6 Handy B2B Marketing Services to Outsource in 2018

6 Handy B2B Marketing Services to Outsource in 2018We’re well within the last quarter of 2017, and most of you are probably already making the final touches to next year’s marketing plan. If your strategy involves working with a B2B marketing services provider but you’re not sure which marketing initiatives to outsource and which ones to keep in-house, we’ve got you covered. This post goes over six potential areas in your marketing program that an agency can help you out with.

Outsourcing part of your marketing efforts to a reputable third-party agency brings tremendous advantages. When you place specific marketing tactics at the hands of experts, you get better results at practically lower cost. In fact, outsourced B2B marketing services outperform in-house activities by as much as 43% in terms of productivity.

So which activities should you let an agency do for you? Here’s a list of six possible B2B marketing services to outsource next year:

 

  1. PPC

Pay-per-click tactics remain one of those things in marketing that sound simple in theory but are really hard to nail down in practice. It’s very easy for inexperienced marketers to mess PPC campaigns up with the wrong approach. The challenges begin to pile up even higher once you take ad-blockers and declining conversion rates into account.

Navigating all these things can quickly become a full-time job. Unless you have the resources to bring new full-time PPC specialists, you’re better off outsourcing your paid search initiatives.

 

  1. Branding

There’s a very interesting Inc. article that argues why business should avoid DIY branding. In a nutshell, the article says that branding is best left to the experts because, too often, non-specialists don’t even understand its basic concepts and that branding does need some outsider viewpoints.

That’s why if you’re lining up some branding initiatives for next year, you’ll probably get better results if you let a talented branding company do it for you.

 

  1. Demand Generation

Demand generation strategies typically consist of top-of-funnel activities that drive interest and awareness. That’s why it’s a prime outsourcing candidate for organizations that want their marketing and sales teams to focus more on high-value activities such as conversion and closing.

An ideal demand generation solution provider offers B2B marketing services with functional expertise and industry knowledge. While the cost savings alone can already be a good reason to choose the outsourced path, the important benefit that demand generation agencies deliver is value.

 

  1. Lead Generation

Ascend2 estimates that 8 in 10 B2B marketers outsource part or all of their lead generation campaigns. That’s because as lead generation becomes increasingly tied to revenue generation, the pressure to deliver results is mounting.

This trend indicates that organizations find it difficult to meet the needs of a changing marketing landscape with the resources available in-house. The main criterion for choosing a third-party lead generation agency is their ability to identify and convert prospects with purchase intent.

 

  1. Lead Nurturing

Shouldn’t you nurture leads with the people and processes you have in-house? Yes, but there are a number of ways a B2B marketing services company can help you with lead nurturing, too. This is particularly true for organizations which have yet to lay down the right infrastructure, such as marketing automation platforms.

Even for companies with a mature tech stack, an experienced marketing partner can still make all the difference in the world.

 

  1. Appointment Setting

Most B2B marketers start out with the lofty goal of “keeping the sales calendar full”, but only a few have a clear idea of exactly how to get there.

That’s why it’s an excellent idea to partner with a B2B marketing services agency that does finding, qualifying, and booking sales appointments for you. Appointment setting offers a clear path toward keeping your sales team busy and productive, and an experienced third-party partner gets you there faster.

Knowing what marketing programs to outsource is a key part of the planning process. This often boils down to your objectives and your budget. Working with the right partner lets you tap into a rich pool of experience, technology, and connections which would otherwise be out of reach on your own.

How to Decide Between Lead Generation vs Demand Generation Services

How to Decide Between Lead Generation vs Demand Generation Services

In this day and age, it’s surprising that quite a number of B2B marketing folks still get the terms “lead generation” and “demand generation” mixed up. Although these two activities remain inextricably linked, they’re not the same thing. That’s why if you’re out on the market looking for lead generation or demand generation services, it’s important that you know the differences between them and find out how to choose which one you need.

Demand generation and lead generation share some similar goals, but successful marketers use each of these to achieve different sets of objectives. According to the Content Marketing Institute, demand generation creates interest on your brand or product, while lead generation captures information from interested prospects once demand has been established. The outcome of demand generation services is increased reach and conversions, while that of lead generation is new qualified contacts available for marketing or sales.

