com, a business search engine, directory and a pay-per-click advertising network, spends a lot of time working on data quality initiatives to make sure its messages to customers are consistent and coordinated. Playing a central role in this effort is the online portal’s customer database.
Ben Hanna, VP-marketing at Business.com, spoke with BtoB Senior Reporter Carol Krol last week about the company’s data-quality initiatives.
BtoB: Is data quality an issue for you?
Hanna: Database quality is always an issue. If you assume your database is not an issue, you’ll be in trouble at end of day. We take it seriously. We append data to registrations people submit on our site, or at a trade show or when they sign up for an account. We tie that together with other information we might have about the company. That comes from a number of sources. We get leads from trade shows and events. We do direct mail and outbound telemarketing. We certainly have a good flow of people who visit our site and use our site.
BtoB: What are some of the direct marketing challenges you face in terms of data quality?
Hanna: Each direct marketing channel has its own challenges. We don’t send e-mails if we haven’t had contact with someone for more than three months. We assume that information is out of date.
With direct mail, we’ll generally update the contact information before we send out a batch of direct mail pieces. We watch aging pretty carefully and clean nondeliverables as soon as possible.
BtoB: How do you accomplish that?
Hanna: Keeping the database up to date is just something that is part of our everyday process. We have different database quality reports for the accounts and the contacts in our database, so we’ll know, for example, how many contacts don’t include a state or how many contacts exist where we don’t have an e-mail address. We know where the holes are.
BtoB: What’s the architecture of your database?
Hanna: Centralized. We use salesforce.com as our core CRM program. We have a different system that is our ad-serving system that holds all the customer account information, and we sync them. They are not perfectly integrated, but we continue to work on it. We don’t have the objective measure, such as how much [each account is] spending online [overall], but we know what they are spending with us.
BtoB: Do you think you’re ahead of the crowd when it comes to database marketing?
Hanna: We are pretty advanced in how we’ve tied our databases together. That [process] is more complex for a lot of the companies we talk to and a lot of our advertisers. Many have a system that is really good for a particular channel, like search marketing. [They know] how many clicks they get, how many convert, and [they have] more sophisticated measures like the percentage being sales-qualified. And sometimes they can [get information on] the actual sale itself.
After we started using salesforce.com, we started building our own pay-per-click platform for customers and relatively recently tied those two together. It lets those systems talk to each other. If you do it the other way, where a company develops a wide variety of marketing channels and then attempts to link them together, that’s obviously much more of a challenge.
BtoB: What are some other trends you are seeing?
Hanna: One trend that is pretty fascinating is the use of lead-generation systems like Eloqua. They provide an additional level of detail and information beyond what a standard CRM system provides. It allows you to get down the road more quickly than batch-and-blast marketing.
We’re in the process of finishing up an implementation with Eloqua. We’re building out capabilities now. It’s giving us site activity information that we haven’t had before.
Because Eloqua and other [similar] systems integrate very well with salesforce.com, there are a lot of choices you need to make, and you need to understand your business to make them work effectively.