Author Archive

Thoughts on this Independence Day

If you live in the United States, you probably think that Independence Day is synonymous with the fourth of July. In reality, Independence Day holidays are celebrated around the world, commemorating freedom under a variety of dates and names. Whether it is our neighbor to the north’s Canada Day (July 1), Singapore’s National Day (August 9), Brazil’s Dia da Independência (September 7), or a host of similar holidays, much of the globe marks and cherishes the birth of their nation’s own self-determination.

Declaring our independence – from waste

At Service Objects, our own Independence Day dates back to 2001. That was the year our founder Geoff Grow – a mathematician and an environmentalist – looked at this nation’s flood of wasted and misdirected junk mail, along with its cost to the environment, and realized that he didn’t have to just sit back passively and accept it. This led to the beginnings of our flagship Address Validation service, a first step in helping clients deliver to valid addresses every time.

Of course, we have grown substantially since then: not just in a revenue sense, but in the breadth of products we offer. Nowadays our solutions encompass areas that include fraud prevention, regulatory compliance, marketing optimization and customer insight. But they all tie back to one core concept: automated tools for data quality. And in turn, a concern for the environment.

Nowadays we are proud of serving over 2,500 customers and processing over three billion transactions. But we are also proud of serving the environment as well as our great clients. You’ll see this in a company where most people ride bikes to work, recycling is a fact of life, and our products continue to reduce the waste stream in this country – on the order of over a million trees and nearly half a billion gallons of water saved. And to this day, we still plant ten trees for every new customer we serve.

Declaring your independence – from bad data

Naturally, we enjoy having the opportunity to serve you too. And this Independence Day, we invite you to look at some of the data quality problems you can break free from, including:

Whatever stands between you and leveraging the full power of your contact data assets, we probably have a solution for it, ranging from worldwide address validation to US tax rates. Whether it is a specific data quality problem, or a planned strategy for effective data hygiene, we have cost-effective solutions to make your life easier.

We also can set you free from implementation worries. Our services can be integrated directly with your CRM, marketing automation or other systems, using real-time API integration or cloud connectors. We can also provide convenient batch list processing for your databases, without the need for systems integration. And you can try out our products for free, with either real-time output right on our website and/or free API keys.

Whatever is holding your business back, we’re glad to help get your Independence Day party started – just contact us for a free consultation, with no sales pressure. (Just remember that we’re closed on July 4th! Except for our 24/7 support, of course.) We look forward to helping you declare your own independence from data quality problems.

Power Up Your Ecommerce

Some things are just better together. Like milk and cookies. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or, if you do online sales and marketing, ecommerce platforms and data validation services.

Integrating live, real-time validation services right into your ecommerce platform is easy to do, and gives you a whole host of benefits including promoting sales, preventing fraud and ensuring top-notch customer service and product delivery. This article explores a rich smorgasbord of benefits you can engineer into your own shopping cart platform – adding any of them will make your life easier:

Localize the online shopping experience

Even before a customer has a chance to look at your online store, you can curate its contents based on their location, using IP Address Validation to see where they are coming from. Detect their region or country and customize the language, currency and taxes for your online store to match. Or use their location to offer a ski sale for Colorado and surfboards for Hawaii. Geolocation can also be used to change your product mix to match local regulations and sensibilities. Another use we have seen is presenting customers with the appropriate terms of use and privacy policy based on their location, helping you maintain privacy compliance.

Keep online fraud at bay

Our IP Address Validation tool also lets you detect the location of a visitor to implement additional security rules for high risk countries, such as only allowing certain types of payment or restricting sales to high-fraud destinations. You can also compare the location of the IP address against the billing and shipping address, and flag discrepancies for further review.

Other tools to help reduce online fraud and chargebacks include:

  • Using BIN Validation to identify high risk cards like prepaid and gift cards, especially for multi-payment and membership products and services. This tool can also help you compare the issuing bank and country with the billing and shipping location.
  • Using Email Validation to flag questionable or fraudulent email addresses.
  • Using GeoPhone Plus to match the address for a customer’s phone number against their billing and shipping details.