In other words, demand generation precedes lead generation. Demand generation hauls prospects into your sales funnel, while lead generation ensures that these prospects actually make it inside. That means if you’re looking for an outsourced marketing partner, you need to be sure you’re getting the right services. Here’s a few questions to help you find out whether you need lead generation or demand generation services:

 

  1. What are your present priorities and objectives?

Customer acquisition and brand awareness typically vie for marketers’ time and budget. But achieving either or both these end-goals requires having clear processes in place. What’s more is that these processes vary depending on whether your current strategic situation call for a revenue-oriented or a branding-focused approach (or a combination of both).

If you’re leaning toward customer acquisition, then lead generation activities should probably make up a significant chunk of your marketing efforts. Otherwise, going for demand generation services is most likely your best path forward.

 

  1. How much does your target market know about your product or solution?

Keep in mind that demand generation services help you create buzz and awareness about your solution or company. It’s the right tool for the job if your target buyers aren’t very familiar with what you’re offering and you need to let your audience know about its capabilities and benefits.

On the other hand, if your target prospects already have a good idea about your product, then they’re potentially ready to proceed toward the next stages in the sales funnel. That’s where lead generation can really help.

 

  1. What prospect qualifications are you looking for?

Here’s one way to think about the differences between lead generation and demand generation services. Demand generation is like casting as wide a net as possible, while lead generation helps keep only the most interested prospects, setting the rest aside. This is why demand generation tactics often use content that’s freely available (such as blog posts), whereas lead generation relies on gated content assets (such as whitepaper downloads).

Lead generation needs a more specific (and oftentimes narrower) set of prospect qualification criteria. BANT, buyer profiles, and lead scores make up prospect qualifications in lead generation. Demand generation, meanwhile, works with a broader set of prospect characteristics.

 

  1. What are your target outcomes?

Demand and leads are obviously different things, although you could argue that a lead is what demand looks like once qualified. Unless we’re talking about demand in a microeconomics context, quantifying demand for your product or solution is trickier than measuring lead generation outcomes.

With lead generation, it’s easy to find universally agreed-upon metrics to measure results (e.g., record counts for lead quantity, lead scores for lead quality). For demand generation services, it takes a little creativity to find the right yardsticks to use.

By now, you’ve possibly gotten the impression that lead generation and demand generation go hand in hand. That’s exactly the case. Deciding between lead generation and demand generation services is actually finding the right balance between which initiatives to do in-house and which ones to outsource to a third-party provider. Define what you want to achieve and determine how your current capabilities and resources stack up against your objectives.

4 Ways to Use Influencer Marketing for Faster Fresh Leads Creation

4 Ways to Use Influencer Marketing for Faster Fresh Leads Creation

 

It sometimes pays to stand on the shoulders of giants to extend your marketing messages’ reach and impact. That’s why influencer marketing is an ideal strategy for speeding up fresh leads creation and conversion. Influencers can help you connect with a larger audience or reach deeper levels of engagement which you’d most likely have a hard time achieving on your own.

It’s quite clear that influencer marketing works. There’s a ton of research that show leveraging the power of influencers does make a huge difference across marketing activities. Social influencers, for example, have been shown to boost traffic by up to 6 times and improve conversions by more than 100%. As a result, around 75% of marketers swear by influencer marketing when it comes to fresh leads creation and building customer loyalty.

In a nutshell, influencer marketing focuses on reaching out to people that your target marketing audience trusts and pays attention to. It starts with identifying the most relevant personalities in your industry or niche. Then, you should narrow down the types of influencers to target (e.g., thought leaders, industry insiders, celebrities, etc.), so that the help you’re getting aligns with your lead generation goals. Lastly, you need to have something to offer in exchange for influencers’ favor. Although most influencer outreach tactics won’t cost you a dime, you do need to let influencers know there’s something in it for them, too.

Once you have all the basics nailed down, here are four ways to leverage influencer marketing to generate and convert more leads:

 

  1. Build a community of influencers

The more influencers you bring together as part of your network, the better the reach and impact of your outreach efforts potentially become. Having an entire community of influencers to work with means better visibility and deeper engagement, even if a particular influencer has a relatively smaller audience size or a narrower focus.

Maintaining an extensive network of influencers also means you’ll be able to mix and match different influencer types to find the best combination that works for you. Think of it as diversifying your portfolio of influencer marketing assets, so that you won’t end up putting all your fresh leads creation eggs in one basket.

