How clean is your… data?

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Bad data can have the most detrimental impact on your marketing performance. Stand Out editor Caroline Clift assesses the latest white paper to look at the power of databases…

Summer may have gone and autumn is rolling in but ask yourself this… when was the last time you had a spring clean? Cleaned your data that is. I can hear you all now: “Yeah, yeah, tell us something we don’t know”. But if it’s such a given then why do some organisations continue to get it wrong. Today, I received an email in my inbox from the organisers of an extremely large travel exhibition. The email address was correct but my name is definitely not Nada Vulic.

Granted, we are all human and administrative errors do occur but I always remember these words from an organiser friend of mine: “Your show is only as good as your data”. Get your content right and visitors will come, but for visitors to come you must have accurate and recent details to enable clear, concise and targeted campaigns (ie bombard them with direct mail and e-marketing). I continue to receive invitations to an event I covered six years ago as a journalist on a consumer title. In six years, it appears that this organiser has failed to update their press list even.

I am sure by now you will recognise the above scenarios but it’s not something that should be accepted. A lackadaisical attitude to data is definitely not the way forward when pressures to perform are strong enough without the added costs of incorrect information.

Ispy Publishing’s latest white paper discusses The Impact of Bad Data on Event Marketing Performance. According to the study, the error rate within most commercial business-to-business databases is around 30 per cent and the authors do question as to whether the data is actually necessary. Do you collect information for information’s sake? Naturally, it’s imperative to do your homework and blow away your competition but “data can get in the way because it’s never used”.

Ispy suggests that there are “universes” and “target markets”, and the two should not be mistaken. A universe is the amount of consumers available to buy your product (event or service), take part in your event or participate as a visitor or other attendee. A target audience, on the other hand, is the result of breaking down your “universe”, identifying a pocket of opportunity so that you can address your marketing efforts in a targeted manner rather than firing bullets at all contacts within your “universe”.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, the study’s authors state that old data should be tested and that you should identify who has used the data before you. When looking to build your database, in the first instance show organisers should decide who you want to include and this comes down to three factors: Does this person or company exhibit in your show now? Have they exhibited in the past? And is there even a remote possibility that they will exhibit in the future? “Answering “yes” to one or more of those questions automatically identifies someone who should be a denizen of your database,” says ispy. “Current exhibitors have demonstrated their ability and willingness to do business with your show. Roll out the database carpet for them. Remember the 80/20 rule — 80 per cent of your business comes from 20 per cent of your customers — and you’ll want to focus on these heavy hitters, making sure you’ve updated all relevant data about them.”

Says the report: “When Prince Albert launched the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London’s Crystal Palace, he ran down his list of potential international exhibitors, eliminated all non-productive prospects, grouped likely participants by their business needs and tailored his sales pitch to the individuals involved.

“Our methods have become more sophisticated yet show professionals throughout the world capitalize on the same basic concept: Know everything you can about your customer, and use that information to your advantage.

“These days, the challenge is how to negotiate the same success when the sheer size of your exhibitor and attendee universes have expanded beyond your ability to reach them all on a personal level. Your salvation comes through capturing and capitalizing on huge amounts of information — made possible by the latest database management technology — not only to sell better, but also to help your customers sell better, too.”

But what now for events and bad data?

The author reports that new technology is the way forward and that the value of good data will only be realised when show managers understand its value. To stay ahead of the trend it’s vital that event organisers navigate the challenges of maintaining a clean database, but once that skill has been mastered your competition will be eating your dirt.