Finally, our advanced Order Validation tool is a comprehensive and composite service for fraud monitoring, performing multi-function verifications including address validation, BIN validation, reverse phone lookup, email validation, and IP validation. Our proprietary algorithm performs over 200 tests and returns a 0-100 quality score on the overall validity and authenticity of the customer, flagged for pass, review or fail.

Get accurate sales tax information

For customers in the United States and Canada, our FastTax product can provide you with up-to-date sales tax rates, as well as identify the correct tax jurisdiction and boundaries based on location. In some jurisdictions tax rates even vary on different sides of the same street, and we can catch this!

Ensure deliverability

By checking addresses, you can ensure cost-saving delivery rates, avoid returned shipments, and ensure customer satisfaction by getting their order to the right place on time.

Our flagship Address Validation services for the United States, Canada and international addresses validate and correct addresses in real-time to ensure customers have entered a correct (and deliverable) address for the USPS, FedEx and UPS. Our US service is CASS certified and includes Delivery Point Validation (DPV) to verify an address is deliverable, Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI) to identify residential versus business addresses, and SuiteLink (SLK) to add secondary suite information for businesses.

For Canada, we can validate and correct addresses whether they are in English or French, with an output that meets Canada Post standards. For international addresses, we can instantly correct, standardize and append addresses for over 250 countries, adapted to each country’s postal formats and cultural idiosyncrasies. You can also use our address validation tools to create an address suggestion tool that includes validation.

Use the right delivery approach

Another use for US address verification is that it can identify general delivery address (i.e. PO boxes). Some sellers choose not to deliver to PO boxes, present different shipper options, or ask the buyer for a different address. Conversely, it can also detect incorporated areas versus unincorporated areas where the USPS will not deliver, allowing you to create logic that doesn’t present the USPS as a delivery option for these types of addresses.

In addition to improving deliverability, these verifications can also improve your bottom line by keeping more orders in your online shopping cart: a frequent customer complaint is being told that they cannot order from a site because USPS-only verification logic says their address is undeliverable. UPS and FedEx can normally deliver to most US doorsteps, and our capabilities can help you close these sales as well.

Ensure accurate email addresses

Our Email Validation service helps make sure that you capture the correct email address at the time of entry, ensuring that all future communications reach the customer. It catches common typographical errors (like gmial.com instead of gmail.com) as well as bogus email addresses. And when accounts are created using the customer’s email address as the primary key or account id, this tool helps ensure that you can catch mistakes while they are still easy to correct.

Improve your customer service and marketing

The benefits of integrated data validation don’t stop when an order goes out the door. Regular validation and cleaning of your contact data, for customers and prospects, will streamline your future marketing efforts – not to mention helping you comply with consumer protection and privacy regulations. And our customer insight and demographics tools can help you leverage this contact data as a valuable asset for serving your customer base even better.

For each of these capabilities, it is easy to integrate our services into almost any ecommerce platform. Most of these systems offer a plugin, RESTful API, or exposed interface to integrate with our services, including cloud connectors and web hooks, and any application that can call a web service can obtain output from our services in either XML or JSON formats. And we recognize that not all shopping carts are built alike, with needs varying from mom-and-pop online stores to full-scale enterprise level platforms, so take advantage of our extensive documentation and support to get you going.

Of course, our tools also stand alone, with convenient batch processing options for cleaning up legacy data in list form as well as quick lookup capabilities. But if you have an automated solution for your ecommerce capabilities, our services can power up the accuracy, quality and productivity of your marketing and sales efforts. Learn more on our website, or contact us anytime to learn more!

Do we support your ecommerce system? Yes we do!

Here is a list of many of the popular ecommerce systems that we interface with. (It would probably be much easier to list the ones we don’t support.)

2Checkout (formerly Avangate)LemonStandSpark Pay
3D CartMagento (recently acquired by Adobe)Squarespace
Big CartelMicrosoft Commerce ServerSuiteCommerce
Big CommmerceMivaSymphony Commerce
CloudCrazeOpenCartSystum
CommerceHubOracle Commerce CloudVolusion
DemandwareosCommerceVTEX
Drupal CommercePaddleWebSphere Commerce (WCS) (IBM)
EcwidPretashopWeebly
FastSpringSalesforce Commerce CloudWix
InfusionSoftSAP Hybris CommerceWooCommerce (WordPress plugin)
KiboShopifyX-Cart

And new interfaces are coming online all the time, so if you don’t see yours on the list, talk to us!