 

  1. Tailor content aimed at your influencers

In B2B content marketing, the classic content strategy is to put out informative, actionable content assets mapped to the target buyers’ pain points and stage in the purchase cycle. But content intended for B2B audiences typically doesn’t always match what influencers are looking for.

That’s why it’s also important for you to create content not only for your target decision-makers but for the influencers you want to reach out to as well. Influencers actively share content they find useful with their network. Just one well-placed mention from an influencer can take your fresh leads creation efforts to a whole new level.

 

  1. Make it about sharing and shareability

Speaking of sharing, one crucial area in influencer marketing is shareable content. As we’ve seen above, if you’re able to produce content that resonates with an influencer, then there’s a strong chance that particular influencer will feel compelled to share it. It’s crucial that you publish not only outstanding content but irresistibly shareable pieces as well.

They say that sharing is the currency of engagement in influencer marketing, so you also need to develop a “culture of sharing”. You need to encourage content sharing both internally within your organization and externally among your followers and customers.

 

  1. Collaborate with your influencers

One way to make your outreach mutually beneficial to you and your target influencers is through exploring opportunities for collaboration. Remember that part about offering something of value in exchange for your influencer’s help? Working together in a campaign or project can sometimes be enough to bring an interested influencer into your fold.

There are lots of strategies to do this: ask your influencer’s inputs for a blog post that rounds up expert advice on a topic, interview an influencer as a guest on a podcast episode, or let your influencer co-host a webinar on your site.

Cultivating relationships with influencers can help accelerate your fresh leads creation activities, but it doesn’t mean results are going to improve overnight. Influencer marketing takes time. But, with the right approach, the time you spend is going to be worth it.

5 Key Qualities to Look For in a Data Gathering Solution Provider

5 Key Qualities to Look For in a Data Gathering Solution Provider

We’re living through some pretty exciting times for data-driven marketing. Recent research from the Winterberry Group and Global Direct Marketing Association finds that almost 80% of marketers agree data is more critical than ever. The same study also reports that 88% actively use list segmentation and that 64% of marketers buy data from third-party data gathering solution providers and database vendors. If current trends continue, then practically all marketers will embrace the data-driven mindset in just a matter of years.

That means more and more marketers will be seeking the services of business list providers to help them fill their demand for rich, targeted data. If you happen to be part of this group, keep in mind that not all data gathering solution providers are created equal. There’s more to choosing a list vendor than simply comparing prices. To help you find the right data company for you, here’s a quick rundown of the things you should look for in a potential list seller.

 

  1. Data Source

One of the key things that a list vendor needs to let you know upfront is its data sources. Typically, data gathering solution companies acquire prospect and customer information through in-house data mining and/or third-party sources. Oftentimes, data providers use a combination of multiple internal and external sources to find and collect information.

The issue arises when a provider relies too heavily on outside data sources. That’s because data vendors do not exert the same level of control over data quality on externally-sourced data than it does on data obtained through in-house efforts. That’s why you really need to know this right off the bat.

 

  1. Data Shelf Life

As you know all too well already, data has an expiry date. On average, data decays at a rate of 2% each month. If you apply that to the millions of database records that most data providers claim they have, that’s going to be a huge number by any metric.

That’s why it pays to ask a potential list seller how recent the datasets they’re offering are. You don’t want to use marketing information that’s stale. Bad data will cost you bigtime, not only in terms of poor marketing results but also through significantly lower top and bottom-line figures. Look for vendors that refresh their records at least twice a year.

 

  1. QA Process

Data quality covers such a broad area that it can be a little challenging for a customer to evaluate how well a data provider’s QA processes are running. Some crucial things to consider are a list vendor’s data cleansing practices, its data validation methods, and the data maintenance technology it uses.

Another key differentiator that sets most great third-party data vendors apart from the rest is the use of manual data verification in their QA processes. Keeping humans in the data maintenance loop ensures that critical pieces of information aren’t left solely to the whims of algorithms and models.

 

  1. Metrics/KPIs

Just as any other marketing service you’re about to invest in, data gathering solution initiatives should include the relevant set of yardsticks for measuring performance. This makes it easier for you to set objectives and gauge how much the deliverable (list or added prospect details) is contributing to the campaign results.

As a starting point, you should ask a potential data gathering solution partner what deliverability rates to expect. Then, the data provider should also let you know what guarantees it’s making about the initial overall state of the data product along with the actions the vendor will take to fix data issues.

