Posts Tagged ‘Lead Generation’

Lead Scoring: How It Fits in with Marketing Automation

Your marketing efforts live or die on the quality of your leads. Automated lead scoring capabilities can help figure out who is a potential purchaser for your products or services, and substantially improve the efficiency of your marketing efforts. But the term sometimes confuses people, because there is more than one kind of lead scoring. Let’s examine some of the differences.

Lead scoring versus lead scoring

If you use a marketing automation platform (MAP), it is likely to have some kind of lead scoring capabilities. Contact data quality providers, such as ourselves, also offer lead scoring – in our case, in the form of our DOTS Lead Validation and DOTS Lead Validation – International products. Similar terms, but each kind of lead scoring has a totally different meaning.

Marketing automation platforms often score leads by examining criteria such as demographics, purchase history, or so-called BANT (budget, authority, need and timeline) data: Marketo, for example, publishes a useful cheat sheet regarding lead scoring strategies. These scores may involve capturing data such as location, visiting your website, downloading a white paper, past purchases, and more.

Our lead scoring is different. We filter out potentially bad leads from your contact data, before you spend time and effort marketing to them. This is because we approach lead scoring from a data quality perspective, as opposed to predicting purchasing behavior. Here are examples of some of the bad actors we can help catch:

  • Someone who signed up for your mailing list with a name of “Donald Duck” and a bogus address, so they could get a free marketing goodie
  • A contact whose mailing address is in Tennessee, but whose IP address is in Tajikistan
  • Leads that came from an automated bot designed to scrape information from your site
  • Contact data that has gone out of date or is incomplete

So which kind of lead scoring should you use? The right answer is usually BOTH: make sure you have a database of genuine, accurate and up-to-date contacts first, and then analyze their potential value as prospects. This helps ensure you are working with clean data from people who are most ready to buy.

How we score leads

Both of our lead validation products analyze over 130 data points with your contact data, returning an overall validation score between 0 and 100. The six primary components we analyze include name, address, phone number, email address, IP address, and business data. Our Director of Engineering has written two recent blog articles taking a deeper dive into how we validate and score lead data, including this article on basic capabilities, and this article on advanced features.

A key feature for both products is the ability to set specific test types, which allow you to customize your analysis for specific use cases. This feature lets you customize which criteria are put to use in processing your contact data, such as favoring business or residential criteria, or not penalizing some data for being incomplete. For complex or custom use cases, we also offer the ability to create custom test cases employing your own business logic.

Building an integrated lead scoring strategy

Service Objects’ lead validation capabilities are designed to ensure the quality of your leads at the point of entry, using a simple numerical score that can be customized to suit your specific needs. These capabilities can be integrated directly into popular marketing automation platforms including Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot and others using real-time API interfaces.

Want to learn more? Download our free white paper Marketing with Bad Contact Data: A Recipe for Disaster, or contact our friendly product experts to discuss your own specific needs. We’re here to help put more power and efficiency into your marketing efforts and create more ROI for your lead data.

Lead concept with people and gear icons on a blue background

Why Should a Business Validate Leads?

Your business is measuring how many leads you generate with your marketing efforts. You’re even scoring your leads’ likelihood to buy with a marketing automation tool or CRM. But can your marketing and sales tools tell you if your contacts are legitimate prospects? Lead validation fills the gap between marketing automation and sales efforts, creating more visibility in marketing and more efficiencies in sales.

Validating leads can help any B2B or B2C business improve their marketing and sales tactics, but it can be especially transformational for international companies. While all businesses face the issues of incomplete, incorrect, or spam form submissions, there are unique challenges to doing business in the global market. Differences in country address formats and language characters can muddy your data. What’s more, automated validation can provide a solution to international compliance issues.

What is lead validation?

According to Michael Brenner, the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, lead validation is critical to your marketing – without it, you run the risk of grossly overestimating the ROI of your marketing campaigns. We agree wholeheartedly.

Lead validation is the process of verifying and scoring the quality of the leads you generate. It’s risky to assume that each phone call to your sales team or form completion on your website indicates a strong lead. According to a recent study by marketing services firm Straight North, analyzing over 350,000 marketing inquiries, barely half of them were legitimate sales leads. Manually sorting through past inquiries could be considered a form of lead validation, but in practice it’s inefficient. Moreover, you may not recognize typos or spam entries by sight alone.

