We marketers are an optimistic breed. We focus on building new things, we like to make things happen, and we want to make a real difference at our companies. We’re a very positive group of people.

And yet, at one time or another, there are those moments when things go horribly awry. Nobody likes to think about them, but we’re hearing about more and more of these moments from conversations from marketing professionals at the companies we talk with. In fact, our team has started calling them, “Oh Shit!” moments. To help marketers avoid these events, we thought it would be valuable to share some of the most cringe-worthy, real-life “Oh Shit!” moments we’ve heard about in the last month, and discuss what you can do to avoid them.

Imagine for a second that moment when…

You’ve emailed a new customer a promotional offer with lower pricing than they just paid. You find this out from a long string of emails that started with the customer asking for a price adjustment and escalated all the way through the VP of Sales to your CMO.

You’ve done dozens of successful campaigns in the past, carefully testing out each offer on how it renders on every browser and on mobile, and you’ve religiously had two coworkers proof your text. In an instant, your credibility is shot, and your CMO is looking at you, wishing he didn’t have to deal with this.

You’ve just received an unexpected invoice from you marketing automation system provider for another $20K because you’re over your database size limit.

You’ve spent days mapping out your budget for every single campaign, you’ve always asked for discounts from every vendor, and you’ve dutifully tracked your invoices against your plan. Even the accounts payable people are impressed with how on top of things you are. But, it’s the end of the quarter, and you’ve already committed every last penny with signed contracts. Then, you get this bombshell.

You’ve just shelled out big bucks to a new database provider, thinking you could build out your company’s 3,000 account target account list, and now you’ve found seven. Yep, just seven.

You thought you did your homework and you narrowed down your list to two, well-known database providers. Their sales reps parroted back the problem you shared with them, and one confidently boasted about how their database had 18,000 names that fit your filters. Now you’re squirming to position how your five-digit investment provides the value you pitched when you sought funding.

You can hear through a glass wall a heated discussion between two regional sales VPs about who owns what’s quickly shaping up to be a seven-figure deal, and you see both of them stop and look through the glass at you.

It had taken a lot of work and some mental calisthenics, but you thought you figured out how to make lead routing work pretty darn well with a long set up rules that took pages to print out. One sales VP accused the other’s team of dropping the ball on following up on some of the hottest MQLs you’ve ever delivered, and the other accused the first one of poaching. The only thing they seem to agree on is that marketing isn’t routing leads well.

Talk about having a bad day.

At first glance, it might not appear that there’s a consistent thread running through all these cringe-worthy events, but it’s there. It’s simple. You’re a data-driven organization, but you’re working with poor quality data, so you’re not driving very well.

Think about it. You’re not doing lead-to-account matching very well, so a lead that just came in the door wasn’t associated with an account that was flagged as a customer, so you hit them with an early-stage offer. Your product’s user database also isn’t correlated with Salesforce.com, so customers and users are not accurately reflected in your marketing automation solution.

You’ve had a ton of duplicate leads the sales teams created that were never merged, so your database is swelling, and now you’re literally paying the price for that. You didn’t ask for an anonymized database dump to check out how the vendor’s data compared with what you already had because you thought it would be a huge amount of work to do your due diligence. And, your lead records had some typos that caused your system to route the best leads you’ve ever delivered to the wrong person.

You might feel your blood pressure going up just thinking about these common “Oh Shit!” moments! However, they’re real-life problems for marketers, where the root cause of these issues has been poor quality data. In a nutshell, they’re cases of garbage-in, garbage-out. Poor quality data invariably results in “Oh Shit!” moments that negatively impact your professional reputation, your company’s reputation, and your company’s bottom line. The only way to avoid the frequency of these “Oh Shit!” moments is by taking a good look at the quality of your marketing and sales data and then taking the step to fix the problems you see.

Don’t know if your data quality has you poised for an “Oh Shit!” moment? You can find out in 20 minutes with a free Data Diagnostic of your Salesforce or Marketo instance.