 

  1. Compliance Practices

Compliance is another crucial aspect you need to carefully consider when working with a list vendor. Depending on the geographic area you’re targeting, there can be an entire minefield of laws and regulations you may need to navigate around. Your list provider should help you steer clear of these potential problems.

While specific regulations vary, some important compliance considerations to think about in general include:

  • Data must be lawfully obtained.
  • Information must be given/acquired based on consent.
  • Opt-out requests must be promptly acted upon.
  • Records must be checked against DNC and DNE lists

You can now confidently assess data gathering solution providers as potential marketing partners. The important thing to take away from this blog entry is to do your due diligence before choosing a list vendor.

6 Firmographic Info to Gather on Your Next Contact List Appending Run

6 Firmographic Info to Gather on Your Next Contact List Appending Run

In B2B marketing, getting to know your prospects and leads better can oftentimes require adding more fields on your marketing database. That’s why contact list appending remains a critical component of a modern B2B marketer’s data management plan. When done right, data appending enables you to paint a sharper image of potential customers, so that you’ll be able to engage and nurture them the right way.

In a previous blog entry, we wrote about a number of tried-and-tested segmentation strategies to boost response and conversion rates. One approach we pointed out was to segment a list based on company-level information. In that same post, we also saw that firm-level attributes should act as your list segmentation baseline, since company details are widely-available and inexpensive to gather on scale.

But a key challenge when slicing a list based on firmographics is that there’s often way too much information you can collect on a company. It can be difficult to decide which attributes to focus on and which ones to ignore, given the dizzying amount of company-specific information available out there.

So, before you kick-start your next contact list appending project with an in-house team or with a third-party provider, don’t skimp on any of these six must-have firmographic attributes (arranged in no particular order):

 

  1. Job Title

If the fields in your B2B contact list include only the standard first and last names plus email address, then you’re doing your whole email marketing effort a massive disservice each time you reach out.

Job titles are a great way to start coming up with more relevant and personalized messages. Each job title represents an entire set of (potentially) unique pain points and interests you can use to refine your targeting precision.

 

  1. Role in Buying Process

Knowledge Tree says there may be 7 to 20 decision-makers involved in most B2B buying decisions. That’s a lot of people to reach out to, each with their own priorities, objectives, and interests to look after.

That’s why finding out what role a prospect plays in the purchase process can make or break your marketing campaign’s targeting and segmentation capabilities.

 

  1. Industry

This really should go without mentioning, but we’ll include this here for good measure. A target company’s industry should sit on or close to the top items on a list of must-have firmographic data.

On your upcoming contact list appending project, you (or your service provider) should match not only the industry name but also the corresponding NAICS/SIC codes as well.

 

  1. Number of Employees

Knowing a company’s size based on how large or small its workforce is can be an ideal segmentation/targeting route to take for some B2B organizations.

This company detail is especially useful if your solution or product line is geared toward businesses with a specific workforce size. A startup with fewer than 50 employees most likely has a different set of pain points when compared to an enterprise of more than 500 employees.

 

  1. Annual Revenues

Similar to employee size, a company’s annual revenue helps you objectively classify how large or small your target business is. Annual revenue is a standard field in most B2B prospect lists. It’s usually taken together with workforce size when segmenting or filtering B2B marketing databases.

Many third-party contact list appending companies supply figures for annual sales either as an actual amount or as an estimated range. So, when you choose to partner with a data provider, make sure that the value type for this field remains consistent for each record.

 

  1. Location

Depending on your targeting needs, geographic location can be as broad as a single field for country/region or as granular as street address. The main idea is to ensure consistency with the location data you or your service provider obtains.

You should also consider appending data on whether the given address refers to the company’s headquarters or one of its branches, unless this information is already apparent on the address field names themselves.

These are the top six types of company information you should be looking at as part of your B2B contact list appending activities. Of course, there are a ton of other firmographic data worth collecting, but let’s save those for a future post or for the comments section below.

6 Actionable Ways to Segment Information Technology Mailing Lists

6 Actionable Ways to Segment Information Technology Mailing ListsWhether IT managers, directors, or CIOs (or all three) make up your information technology mailing lists, reaching out to an organization’s IT decision-makers via email can be a tough nut to crack. IT folks tend to be a well-informed bunch (i.e., keeping up with developments in their field is an unwritten item on their job description). This makes them almost pathologically allergic to sales and marketing efforts that try to “educate” them on a pain point or solution they can figure out on their own.

