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Thoughts on Data Quality and Contact Validation

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Posts Tagged ‘Lead Validation’

Is Your Shopping Cart Feeling Abandoned? Data Quality Can Help

Dating experts will tell you that people have more problems committing than ever before. And nowhere is this more evident than in your online shopping cart. According to Barriliance, a vendor of online shopping cart optimization tools, over three-quarters of people abandoned their carts in 2016, with specific figures ranging from 73% on desktops to over 85% on mobile phones.

Cart abandonment sounds like a term straight out of family therapy, but in reality it provides an important window on consumer behavior. Some factors for bailing out on a purchase may be unavoidable – for example, customers may window-shop on their phones to purchase something later, or become reluctant to purchase when they see high shipping charges or additional fees. But other factors are within your control, and these often revolve around data quality issues.

Here are some of the big ones:

Too much data entry. Your customer sees 20 ‘required’ fields to be completed to check out.  Instead, they abandon the cart due to too much ‘form friction’. For greater conversion, we want to reduce the amount of friction wherever possible to promote a fast and accurate checkout process. Autocomplete tools can help lessen the friction, and are generally considered accurate, as they are based on the individuals’ contact information. Whereas, address-suggestors should be used with caution, as they can present the user with multiple address matches close to their own.  This significantly increases the risk of the user accidentally selecting an incorrect but real address. This can also create increased confusion when credit card authorization fails due to mismatched address, further increasing cart abandonment. Regardless of the tool, Address validation should always take place after the customer uses autocomplete and/or address-suggestor, to reduce the risk that a wrong – but valid and deliverable – address gets used.

Computer literacy. Often your richest target markets struggle the most with ordering things online – and too often, throw up their hands if there are too many hardships to placing an order. This means that cart recovery often revolves around being able to reach out to a customer and help them complete the order.

By using phone validation and email validation tools, you can help ensure correct contact data is captured in the event that you need to call or email customers about incomplete orders, and hopefully convert some of these into completed ones. These contacts are generally very effective: for example, Business Insider cites figures from marketing automation firm Listrak showing that 40% of follow-up cart recovery emails are opened if sent within three hours.

Payment information. When people pay by credit card online, they are usually entering 16-20 digits, and typos and bad information can quickly kill valid orders. A Luhn check, a real-time, simple checksum formula designed to distinguish valid numbers from mistyped or otherwise incorrect numbers, can help ensure the credit card number entered at least meets the basic criteria.  You can also check the Bank identification number (BIN) to ensure correct credit card numbers, that have passed that Luhn algorithm, are legitimately issued by financial institutions even before trying to process the actual charge.  This provides the opportunity to engage the customer at the time of entry and allow for corrections.  As a bonus, BIN validation also helps screen out fraudulent payment information before you process the order and/or ship.

Keep It Simple. The design, layout and even language used for your cart make a difference too. Kissmetrics notes that buyers can be turned off by faux pas ranging from bad design, making people create an account, or the process is too complicated.  A simple, clean step-by-step guide can provide confidence for your shopper and increase your conversion rates as well.  When there is an error, do not overlook the power of strong and informative error messaging.  For example, if email validation returns a specific error, let the customer know the precise nature of the error and provide suggestions on how to fix it. A generic ‘error’ message is not enough.

Finally, there is one kind of cart that always should be left behind: people who are trying to place fraudulent orders. You can use bundled tools such as lead and order validation to perform real-time multi-point contact validation on US, Canadian and International leads, comparing data such as name, company, address, phone, email and device against hundreds of authoritative data sources. The results provide both an individual quality score for each data point and a composite quality score (0-100), to ensure that you are working with genuine and accurate leads.

Online order entry truly is a bit like dating. We can’t make everyone fall in love with us, or guarantee that they will make it all the way to the altar. But with the right kinds of tools, including building in data quality safeguards at the API level, we can boost our chances of success substantially. And that is something every online merchant can be in love with.