 

 

Knowing your customers' contact data and geographic location is the first step in being compliant with international data protection laws

New Country Detective Service Helps Improve Accuracy and Compliance

Knowing the geographical location of contact data records is crucial for compliance with the over 100 different Data Protection laws currently in force around the globe. While Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect May 25, 2018, many other international Data Protection rules and regulations already govern the collection, management and use of customer data, including Canada’s PIPEDA, Australia’s NDB, and Japan’s APPI. Meanwhile, in the US, both California and New York have already passed data protection laws, with more states likely to enact their own rules in the near future. Unfortunately, the consequences of noncompliance are significant, including costly fines and other penalties.

To help achieve compliance, Service Objects recently released Country Detective, a new service which enables businesses to correct or append country of origin information to existing contact records. Companies can try out the service by requesting a free Global Data Assessment. With more accurate information on the geographic location of clients and prospects, companies can adapt their processes and protocols to satisfy current and future Data Privacy laws.

Knowing the Location of Customers and Prospects is Key to Compliance

Because these regulations vary across different industries and regions, knowing the geographical location of contact records in a database is the first step to compliance.  Many organizations maintain large databases full of incomplete contact records. Without a solid understanding of where customers and prospects are located, businesses risk running afoul of global Data Protection laws.

Contact data is also constantly changing, making accuracy particularly challenging. For example, Convince & Convert reports up to 34% of Americans will create a new address within the next year. According to USPS, mail determined to be “undeliverable as addressed” costs the Postal Service about $1.5 billion per year.

US businesses already lose more than $3.1 trillion every year due to bad contact data, and the newest slate of global data protection laws will only add another layer of expense. That’s why it remains critical that companies maintain up-to-date contact records.

“Contact information ages incredibly fast, and it remains critical that organizations take a proactive approach to data management,” says Geoff Grow, CEO, Service Objects.

Contact Data Quality is Key to Reducing Liability

Service Objects’ Country Detective service is designed to help businesses comply with Data Protection laws around the globe. The service will append and correct the country in each contact record and evaluate other data points to deliver an overall quality score. The free Global Data assessment is intended as an introduction to Country Detective by allowing organizations to identify and, if necessary, correct the country information for their contact records. To get started, businesses can securely send a list of 500 contact records and results will be delivered within 1-2 business days.

“We know that many US organizations have a large percentage of customer records that are currently missing country data, which is the first step to achieve compliance with data protection laws,” says Grow. “Our Country Detective service will give businesses the information they need to determine which of their contact records have the greatest liability.”

 

Service Objects joins forces with One Tree Planted, pledging to plant ten trees for each new customer as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to corporate conservation.

Corporate Conservation: Our Pledge to Plant Ten Trees for Each New Customer

Just ahead of Earth Day and Arbor Day, Service Objects has joined forces with One Tree Planted, pledging to plant ten trees for each new customer as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to corporate conservation.

“For over a decade, Service Objects has been dedicated to reducing waste and encouraging conservation best practices,” said Geoff Grow, Founder and CEO of Service Objects. “In a month that includes Arbor Day and Earth Day, this partnership with One Tree Planted amplifies our commitment to sustainability and community engagement.”

Reforestation, Awareness and Corporate Sustainability    

Every two seconds, the world loses an area of forest the size of a football field. With 80% of the planet’s forests destroyed, the continued removal of trees without adequate reforestation adversely impacts all aspects of the earth’s environment, from biodiversity to carbon sequestration and climate change.

One Tree Planted, a Vermont based non-profit, was created by Matt Hill in 2014 with the goal of combining reforestation with education, awareness, and community engagement. By working with local reforestation partners in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, One Tree Planted selects tree species with the highest survival rates for each region.

One Million Trees 

Recently, the organization announced the Million Tree Challenge. By providing funding for micro-reforestation, the Million Tree Challenge will help plant 500-25,000 trees per project with the goal of improving watershed management and restoring habitats.

