Plenty has been written before about the benefits and hazards of creating independent marketing databases, and in particular the questions that need to be asked before taking such an approach. Take the real life example of a campaign automation system that is synchronised with a sales force automation (SFA) solution via a real time data adapter. Changes made to customer and prospect contact data in either system are exchanged almost immediately, together with leads and status updates. When it works, its fabulous, providing a real time view of data in either system, ensuring Sales and Marketing are seeing the same picture, while enabling them to use the best-of-breed system most appropriate to their respective requirements.
I can be tempting though to disregard the need to ensure this coordination between sales and marketing data, but there are a number of reasons why this is not a good idea.
- Sales and Marketing users don’t, and shouldnt need to, understand the intricacies of data integration. They just want to know that data in one system is available in the other; a Sales rep entering a new contact in the SFA system wants to know their prospect is available for marketing activity. It invokes much greater confidence if this transfer is immediate, without having to know about or understand overnight batch updates. Once control is lost, users feel disconnected and reduce their ownership of the process, leading to a rapid deterioration in data quality.
- The sooner changes made to a record in either system are replicated, the less chance there is of subsequent changes to the same record in the other system being made before the data is transferred, leading to potential anomalies or corruption. This is particularly the case where records are merged or changes are made to many fields at the same time.
- Marketing-generated leads need to be transferred to Sales promptly. Research shows that timely lead follow-up is one of the biggest determinants of successful lead conversion. If a lead or response relates to an existing contact or customer, Sales should be made aware as soon as possible, allowing a rep to handle their account in the most appropriate way
- Best-of-breed marketing practices, such as trigger marketing based on response or other events, require good data integration. Explaining such requirements away saying we don’t need to do that wont cut it. Your competitors are doing it.
- Business is moving ever faster. It is expected that data changes are available immediately, especially between Sales and Marketing systems. Utilising a batch system fails to lay the foundations for modern and forward-thinking marketing capability.
- System development and testing are substantially quicker and easier if changes in one system are reflected in the other almost straight away, rather than having to wait to see if configuration changes are working as intended.
- Much of the complexity in data synchronisation lies in the business rules for handling updates, conflicts, mappings and referential integrity. Once these rules are in place, why not transfer data more frequently, reducing the volume and complexity of batch updates when they occur?
Marketing shouldnt be ashamed to stand up for genuine business requirements, with demonstrable benefits. Dont let internal politics or external suppliers tell you otherwise!
With thanks to Shane Redding for contributing to this post.