By implementing a lead validation service, you can use automation to cross-check new lead information and push your most promising leads to the top of your sales team’s to-do list. Our DOTS Lead Validation – International service supports more than 250 countries with the most accurate, current data available and integrates with leading CRM and marketing tools like Salesforce, Marketo, and Hubspot.

How does lead validation work?

Simply put, the contact input you collect from your leads is verified as real, then compared to existing data sources to correct and append the information where needed.

How does our Lead Validation – International service work? It verifies and cross-validates contact data, including a prospect’s name, address, phone, email, and IP address against hundreds of authoritative data sources. Following verification and correction, it provides an overall quality score of 0-100 for the lead itself, and a specific quality score to each data point. Your business logic determines the parameters of how the output works with your processes. Our notes even indicate if a contact is covered by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so you can be sure you’re in compliance.

Why is lead validation important?

Almost every department in your organization benefits from lead validation. Here are just a few of the ways that lead validation can directly strengthen your business practices:

  • Marketing – Gain a better understanding of effective (and ineffective) marketing practices, pivot campaigns quickly, and create powerful and personal marketing automation. Scores can be connected to campaigns for a more accurate lead gen reporting.
  • Sales – Spend more time and energy focusing on leads that score the highest, gain insights to leverage during sales calls, and deploy effective sales drip automation.
  • Business Development – Collect clean, accurate data to make projections and plan growth.
  • Compliance – Adhere to regulatory guidelines, such as GDPR.

Lead Validation – International can be deployed in four ways

  • Real-time API – Check and score data at the point of entry.
  • Cloud Connectors – Connect with major marketing, sales, and ecommerce platforms.
  • List Processing – Batch services are available to clean up existing databases.
  • Quick Lookups – Spot-check leads that come in through nontraditional channels.

The bottom line: validating your leads ensures your contact records are as genuine, accurate, and up-to-date as possible, and helps your team identify contacts that fall under data privacy regulations. If your business is spending time and money on global marketing and sales efforts, lead validation should be the next tool you add to your toolkit. Get your free API trial key and see how Lead Validation – International provides powerful insights to help your business grow.

Professional woman checks time on her wrist watch while talking on the phone

Thoughts on Daylight Saving Time and Its Effects on Business

What time is it? The answer isn’t always a simple one – particularly in states like Arizona and Hawaii that do not observe daylight saving time (DST). And this can be important for your business: nobody wants to reach out to a client at 8 am, only to find out it is 7 am their local time and they aren’t in yet.

Here in California, the topic of daylight saving time has been a point of contention recently. With the passage of Proposition 7 in November, our legislature now has the ability to either change the dates and times of DST, or even establish permanent year-round DST should the Federal government allow it in the future.

As a developer, this kicked off a series of questions about the history of DST, how changes to local observations of time would affect programmed systems, and the nightmare of non-unified time standards. I don’t work directly with highly time-critical applications such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), network television, or transportation systems. However, time that matches country, state, and local rules and regulations is important to me. Many of the tools I use leverage location-based clocks: for instance, servers or databases often create timestamps based on the machine’s current time.

Imagine a simple scenario where you have a computer in California and one in New York. Their clocks will of course read differently, because New York is in a different time zone that is 3 hours ahead. Simple enough, but what would happen if DST were observed differently across different localities? Would that mean that, when DST is in effect, New York is only 2 hours ahead of California? What if different states chose different dates to start or end DST? What if they ignored it entirely? What about my poor servers in different states and the timestamps that they are generating? What does it mean for the parts of the United States that don’t currently observe DST?

You probably see where the questions are leading: how do we build tools on top of systems in different localities, and what if I want to build in timing related elements into my own software? Overcoming these challenges can be better addressed by first looking at a brief history of DST, and the regulations put in place to help solve this nonuniformity.

What is Daylight Saving Time? – a brief history

Daylight saving time has been observed in both the US and various European countries since the World War I. It was enacted to cut down on energy consumption. In 1918 the U.S. adopted this policy, but it only lasted through the end of the war. At the time the observation of DST was unpopular, likely due to earlier waking hours, and was repealed a year later.

DST was adopted again in the US during the second world war under the name of “War Time”. At the time there was no federal law dictating whether a state had to observe DST or not. This lack of regulation resulted in inconsistent observations of DST.

Finally, in 1966 Congress decided to try and fix the inconsistent observation issue by enacting the Uniform Time Act. It was not the be-all-end-all solution to the problem, but it was a step in the right direction to get most states to follow the same regulations.