“We are calling out to all those big companies to get involved,” said One Tree Planted Founder Matt Hill. “If you are a Fortune 500 Company or even a small to mid-size business, then signup today and help commit to planting 2000 trees because together we can easily reach one million trees planted.”

By pledging to plant ten trees for each new customer, Service Objects joins the ranks of 500 participating companies, each of whom have promised to plant 2,000 trees to help with reforestation efforts in many regions throughout the US, including California, which was hit last year with a series of devastating wildfires. Though reforestation may take two years or more, the goal is to repopulate the affected areas with one million trees to help restore habitats and reestablish the region’s ecosystems.

“Two thousand dollars is not a major commitment for most companies,” said Hill. “We want to make it super simple for any company to get involved and make a positive impact.”

A Continued Commitment to Corporate Conservation

Each month, Service Objects prevents over 300 tons of paper from ever reaching a landfill through its Address Validation APIs. In March, the company reached a significant milestone by validating over 3 billion transactions. By helping companies around the world maintain accurate and up-to-date contact data for their customers, Service Objects has aided in the reduction of waste and fraud.

So far, the positive impact of the 3 billion transactions benchmark has resulted in the reduction of 6 million gallons of oil, decreased energy demand by 93 million kilowatt hours, and saved 205 thousand cubic yards of landfill space. In addition, by eliminating the need for 193 million pounds of paper and 670 million gallons of water, Service Objects has helped preserve over 1.6 million trees.

For Grow, the idea to start Service Objects was inspired by his desire to apply math and big data to the problem of reducing waste caused by the corporate world’s dependence on incorrect contact information. Through the years, the entire team at Service Objects has continued to follow Grow’s example, making corporate conservation a core value and a prominent part of company culture. From wind power and highly efficient virtualized servers to recycled office supplies and a bike-friendly ethos, Service Objects and its employees focus on embracing the paperless philosophy and treading lightly on the world around them.

“Since the beginning, Service Objects has been dedicated to reducing waste and encouraging conservation best practices,” says Grow. “Corporate conservation is deeply rooted in our company culture, and this partnership with One Tree Planted allows us to expand our efforts and strengthen our commitment to preserving our natural resources and helping the environment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of Data Quality in GDPR

If you do business with clients in the European Union, you have probably heard of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that takes effect in Spring 2018. This new EU regulation ushers in strict new requirements for safeguarding the security and privacy of personal data, along with requiring active opt-in permission and ease of changing this permission.

Most articles you read about GDPR nowadays focus on the risks on non-compliance, and penalties are indeed stiff: up to €20 million or 4 percent of annual turnover. However, we recently hosted a webinar at Service Objects with two experts on GDPR, and they had a refreshing perspective on the issue – in their view, regulators are in fact helping your business by fundamentally improving your relationship with your customers. As presenter Tom Redman put it, “Regulators are people (and customers) too!”

Dr. Redman, known as the Data Doc, is the author of three books on data quality as well as the founder of Data Quality Solution, and the former head of AT&T’s Data Quality Lab. He was joined on our webinar by Daragh O’Brien, founder and CEO of Castlebridge, an information strategy, governance, and privacy consultancy based in Ireland. Together they made a case that GDPR is, in a sense, a healthy evolution across Europe’s different cultures and legal systems, taking a lead role in how we interact with our customers.

As Daragh put it, “(What) we’re currently calling data are simply a representation of something that exists in the real world who is a living breathing person with feelings, with emotions, with rights, and with aspirations and hopes, and how we handle their data has an impact on all of those things.” And Tom painted a picture of a world where proactive data quality management becomes a corporate imperative, undertaken to benefit an organization rather than simply avoid the wrath of a regulator.

At Service Objects, we like Tom and Daragh’s worldview a great deal. For our entire 15-plus year history, we have always preached the value of engineering data quality into your business processes, to reap benefits that range from cost savings and customer satisfaction all the way to a stronger brand in the marketplace. And seen through the lens of recent developments such as GDPR, we are part of a world that is rapidly moving away from interruptive marketing and towards customer engagement.