The Cost of Incomplete Leads to Your Business

If you are old enough to remember the disco era, one of its biggest hits was “Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn. (And if you’re younger, it’s been sampled over 100 times since.) Decades later, if you work in marketing, this tune should become your new theme song.

The lifeblood of any marketing operation is its lead generation efforts. And sadly, many of these leads aren’t real – according to industry figures, as much as 25% of your contact data is bad from the start, and from there 70% of it goes bad every year as jobs, roles and contact information changes. This ranges from fake or fraudulent contact data, often entered to gain access to lead generation bonuses, all the way to fat-fingered data entry.

Unfortunately, when your contacts aren’t real, the costs involved are very real:

Marketing costs: Direct mail costs can easily total $2-3 or more per piece mailed, while outbound telemarketing costs can top $35 to $60 per lead. In both cases, there is direct cost in both time and resources to working with bad contacts. Nearly any lead conversion strategy has a scalable cost per prospect, and bad or fake leads directly eat into these costs.

Wasted human effort: Take the labor costs, taxes and benefits you pay for the direct employees on your sales and marketing teams. Add in the costs of the overhead and infrastructure they require to do their jobs. Now multiply that by the percentage of time these people spend mitigating bad leads, and this total probably adds up to a very real and tangible cost, as well as impacting sales conversion rates.

Inefficiency: Ultimately, every business must deal with the problem of bad contact data. But the real question is when you deal with it. In many businesses, where data quality is no one’s responsibility, it gets fixed the hard way when prospects don’t answer and direct mail pieces bounce back. We describe it as the 1-10-100 rule, where it may cost a penny to catch bad contacts as they are captured, 10 cents to cleanse them after capture, and a dollar to work with uncorrected data. In addition, bogus leads can bog down your CRM or Marketing Automation platform, driving up costs and negatively impacting marketing campaigns.

Customer service reputation: Your all-important first impression on a potential customer pivots around responding to their requests – and if you fail to respond due to bad or misdirected contact information, the damage is often permanent. For example, if a customer enters their email incorrectly but are waiting to receive information from customer service, causing dissatisfaction and frustration.

The good news is that each of these costs can easily be controlled by automating the data quality process for your contact lead data, using tools that range from address verification to filtering out fraudulent names. For marketing operations, you can also use bundled lead validation capabilities that check over 130 data points to yield a lead quality score from 0 to 100, as well as lead enhancement that appends phone and contact information to your existing lead data.

The key to success in marketing, according to Forbes Magazine, is to know your customer. Data quality – making sure every contact record in your database is as genuine, accurate and up-to-date as it can possibly be – represents an important and cost-saving first step for this. Or as Cheryl Lynn would say, they’ve got to be real.

Lead Validation and Identifying Nonprofit Organizations

Service Objects, Inc. is fanatical about customer support, we love working with clients and prospects to build the kind of APIs that they want and need.  Some of our best ideas come from listening to our clients and prospects, discussing their problems and figuring out how we could help solve them.  Often, we do quite a bit of tailoring and will develop new features to help solve some of their challenging problems.  One of the recent additions to the Service Objects’ library is identifying nonprofit organizations, also known as not-for-profit, or Tax Exempt organizations within our DOTS Lead Validation service.

Why is it important to know if an organization is a nonprofit?

Nonprofits follow different rules than most organizations and a company’s interaction with a nonprofit may be completely different than it would be with a for-profit company. Knowing that you are engaging with a nonprofit beforehand allows you to be better prepared and make informed decisions moving forward.

As an example, we recently worked with one of our clients to enhance our Lead Validation service to identify non-profits in their prospect database.  This helps them determine the viability of the customer, their ability to transact large purchases, as well as the pricing they can offer.  In some cases, nonprofits may not need to pay sales tax on goods, which could be a factor in determining how much to charge them.  These are just a couple of examples of the value of knowing the type of organization you are working with.

What is a nonprofit and how do we identify them?