How does Daylight Saving Time affect computers?

The modern approach to solving time-related issues is for computers to set their system time based on a well-established time server. This time server has the difficult task of maintaining the correct time by factoring in any regional differences in policies such as DST. Chances are your home computer came preconfigured to reach out to one of these time servers using the Network Time Protocol (NTP). This protocol helps to keep your machine’s time in sync.

The same protocol can be used on databases, web servers, or other systems to keep up to date. These servers remove the burden from the end user by automatically updating the time based on your regional time standards. This is why there is no more dialing the clock on your computer an hour forward on that Sunday in March.

This network of time servers is also the answer to my worry about maintaining the proper time despite the differences and changes in local time related policies. California can be free to vote on keeping or removing DST, and I can rest assured there are measures in place to properly handle the changes.

How knowledge of Daylight Saving Time helps businesses

Spurred on by the vote in California and the differing opinions on DST, I decided to take a deeper dive into how local regulations can affect my line of work. It became readily apparent that scheduling tasks would need to have knowledge of DST as well as time zones. With these two items in hand I could write a scheduling application to smartly notify the recipients of meeting requests based on their local time. They would get a meeting request based on their local time, instead of having to add or subtract hours based on the difference in their time zones.

To get started I would need to determine the offset from Greenwich Mean Time + 0 (GMT +0), now more commonly known as Universal Coordinated Time + 0 (UTC +0). The time zone offset of the recipient’s location in conjunction with a daylight savings indicator would allow my application to be built. Both a DST flag indicating if an address observes daylight savings time and a time zone digit are returned by several Service Objects services. DOTS Address Geocode – Canada, DOTS Address Geocode – US, and DOTS Address Insight could all be leveraged for their DST flag and time zone.

My application is just the tip of the iceberg. The DST flag in conjunction with time zone information can be leveraged to make better business decisions. These fields could be combined into applications that help facilitate smarter contact with your prospective clients. Knowing your client’s location allows you to determine an ideal time to reach out to them. In a similar vein, if you know your target’s ideal emailing hour, you can use their location to dictate when to send out your targeted marketing campaigns.

Sales calls, meeting coordination, and targeted email campaigns are just a few of the ways you can use the fields from Service Objects services to improve your business efficiency. Contact us to learn more ways you can leverage our services.

Comparing Lead Validation – International Components

As with many of our services, DOTS Lead Validation – International fits in our main company objective to reduce fraud, increase conversions, and enhance incoming leads, Web orders, and customer lists. One of the main purposes of this service is to allow organizations to prioritize leads based on their quality.

This service returns an overall quality value and an overall certainty score that examines all of a lead’s component inputs – such as business name, name, email, address, phone number, and IP address – and evaluates them as a whole. The certainty score is a value in the range of 0-100 that represents the overall certainty the service provided on this lead, while the overall quality value indicates whether a lead should be rejected, reviewed or accepted. Each component has several outputs that paint a picture of the component result, including each individual component’s certainty and quality.

Which brings us to the purpose for this blog: explaining the differences between the component results of Lead Validation – International and the component services themselves.

Lead Validation – International leverages other services we offer to help it make and determine a score, because there is often confusion between these two different sets of results.

Email Validation 3 versus the EV component

What Email Validation 3 does

DOTS Email Validation 3, which is used by Lead Validation – International, follows a series of steps to determine the validity and meta data about an email address. It dives deep into the input email, with high level steps that include email correction, syntax check, DNS check, SMTP check and integrity checks. Data points returned include flags to show if the mail server is operational, will accept mail for the specific box, or will accept mail to any box in that domain. Other data points include an estimate on the validity of the mailing address, warning codes with flags indicating a bogus, garbage, spam trap, disposable, known spammer or vulgar email, and many other data points.

How Lead Validation – International is different

The key difference why one service is not a replacement for the other is because Email Validation 3 only has the email to validate against. Everything Email Validation 3 finds can be determined based on the email itself. Lead Validation – International has many fields that can help make other determinations that work in concert with the email data points. For example, Lead Validation – International asks itself how the email stands up against a name input, the name of the person on the phone contact, or even the name of the company involved in the lookup. In other words, the email is evaluated and the data is returned based on how the email results stack up against the entire lead as a whole.