We would like to help you be part of this revolution as well. (And, in the process, help ensure your compliance with GDPR for your European clients.) There are several ways we can help:

1) View the on-demand replay of this recent webinar, at the following link: https://www.serviceobjects.com/resources/videos-tutorials/gdpr-webinar

2) Download our free white paper on GDPR compliance: https://www.serviceobjects.com/resources/articles-whitepapers/general-data-protection-regulation

3) Finally, contact us for a free one-on-one GDPR data quality assessment: https://www.serviceobjects.com/contact-us

In a very real sense, we too are trying to create a more interactive relationship with our own clients based on service and customer engagement. This is why we offer a rich variety of information, resources and personal connections, rather than simply tooting our horn and bugging you to purchase something. This way we all benefit, and close to 2500 existing customers agree with us. We feel it is time to welcome the brave new customer-focused world being ushered in by regulations such as GDPR, and for us to help you become part of it.

A New Role: The Marketing Technologist

Once upon a time, life was simple. There was marketing, and there was IT. The former did creative work to drive the product creation and sales process, and the latter kept the computers, software and networks running. In large organizations, the former had a Chief Marketing Officer and the latter had a Chief Information Officer. And if the two departments talked, it was usually about things like software licenses or password resets.

Fast forward to 2017. Marketing is now a heavily data-driven field, where success involves things like marketing automation platforms, CRMs, big data analytics, social media analysis, content personalization, and data governance. Technology and automation software now play key strategic roles in the marketing process. Which leads to a new buzz phrase that is now here to stay in the industry: marketing technology.

Content management firm Docurated defines marketing technology as “tools and platforms used by sales and marketing organizations to effectively complete their duties.” These marketing/sales tools and platforms are becoming increasingly complicated to deploy and administer while new ones are being introduced at an exponential rate. To manage these technologies, many organizations now have a formal leadership role, embedded within the marketing organization, to oversee its use of technology: the marketing technologist. According to marketing blogger Scott Brinker, over 60% of firms have now restructured their marketing and/or IT departments to better leverage marketing technology, or plan to do so over the next 12 months.

According to McKinsey, marketing technologists are much more than IT people who have been moved to a new office: “They’re passionate about re-imagining what marketing can do in a digital world. They help nontechnical marketers craft better campaigns, programs, and customer experiences that effectively leverage software and data … They’re hybrids, who speak both marketing and IT, and naturally see the connections between them.” Whatever their formal title, they are part of a closer integration between IT and marketing, often reaching all the way up to the C-level suite.

It is important to know that the marketing technologist has emerged because of larger trends in the software industry. People didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to create this role – it evolved in response to the growth of inexpensive, scalable, cloud-based tools such as Salesforce and Marketo, as well as other trends leveraging big data and social media. In less than a decade, the automated marketing environment has gone from the province of expensive enterprise solutions to becoming a competitive necessity used by almost everyone.

One of the key roles of a marketing technologist is managing the data quality of an organization’s information assets – and where possible, creating automated processes to ensure this data quality. This dovetails with a broader portfolio of responsibilities integrating component technologies that form the basis for an organization’s marketing automation strategy.

At Service Objects, we help marketing technologists automate their data quality and leverage the maximum value from their data assets. We do this with tools ranging from our flagship address validation capabilities, which clean and validate your contact data against continually updated USPS, Canada Post and international address databases, all the way to lead validation and lead enhancement tools that make sure all your contacts work hard for you. And we make it easy to automate these capabilities, using either our enterprise-grade APIs or custom-built cloud connectors for the most popular CRMs and marketing automation platforms.

Are you a newly-minted marketing technologist? Talk with us and see how we can help build your success!

Email Marketing Tip: Dealing With Role Addresses

Do you have any friends named “info” or “customerservice”?

If you do, our sympathies, because their parents were probably way over-invested in their careers. But in all likelihood, you probably don’t. Which leads to a very important principle about your email marketing: you always need to make sure you are marketing to real people.

Email addresses like “info@mycompany.com” or “customerservice@bigorganization.com” are examples of what we call role addresses. They are not addressed to a person, but rather to a job function and generally include a number of people on the distribution list. They serve a valuable purpose, particularly in larger organizations – if you have a problem with Amazon.com, for example, you don’t want to wait for Cindy to get back from vacation first to respond to you.

