Suppose your job depended on filling a large bathtub with water using only a cup and water from the sink across the bathroom. Easy with some work, right? Well, maybe not. How easy would it be if you had to not only fill the tub, but also maintain the water level consistently every month and every quarter? What if you had to fill and maintain the water level, but had no stopper to block the drain and keep your tub filled? How frustrated would you be if each time you poured water into the tub, it just flowed down the drain?

Building and maintaining sales pipelines at companies that do not have a consistent, effective process for capturing and managing marketing data is as difficult and frustrating as trying to fill an endlessly draining bathtub. Effective data management provides the stopper that helps keep leads from flowing down the drain before your sales team has a chance to close deals with them.

In today’s tough economic environment it is more important than ever to squeeze every dollar of ROI from every marketing asset—including your existing marketing automation system, marketing database or customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Making the most of your marketing leads is crucial for maximum profitability. Too often, companies spend thousands—even millions—of dollars for lead generation programs with barely a thought to how they will capture, process, and follow up the leads once they are acquired or how they will nurture them over time.

Let’s be honest: Improving data quality is not a sexy or high-profile marketing project. It can be pretty boring and is usually ignored. But getting your marketing data into a clean, optimized state can have more impact on your company’s bottom line than almost any single lead generation program.

Studies show that most marketing leads are wasted. According to Marketing Operations Partners, analysts at Sirius Decisions report that only 20% of marketing leads are ever followed up by sales reps, but about 80% of ignored prospects will go on to purchase from someone within 24 months. If you have clean, well-organized, accurately coded data, marketing can nurture those ignored leads until they are ready to buy.

Good data has a measurable bottom line impact. Another recent report from SiriusDecisions estimates that companies can generate nearly 70% more revenue simply by improving the quality of their marketing data.2 There’s a quantifiable waterfall effect: More leads get qualified and faster, sales follow-up rates increase, and more deals close. Incremental improvements can add up fast—especially when they are compounded.

Bad data, on the other hand, keeps costing you money. According to Johnathan Block, SiriusDecisions senior director of research, “The longer incorrect records remain in a database, the greater the financial impact. This point is illustrated by the 1-10-100 rule: It takes $1 to verify a record as it’s entered, $10 to cleanse and de-dupe it and $100 if nothing is done, as the ramifications of the mistakes are felt over and over again.”

Good Marketing Data Management Isn’t Rocket Science

Sure, many companies spend millions of dollars and deploy teams of dedicated staff to manage their marketing data. However, there is no reason why small and mid-size companies should have to spend a fortune or hire a team of experts to significantly improve the value of their marketing data. Luckily, managing marketing data effectively is not terribly difficult—it just takes a little forethought to create good processes and a little consistent effort to keep the momentum going.

We’ll take a look at how to improve your marketing data management processes in later posts.