A database is a beautiful thing — especially if it’s built from contacts who’ve opted in rather than purchased lists. But, the problem I see repeatedly is that once a contact goes in, the database doors swing shut like a steel trap, with B2B marketers never exercising their visitation rights. With the rate of change in the business environment, this can be a risky practice.

When is the last time you actually looked at the contacts in your database? And when I say looked at them, I don’t mean scanned the list, but actually took the time to look into and validate the contacts?

I dare you to go pull 50 leads from a segment of your database and do the following:

  • Look up the contact in LinkedIn.
  • Google the contact’s name in relation to the company.
  • Look at any social media accounts the contact uses (often listed in LinkedIn)
  • View the company’s website.

What you find could surprise you.

I did this recently during a client project and discovered a few things:

  • A number of people had changed roles or employers rendering them useless for the program we were implementing—or any program for that matter.
  • Real-life titles and job descriptions were often quite different than what the drop down fields allowed them to choose — for example if the choices include engineer or product development but the contact is actually a project manager, whichever field he chooses will mislabel him to some degree. Depending on the program, this type of distinction can make the difference between your content being relevant or ignored.
  • Company websites that indicated that although they looked good on the surface, based on their website content, they will never become our buyer. This type of thing can be caused by a 3rd party expertise report the contact may have opted in to get, regardless of what you sell.
  • Industry classifications that were not optimal because the umbrella category was selected, but not the sub-category that enables relevance. Think about the idea that you may sell a product into Financial Services (umbrella category) but it’s aimed at regional bank (sub-category) line of business managers. If you were to execute the program by segmenting based on Financial Services and a specific title, how many of the contacts on your list would not find the content relevant? Credit card companies, investment services, national banks and others come to mind.

I’m not saying that database nirvana is a must-have, but I am saying that I’m seeing the need for companies to reconsider the fields they put on forms based on the goals they have for their marketing programs. Many of our forms were created prior to persona creation or segmented marketing program development. Perhaps your database is due for a review with the aim of creating better segmentation with what exists today as well as for future opt ins.

And don’t just think about registration forms. Also consider how what you learn might change the way you think about progressive profiling.

Consider it this way. If you launch a lead nurturing program to a segment of 2,000 leads and only 500 of them may find the content relevant, what are the chances that the program will be considered successful, even when based on the best possible metrics? Fifty clicks is either 2.5% or 10%. Which is a truer gauge of effectiveness? And, which would you rather report to your executive team? Just saying.

Sometimes we need to back up and do our homework first. If we want marketing to be accountable for producing results, we’ve got to aim for precision — or as close as we can reasonably get.

What does your database tell you?