You probably realize that role email addresses create the same problems as any other non-person in your marketing database: wasted human effort, lower response rates, bounces, and the like. However, there are several other important reasons to purge role addresses from your contact database:

Bounce Rate. Role emails are generally the responsibility of an email administrator.  These administrators are not always kept in the loop when individuals move onto other positions or leave the company.  This can result in a role email’s distribution list not being up-to-date and emails being sent to inactive email addresses.  These inactive addresses are usually set to automatically bounce emails, resulting in a higher bounce rate and poorer campaign performance.

Blacklisting. Spamming a role email address doesn’t just annoy people. As one article points out, it can trigger spam complaints and damage your sender reputation – in fact, role accounts are often used as spam traps by account holders. This can lead to your IP being blacklisted for the entire organization, cutting you off from leads or even existing customers far beyond the original email.

CAN-SPAM compliance. Permission to send email is fundamentally a contract with an individual, and marketing to a role email address risks having your materials go to people who did not opt-in or agree to your terms and conditions – putting you at risk for being in violation of the US CAN-SPAM act that governs email marketing.

New laws. In Europe, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect in 2018, severely restricting unsolicited email marketing. While it is not always clear that you are mailing to Europe (for example, many people do not realize that household names like Bayer and Unilever are based there), you are still bound by their laws and potentially stiff penalties. Eliminating role accounts from your contact database is an important part of mitigating this exposure.

Exponential risk. When it comes to risk, role addresses are the gift that keeps on giving. One of these addresses may go to 10 different people or more – and only one of them needs to complain to get you in trouble. Moreover, you can easily get multiple complaints for the price of one errant message.

Customer reputation. When someone signs up for your contact list using a role address, it is a form of “friendly fraud” that absolves them from personally receiving your emails – much like the person who signs up as “Donald Duck” to receive a free marketing goodie. But when other people start receiving your materials without their permission as a result, it is not a good way to start a customer relationship.

Thankfully, avoiding role-based addresses is relatively easy. In fact, many large email marketing providers won’t import these address in the first place. Or if you manage your contact database from within your own applications environment, we can help. Our email validation capabilities flag role-based addresses in your database like sales, admin, support, webmaster, billing, and much more. In addition, we perform over 50 verification tests, clean up common spelling and syntax errors, and return a quantitative quality score that helps you accept or reject addresses at the point of import.

So, with pun fully intended, your role in data quality is to ensure that your online marketing only goes to live, real people who welcome your message. Our role is to automate this process to make it as frictionless as possible. Together, we can keep your email contact data ready to roll!

Now or Later? When to Clean Your Marketo Database

If you were to make a list of the things people love to do, data cleanup would usually rank pretty low on the list. (Except for us here at Service Objects. We rather enjoy data cleanup. But then again, we’ve always been a little different.) This naturally leads to another question: should you clean up your contact data BEFORE you put it into Marketo, or LATER, before you actually use it in a campaign?

We have a three-part answer to this question: yes, yes, and automate the process.

Here’s why: there are irreplaceable benefits to each process. And when you properly automate it with the right tools, the process becomes frictionless and institutionalizes the ROI of these benefits. Let’s explore this in more detail.

Validating contact data such as names, email, physical addresses and phone numbers BEFORE loading them into Marketo has several advantages:

Saving money.  Your Marketo pricing tier is depending on the number of leads in your database. By cleaning this data on the front end, you can often delay or perhaps even avoid entirely the problem of moving to a higher tier and paying more for non-viable leads. And within your tier, fewer bad leads translates directly to less human intervention throughout the marketing cycle and more accurate analytics.

Garbage in, garbage out. Putting dirty data into your marketing database skews whatever metrics or analyses you might do beyond marketing campaigns, including the all-important conversion rate. And catching bad contact information in real-time lets you message the user at time of entry so they can correct it, preserving valuable leads and preventing possible customer service issues.

Detecting bogus names and fraudulent leads. What good is a database full of Donald Ducks and Ninja Turtles, who faked you out to get a free report? Tools such as name validation can programmatically catch and keep fraudulent contact information out of your lead database in the first place.

