Completeness Is the New Black

Are we collecting enough data? It seems like a weird question given the glut of it at most companies, and perhaps it is. Perhaps a better question is, are we collecting the right data? We could get into a long philosophical discussion of just what the right data is, but that would only happen if we made the mistake of thinking all data was the same.

True all data ultimately gets represented as 0s and 1s in the database, so at least at that level, all data is remarkably similar. But the comparison stops there. All protons are the same, too, but how many are associated in a nucleus (along with the companion neutrons) is the difference between lead and gold.

Of course the way through this dilemma is first to ask about the objective of the data collection. Most business leaders will tell you that data collection is a prerequisite of knowledge creation, and that knowledge is the objective because employees make business decisions based on knowledge and not data — or even information. This is especially true in marketing and sales.

Getting All the Way to Knowledge

Cultivating knowledge requires us to combine data with other data and information, ultimately resulting in the thing we need in business: actionable knowledge. To do that, it’s necessary to capture a wide diversity of data that includes the stuff that comes from our social media outposts, CRM and ERP systems. Too often, though, we stop there, only to discover it’s not enough.

Sufficiency comes from completeness and relevance, and these ideas should be explained. Knowledge has a context. If you want to develop sales knowledge, for example, your goal should be in developing leads, which is another way of saying knowledge about who has a business problem to be solved and the authority and budget to cause a solution to be created.

Some also would say that the person represented as a lead also should have cognition of the problem — but the counter to this is, that’s what sales people do.

Relevance means understanding all the things related to completeness — plus having a suitable solution. It does little good to know that someone has great credit and is approved for a car loan if you don’t sell cars.

So sales knowledge relates to all the data that we cultivate to gain knowledge plus completeness and relevance. However, the data and information that get you all the way to knowledge come from different sources, which brings me to the point: Are we collecting enough of the right data?

We collect a lot of our own data, of course, and we may supplement it from data providers in order to cleanse our collections, add new data profiles, and flesh out existing records. That’s only part of the story, though. It’s like having a very specialized and up-to-date version of the phone book. Filtering can tell us about attitudes, needs and other valuable things — but by itself, this data has missing pieces.

Getting all the way to knowledge requires different approaches from simply filtering the social stream or completing profiles. After all, buyers often don’t simply announce a desire to buy something. Instead they may do things like make pronouncements, issue press releases, or introduce reports.

Third parties also might supply information that, when married to conventional data, produces the knowledge that under the circumstances, a person or business will need to act in a certain way. These are the things that ultimately drive completeness and relevance.

So, a good question to ask about the whole lead-generation process in any company is this: How complete and relevant are the leads that marketing gives to sales? An even better question is, is that intentional?

Sales has a role to play in qualifying deals, especially when large sums or novel products and processes are involved. Frankly, marketing can only go so far in developing a lead. Too often, we treat all leads alike — as if they were protons or data.

Dabble in Different Data

A company’s attitude toward the need for completeness drives the process of lead generation, but gauging completeness is too often considered part of the sales process — and here’s the rub.

Why spend relatively expensive sales rep time getting to completeness if there are better, faster, and cheaper ways to do this? You might never be able to get every lead to 100 percent completeness and making that attempt might cost you some business.

Nonetheless, being conscious of completeness as a goal will alter some of your marketing processes and possibly even cut down the number of leads marketing hands to sales. So what? Better qualified leads are more worthy of your sales people’s time and resources; so a reduction in quantity, as long as it is accompanied by better quality, would be a good thing.

As always, the devil is in the details — how do you get there? My suggestion is to capture more data or at least some different data. There are wonderful tools on the market that spider the Web looking for the reports, press releases, and news stories, and that ferret out the information that provides the completeness we seek.

At least some of this data and information might need to be scored and fed through an analytics engine — so, once again, simply collecting this data won’t get you to Nirvana.

Yet we should all be aware that the bar is being raised for this next level of data collection, and we must understand the importance of completeness and relevance. It’s a competitive world, and getting to completeness before your competition might be the new black.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and website. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on Google+.

1 Comment

  • Great and insightful article. I couldn’t agree more that data that is gathered needs to be relevant to our audience in order to be truly valuable. I believe that every Sales and Marketing person should have their own unique data gathering process that includes social and news insights. These days every customer/company is so unique that using a ‘corporate’ assigned data system/strategy just isn’t enough.

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