But with the right message delivered to the right person at the right time and for the right reasons, it’s not impossible to get decent email campaign results with your information technology mailing lists. That’s right. I’m talking about good-old email list segmentation.

List segmentation breaks up your contact database into groupings based on some criteria (more on this below). The main idea is that these groupings (or segments) let you deliver more relevant email messages, so that recipients respond better to your emails. Actual campaign results show that segmented email lists produce, on average, 14% more opens and 101% higher CTRs than non-segmented lists.

It’s a bit surprising (to me, at least) that despite the measurable benefits list segmentation brings to the table, a whopping 42% of companies still avoid using this tactic. That’s according to a DMA report that claims segmentation generated 58% of revenues and 77% of ROI in 2015.

So, there you have it. Segmentation isn’t only good for your email campaigns; it also works well at boosting your top and bottom-lines. Now, let’s go over a few segmentation techniques you can apply on your information technology mailing lists right away. Although there can be hundreds of ways to slice and dice your email lists, most of these boil down to the following:

 

  1. Start with basic firmographics

I’m sure you’ve come across some fancy ways of breaking lists up. But, in most cases in IT sales and marketing, segmenting lists according to your target prospects’ company attributes can already get the job done.

Information like industry, annual revenues, geographic location, and company size are good parameters to get started with chopping up your information technology mailing lists, especially if you also throw in additional segmentation criteria such as software or technology in use along with the company’s purchase process.

 

  1. Map emails to sales funnel stages

If you need a bit more precision in your email campaigns, then targeting based on where prospects are in your sales funnel is the logical next step to build on top of firmographic segmentation.

It goes without saying that emails sent to top-of-funnel prospects shouldn’t be the same as emails intended for leads that have been in your pipeline for a while. New email subscribers, for example, are most likely looking for general information about your products and company. They’re usually not yet ready for emails about product comparisons or pricing.

 

  1. Follow a contact’s clickpath on your site

A clickpath is simply the series of links a visitor follows. It tracks the steps a prospect takes to get what she wants from your website.

How prospects navigate your site can reveal a lot about what they’re interested in and what their intentions are. Leads who have made it to your product pages, for instance, may be expecting a more product-oriented email message than someone who’s only been to your careers page.

 

  1. Find out what content they’re engaging with

Which of your whitepapers does a prospect download? What topics on your blog does that prospect tend to view? Which of these does she share often?

The content that a prospect consumes can help you craft email messages that are likely going to resonate with that lead. If you’re able to map your content materials with your sales funnel stages, your email list segments will become even more granulated once you include content preferences as a criterion.

 

  1. Keep track of responses and activities

If you’ve been using your information technology mailing lists for a while, then you’ve most probably already gathered enough data on prospect responses and email activities to identify patterns in how they interact with your campaigns.

Activities like opens, clicks, replies, and opt-outs can let you segment your list according to how engaged or interested prospects are. These interactions enable you to prioritize or reengage stalled leads with relevant messages.

 

  1. Apply a lead scoring scheme

One way to put all of these different segmentation techniques together is to use a lead scoring system. A lead score quantifies many of the things we’ve talked about earlier and assigns a value to a prospect based on how that lead meets each of the criteria.

For example, a lead scoring system might assign more points to an IT director whose company falls within a given industry, but deducts a corresponding value if that contact just happens to be browsing job vacancies on your site. A lead scoring scheme can give bigger points to prospects that view a certain topic (e.g., bottom-of-funnel content) and smaller scores to top-of-funnel leads. All these points are then added in order to compute the lead score for that particular contact.

Whatever segmentation strategy you choose to stick to, the key thing is to realize that the old “spray and pray” approach at email marketing won’t work on your information technology mailing lists. It’s relevant, engaging emails which are going to get you the right results.

How to Launch Opt-in Campaigns with Marketing Managers Email Lists

How to Launch Opt-in Campaigns with Marketing Managers Email ListsCarrying out campaigns with marketing managers email lists can be a difficult feat to accomplish. For one thing, marketing managers are constantly being bombarded with content, promotions, and offers that catching their attention even for a split second is almost impossible. They’re also intimately familiar with the bag of tricks their fellow marketers use that it’s going to take a pretty unique and compelling material just to register as a blip on their radar.