Lead preservation. Conversely, your bad contact data can be a hidden source of leads and revenue – if you use automated tools to correct bad addresses or append missing information such as contact phone numbers.

Finally, there is the broader question of lead quality. Marketo’s own lead scoring – based on tracking activities, behavior and demographics – is important but may not provide front-end protection from fraudulent or bad data. Contact-level lead validation adds a quantitative value for lead quality, based on over 200 criteria, that lets you decide to fast-track a lead, put them in your drip campaign to see how they respond, or even discard the lead.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Validating lead data LATER at regular intervals, particularly at the time you use it, has several advantages as well.

Coping with change. Over 70% of contact data will go bad in the course of just a year. Lead validation tools can check your existing leads and then correct, update, or remove them based on the results. This saves you money by only keeping and paying for viable leads, allowing you to better identify sources of high and low quality leads and providing more accurate reporting.

Taking care of your customers. By triggering emails or other contacts to customers who appear to have changed their addresses, using tools such as our national change-of-address (NCOA Live) capabilities, you provide better service and pro-actively avoid future service or delivery failures.

Making your IT department happy. Lead and contact validation tools from Service Objects are easily automated within Marketo using our Webhooks which can be found on Marketo’s LaunchPoint marketplace. In addition, we offer convenient offline batch processing for contact data files without a technical interface.

Of course, automated contact and lead validation are not the only forms of data cleanup that can help – this blog by Perkuto’s John Hill touches on other useful areas such as screening out competitors, inactive leads and people with unresponsive email addresses. With a clear process in place – and the right automation partner – it can be easy and inexpensive to optimize the value of your Marketo database at EVERY contact touch point.

Baseball and Data Quality: America’s National Pastimes

By the time October rolls around, the top Major League baseball teams in the country are locked in combat, in the playoffs and then the World Series. And as teams take the field and managers sit in the dugout, everyone has one thing on their mind.

Data.

Honestly, I am not just using a cheap sports analogy here. Many people don’t realize that before my current career in data quality, I was a young pitcher with a 90+ MPH fastball. I eventually made it as far as the Triple-A level of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. So I know a little bit about the game and how data plays into it. We really ARE thinking about data, almost every moment of the game.

One batter may have a history of struggling to hit a curve ball. Another has a good track record against left-handed pitching. Still another one tends to pull balls to the left when they are low in the strike zone. All of this has been captured as data. Have you noticed that position players shift their location for every new batter that comes to the plate? They are responding to data.

Long before there were even computers, baseball statisticians tracked everything about what happens in a game. Today, with real-time access to stats, and the ability to use data analytics tools against what is now a considerable pool of big data, baseball has become one of the world’s most data-driven sports. The game’s top managers are distinguished for what is on their laptops and tablets nowadays, every bit as much as for who is on their rosters.

And then there are the people watching the game who help pay for all of this – remember, baseball is fundamentally in the entertainment business. They are all about the data too.

A recent interview article with the CIO of the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs underscored how a successful baseball franchise leverages fan data at several levels: for example, tracking fan preferences for an optimal game experience, analyzing crowd flow to optimize the placement of concessions and restrooms, and preparing for a rush of merchandise orders in the wake of winning the World Series (although, as a lifelong Cubs fan, I realize that they’ve only had to do that once so far since 1908). For any major league team, every moment of the in-game experience – from how many hot dogs to prepare to the “walk up” music the organist plays when someone comes up to bat – is choreographed on the back of customer data.

Baseball has truly become a metaphor for how data has become one of the most valuable business assets for any organization – and for a competitive environment where data quality is now more important than ever. I couldn’t afford to pitch with bad data on opposing players, and you can’t afford to pursue bad marketing leads, ship products to wrong customer addresses, or accept fraudulent orders. Not if your competitors are paying closer attention to data quality than you are.

So, pun intended, here’s my pitch: look into the ROI of automating your own data quality, in areas such as marketing leads, contact data verification, fraud prevention, compliance, and more. Or better yet, leverage our demographic and contact enhancement databases for better and more profitable customer analytics. By engineering the best data quality tools right into your applications and processes, you can take your business results to a new level and knock it out of the park.