One of the first terms any computer science student learns is GIGO – an acronym for “Garbage in- Garbage out”. You see, computer software manipulates data – the “formula” that Fix Bad Marketing Datadefines how that data is manipulated is called an algorithm. GIGO is the term used to remind developers that the greatest algorithm in the world is useless if the data it is operating on is incorrect.

As a marketer, you’re in the same boat, though you may not realize it. You can have the prettiest spreadsheets. You can have the fanciest reports. But if they are working on incorrect data, they are worthless. No, they are worse that useless, because they can trick you into a course of action that is harmful.

Case in point: we have one customer where the marketing department was considering pulling out of a set of trade-shows because their existing campaign attribution methodology showed that they were not influencing deals. The sales organization kept insisting that the shows were worthwhile, but the numbers weren’t showing it. (Shameless plug once they adopted the Full Circle CRM Marketing Performance Management application, things looked very different).

While it was true that the trade shows were rarely the tipping point campaigns – the ones that directly drove the opportunities, they were a factor early on in a huge number of opportunities. Pulling out of the trade shows would have been a huge mistake.

In the Wizard of Oz, the great and glorious wizard begged Dorothy to ignore the man behind the curtain and focus on the fire breathing image before her. But that’s where she found the truth.

In marketing and software development, it’s never enough to look at the pretty output. You have to look behind the curtain. You have to look at the data. You have to know make sure that it is true and accurate, and that the algorithms you use are valid. Otherwise you’ll be analyzing garbage, and you’ll be basing your decisions on garbage as well.