Lead Validation – International could steer a user down the wrong path if they are trying to use the results to determine whether they should send mail to a given email address. Lead Validation – International gives some basic indications, but it does not reveal everything that would be helpful for validation geared towards an email campaign, because it doesn’t need to – Lead Validation – International is for validating leads as a whole and not just its parts. The evaluation of the component parts does not happen in a silo.

Address Validation versus the AV component

What Address Validation – International does

What DOTS Address Validation – International does, in a nutshell, is validate international address. (I know, it’s strange, you were likely thinking it measured gravitational waves…) But seriously and more specifically, I pulled this from our developer guides since it sums it up so well, “Address Validation – International is designed to take an international address, validate it and return a standardized international version of the address. Depending on the information available for a given address, Address Validation – International can return additional information about a given address. For example, it can return Delivery Point Validation (DPV) information for US addresses”.

What Address Validation 3 does

DOTS Address Validation – US 3 is our US address validation product. The input to the service is typically a non-standardized address, and what is returned is a standardized, deliverable (where possible) address that is validated against the latest USPS data. It also returns a DPV score that lets the user know the degrees of validation of what was determined by the service: for example, a DPV score of 1 indicates a valid mailing address was returned, and a DPV score of 2 shows that the address was not found in the USPS database of valid mailing addresses. Further, a DPV score of 3 and 4 typically indicates that portions of the address were valid but with a critical piece missing for making mail delivery flawless.

There are a lot of details returned with this service, such as features that help save on shipping costs or allow for processing the fragments of an address when companies have limited space on labels, and much, much more. The service returns a lot of codes that can help you understand the changes that were made to an address during the validation as well as error codes to tell you what went wrong.

What Address Validation – Canada 2 does

DOTS Address Validation – Canada 2 is the Canadian counterpart to Address Validation 3. The goal of the service is very similar to the goal of Address Validation 3, but due to the nature of available Canadian data it does not have all of the same type of fields. For instance, it does not have DPV scores. If this service does not return an error then you are looking at a valid address. But like Address Validation 3, it does have correction codes to guide you through the changes that were made. Since Canada is bilingual Address Validation – Canada 2 allows for French and English validations based on a Language input flag.

How Lead Validation – International is different

The magnitude of the differences here is not so large when it comes to the address component. Just like EV3 and the other components, Lead Validation – International benefits by evaluating the address with other data points outside the address component values. A perfect address in Address Validation – International may not have an address certainty score of 100 in Lead Validation – International, however, because some of the other components may have not been a good match for the address. In general there may be good reasons to penalize an address or good reasons to increase its score, based on the other components. Again, the address component in Lead Validation – International is not a strict address validation.

Name Validation 2 versus the NV component

What Name Validation 2 does

Users can use DOTS Name Validation 2 to validate names, verify name accuracy, fix unordered names and return gender information, among other details. In essence it gives you insight into a name, even providing similar names to the name in question, as well as outputs such as name origin, vulgarity, celebrity, bogus and garbage name scores. These are just a few of the main results from the service.

How Lead Validation – International is different

So what is different? Most of the things mentioned in the Name Validation 2 service can be found in Lead Validation – International, however only to varying degrees. For instance, the Name Validation 2 outputs for vulgarity, celebrity, bogus, and garbage are scores, while in Lead Validation – International they are flags, which means that the Name Validation 2 product will return greater resolution when it comes to these kinds of result fields. Lead Validation – International will have less detail on the name component, but it is not designed as a name validation service, so even in this situation this component is again evaluated in context of the lead and not the name alone.

Summary

We intentionally did not go through all the components in Lead Validation – International, because the examples above all make our main point: the underlying services work in a silo, and Lead Validation – International does not. Component results from Lead Validation – International are tightly associated with each other to help people make decisions on the whole lead, rather than just the individual components of a lead.

The decision between using one or more component services versus Lead Validation – International is tightly tied to your project requirements. For example, you might use Lead Validation – International if you have a couple or more components that you want to make larger decisions upon and don’t have a heavy requirement for the underlying component to lead the way. Conversely, if you are doing email marketing and don’t have much need for the other components then Email Validation 3 is better suited, because you’ll have access to better email data points. The same can be said for the other components.

Of course, the best way to determine which combination of services is best for your project is to talk about it. Reach out to us and we’ll go over, in detail, the advantages and disadvantages in each scenario. We are always available to help you make the best decision and make your project a success.