One of the biggest hurdles to launching an inbound strategy for most companies is the existing database of leads. Many of the leads have been accumulated over the years and remained uncontacted except for the occasional sales email, enewsletter blast or tradeshow invite. With a database like that, it’s no wonder marketers who plan to make an investment in marketing software want to make sure they have the right list before they launch.
But saying you need to clean your database before you go inbound is like saying you need to organize your personal contact list before sending messages. It’s not a best practice; it’s a stall tactic. With the right inbound marketing strategy, some contacts will immediately engage with your brand. Other contacts will re-engage over time. Still others will never take action on your inbound marketing activity. This is true for a clean database or a messy one.
The difference between launching with inbound now and waiting until you’re confident your database is in the right place for it is simple: The former will acquire new better leads more quickly while the later makes you work with the same old bad leads you’ve always had.
We recently started working with a client who, over the years, gained leads through tradeshows and purchased lists. This particular client acknowledged their database wasn’t up to snuff when it comes to having the right contacts and the right information about those contacts. They had even worked with a marketing automation platform in the past that didn’t do anything to improve their list because it was simply used for drip sales emails.
Rather than delay the launch of a full-scale inbound marketing program, this client asked us to help them implement a content marketing, demand generation and automation program that would move the needle immediately. With more than 13,000 contacts, little confidence in the quality of the data and incomplete intelligence, the five-month-old program has whittled down its list of inactive contacts to just over 5,000, while gaining more intelligence on the reactivated leads and generating more than 650 new leads.
How did they do it? The simple answer is they didn’t wait to make sure their database was in the right order before sending that first educational guide to their list. And they followed that first guide with additional educational offers that asked new questions on forms through progressive profiling. At the same time, they promoted their educational offers through blog posts, social media updates and social advertising platforms in order to gain new leads. They went all in for inbound without hesitating—and it paid off.
One of the biggest benefits of this client’s launch into inbound is that, by asking the right questions on landing page forms for educational offers, they were able to update their database with the latest information on many of their existing contacts. Some people changed companies. Others changed titles. Still others were replaced by new people who became leads.
More importantly, these contacts that either converted or simply engaged had their activity recorded. This meant we could begin the process of scoring the existing leads to determine if they were actually the contacts the client's sales team should get in touch with. Visiting the pricing page or downloading a case study indicated the contact was moving closer to being a sales-ready lead. Plus, new information provided by contacts as they filled out additional forms could help shape sales conversations once the lead initiated sales contact.
Sifting through their database to ensure existing data integrity or verifying contact information would have only slowed down these quick but important wins from inbound marketing.
If you’re still not confident with your list or simply want to ensure email deliverability before you start sending email blasts to contacts in your database, there is one some simple cleaning solution that does make sense before you launch into inbound: Email validation. (Full disclosure: Our agency does work with a client that provides email validation services.)
Having your list validated prior to sending that first email from your marketing software can save you from receiving a scary notice from your ESP that your bounce rate is too high. Since the process usually only takes a few business days at most, it can also quickly help you gain internal buy-in when you let others know you’ve done some cleanup work before that first email goes out.
Most database issues will be solved overtime through frequent communication with your contacts through various inbound marketing activities. So if you’re concerned about your database, the best thing you can do is start inbound marketing—the longer you wait the more stale that old database will become.