And these obstacles can turn into roadblocks when you’re working with marketing managers email lists that contain contacts acquired through implicit opt-in. Marketo says an implicit single opt-in happens when someone submits their contact details on a website or to an individual (typically in order to download content or to register for an event) and the info gets stored in a database without the contact’s express consent.

Implicit opt-in is a favorite tactic among B2B marketers because it lets them grow email lists quickly, although this approach doesn’t come without its drawbacks. If a subscriber doesn’t realize or remember opting into your email marketing list, the contact has every right to mark your emails as spam. Once those spam complaints start piling up, you run the risk of ending up on an ISP’s blacklist. That’s why, in a previous entry on collecting email contacts at tradeshows, we emphasize the need to verify every prospect’s permission.

That’s because not everyone who provides their email address to download your whitepaper wants to receive your email newsletters and promotions. Similarly, not all event attendees who hand you their business card are looking forward to starting an email correspondence. In fact, only a small percentage of contacts in a single opt-in list will actually want to remain as subscribers. The challenge then is finding out which contacts are really interested.

One effective solution is to launch an email opt-in (or re-opt-in) campaign. An opt-in campaign gives contacts in an existing email list a chance to confirm their subscription. It’s a way to remove uninterested (and most likely unfit) contacts from your marketing managers email lists, while retaining those subscribers who unequivocally gave you their permission. The end result will be a smaller but more relevant list of email contacts.

Running an opt-in campaign, however, goes beyond simply sending out subscription confirmation emails. It requires a great deal of planning and preparation, and usually follows the below steps:

 

  1. Do a thorough data scrub

As with any other email marketing initiative, opt-in campaigns require accurate and clean lists. So, before proceeding any further, you need to do a thorough data scrub on your marketing managers email lists for best results.

Find a good database scrubber and run it on your list a couple of times. You don’t want hard bounces and invalid emails dragging deliverability down.

 

  1. Prepare and polish your free offer

Whitepapers and case studies still remain the most effective offers for attracting and converting new subscribers. In fact, a DemandGen survey finds that among B2B buyers, 8% consult whitepapers, 73% request case studies, and 67% attend webinars.

Your free offer answers the question every potential subscriber asks herself: “What’s in it for me?” So, you need to make it convincing. Make sure that your offer isn’t only something that contacts will be interested in but is also content that prospects can benefit from.

 

  1. Create an opt-in confirmation email

Now, it’s time for you to put your thinking cap on and start writing the opt-in confirmation email. The main goal behind opt-in confirmation is to determine whether or not contacts really want to be part of your marketing managers email lists.

Leverage your free offer (see #2) to give your target contacts a good reason to sign up. Instead of directly asking recipients to confirm their subscription, gauge their interest first by delivering your free offer.

 

  1. Build the landing page

The offer’s landing page is where the first part of the opt-in process happens. The landing page signup form should ask contacts to enter their first name, last name, and email address—nothing more. Keep in mind that, in general, the more fields you put on a landing page, the lower the conversion rate.

In order for contacts to explicitly opt in, the landing page should include a checkbox that reads “I want to receive news and updates” (or something like that). In some countries, it’s mandatory to leave this checkbox unchecked by default.

 

  1. Re-confirm their opt-in with a thank you email

After a contact submits the form and confirms her subscription, the contact is directed to a thank you page that indicates that a thank you email has been sent to the given email address.

The thank you email includes a link or a button that the contact needs to click in order to confirm her subscription. Contacts who do so should remain on your marketing managers email lists, while those who don’t should be removed.

We’ve just outlined the basic steps of a double opt-in process. When done right, double opt-ins lead to a more accurate and more compliant email contact list. But more importantly, this process helps purge your list of uninterested contacts, keeping only those who’ll engage with your future campaigns.

Is Your B2B Contact Leads Database Ready for the AI Revolution?

Is Your B2B Contact/Leads Database Ready for the AI RevolutionOne of the main takeaways from Salesforce’s 2017 STATE of MARKETING report  is that investments in AI has outpaced spending in other marketing tech areas. B2B marketers are adopting AI technologies ranging from predictive lead scoring to chatbots in droves. But before you get caught up in the hype, there’s one thing you need to nail down before you start applying AI into your marketing processes: Is your B2B contact leads database ready for AI at all?

To answer this, we first need to separate the reality and the publicity behind AI’s capabilities in B2B marketing today. MarTech Advisor points to four key areas where B2B marketers can realistically expect AI to lend them a helping hand:

  • Scoring and ranking leads.
  • Segmentation and content personalization
  • Discovering and implementing Marketing automation strategies
  • Sales enablement and acceleration

At its present development stage, the best that AI technology can do is allow you to carry out the tasks in each of the above activities more efficiently. While some aspects of AI can uncover prospect behavior invisible to the unaided human B2B marketer, the reality is that AI remains just a tool, and tools are only as effective as the persons and processes using them.

So if you think AI has a place in your marketing toolkit, you first need to take a good look at your B2B contact leads database.

Like everything else in marketing, AI depends on good data. The data currently sitting in your CRM and datasets you’re about to collect need to meet some basic requirements before starting AI-enabled campaigns. In an interesting video series, Brandon Rohrer at Microsoft Azzure thinks of data science and AI as a lot like making pizza: the better the ingredients (your data), the better the final product (marketing insights).

There are four qualities that any dataset must satisfy to be ready for AI and data science:

  1. Relevant: Do the fields and records in your B2B contact leads database help you answer the questions you’re exploring? For example, which lead attributes in your CRM influence the likelihood that a prospect turns into a customer within the next quarter?
  2. Accurate: How reliable are the models/profiles generated from your marketing database? Do the records contain incorrect, outdated, redundant, or invalid entries?
  3. Connected: Are there significant gaps in your marketing data? What percentage of records contain empty fields?
  4. Sufficient: Do you have enough records to build robust AI models?

While each of the above criteria is important, we need to carefully consider sufficiency. AI requires data–lots of data. The algorithms that power most AI applications run on vast amounts of examples in their training set. In general, the more examples you use to train an AI algorithm, the more accurate the resulting model gets.

So before you think about applying AI in marketing, you first have to bring your contact leads database up to snuff.  Use the previous ideas as your guidelines and maximize the power of artificial intelligence.

Run These 6 Data Hygiene Checks On Your B2B Email Lists Before Your Next Campaign

Run These 6 Data Hygiene Checks On Your B2B Email Lists Before Your Next Campaign

Whether it’s B2C or B2B, email marketing has always been an excellent approach to nurture prospects, convert sales-ready leads, and solicit repeat and referral business. However, in order to be effective, your contact list requires a solid foundation. And whether you’re employing bought or home-grown data, doing hygiene checks on your email lists is crucial to boosting your ROI.

So what does it mean to run a data hygiene check on your B2B email lists?

Your contact database is brimming with data and insights into your potential clientele. However, if that data contains errors and inaccuracies, your sales and marketing initiatives are going to bear the brunt of the nasty side effects of having bad data on your list. Routinely running data hygiene checks guarantees that every piece of information in your contact database is as reliable and actionable as possible. Having meticulously-maintained and robust data is critical for running targeted and effective email marketing campaigns.

The following are the common types of dirty data that might be lurking in your B2B email lists.

  • Inaccurate data – These are those records that have typographical errors.
  • Duplications — These are separate records belonging to the same contact.
  • Dead accounts — These are those email addresses that were once actively used by their owners but have now become inactive.
  • Spam traps – These are those email addresses that are in circulation to help single out spammers who add addresses to their email lists without consent. They often find their way into authentic email lists.

To remove these kinds of data from your B2B email lists, you need to run these six crucial steps in maintaining good data hygiene:

  1. Data Scrubbing – This refers to finding and handling data entry and basic parsing errors.
  2. De-duplication and Records Matching – This refers to detecting and removing duplicate records as well as combining records incorrectly classified as separate.
  3. Recovering/Appending Missing Data & Values – This refers to managing records with incomplete data by using an intelligent algorithm.
  4. Data Migration & Merging – This refers to migrating or integrating a marketing database into another format or storage.
  5. Standardization & Normalization – This refers to checking the consistency and comparability of various pieces of data in the database.
  6. Data Verification – This refers to validating and verifying information on the database through phone, email, and online research.

Know that dirty data is something that you can absolutely do without. They can give you a bad rep by damaging your sender score and it could get a lot worst with your IP getting blocked or being blacklisted by your email provider. That’s why doing data hygiene checks routinely should be a part of your campaign process. It’s a good push toward reducing bounce rates and improving email deliverability and conversion rates.