There are many types of nonprofits and most of us are familiar with the visible “public charities.” This is a narrow definition, as non-profits are generally defined as an organization that does not operate solely for gain and generally have special tax considerations.  With this broader definition, recognizing organizations can be tough.  They can be; human service organizations that help provide food, shelter and assistance in times of disaster, researching the next big cure, protecting the environment or animals, supporting civil rights groups, helping with international humanitarian needs, human rights or supporting various religious organizations.  The following graphic shows the distributions of current nonprofits:

Source: National Council of Nonprofits, What is a “Nonprofit”?, https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/what-is-a-nonprofit

For Service Objects, there are multiple ways we identify a company as a nonprofit, including by Tax number (EIN), address or location, business name and/or a combination of the above.  We continue to develop and improve this feature of our Lead Validation service and are happy to make it available to all of our customers.

At Service Objects, we are committed to meeting the needs of all our customers.  It is just a little more rewarding when we can contribute to doing good as well.

The Top 7 Skills of Successful Marketing Professionals

Good marketing is the bedrock of most business’ revenue pipelines; their number one job in many instances is to generate high quality leads through a variety of channels that can be converted into sales. Add to that the responsibility for creating, managing and communicating the entire organization’s brand, and the importance of marketing’s role becomes clear.

So what are some of the ingredients of a successful marketing professional? Here are some of the key traits of the very best ones:

Creativity. We put this first for a reason. More than anything, marketing creates “a-ha” moments by framing what businesses do in a new light. Where did Apple’s call to “think different,” Progressive Insurance’s Flo, or Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in the World come from? From the minds of people who thought far beyond MP3 players, insurance policies, or beer.

Communication. Marketing inherently tells a story. And whether that story involves quality, productivity, or success, good marketers place customers in the middle of a credible narrative that improves their lives. When you searched on Google, purchased a book or a dust mop on Amazon, or drove off in a new Tesla, you bought into a story that promised to tangibly make your life better.

Project Management. When you watch a football game or a musical performance, you are seeing a team executing specific roles under the direction of a good coach or bandleader. Marketing is also a thoughtfully composed performance, led by people who can get stakeholders like product developers, data analysts, sales managers and operations staff to all play in harmony.

Flexibility. Marketing is the polar opposite of the person who makes the same widget for 20 years. Markets change, opportunities develop, and competition never stops. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said that the best players don’t skate to where the puck is, but to where the puck is going – and in much the same way, good marketing professionals are always thinking three steps ahead.

Results. Professional comedians make their craft look easy on stage, but in reality, their acts are refined from months or years of experience about what works best with their audience. Likewise, good brands are fueled by information, market research, and outcomes evaluation.

Market savvy. Whether it is a manufacturer selling airplanes to airlines, or a hipster hoping their product video goes viral, every market has its culture and norms. Good marketing professionals “get” things like what strategies work with what market segments, what the size and potential of their market are, and what their competitive landscape looks like.

Data savvy. We saved the best for last. Marketers from a generation ago would never recognize how much data drives the revenue stream of today’s businesses. Smart marketers recognize that they need tools to help them make better decisions about the customers they serve. In addition, to maximize the value of lead data and be effective in communicating with customers and prospects, marketer’s need to have data quality tools in place to be sure their contact information in their database in genuine, accurate and up-to-date.

This is where we come in. Service Objects came into being nearly a generation ago – and nearly 3 billion contact records ago – to do something about the estimated 1 in 4 contact records that are inaccurate, incomplete, fraudulent, or out-of-date. Our proprietary tools, which combine up-to-date USPS, phone and demographic databases with sophisticated capabilities for lead validation and customer insight, add power (and revenue) to your marketing efforts. We can validate contact information, append missing information, and even score leads for quality, across a suite of products that plug in to your application or data processing. Visit www.serviceobjects.com for more information.

Why Data Quality is Key to the Sales and Marketing Relationship

History is full of famous “frenemies,” from opposing politicians to the latest Hollywood gossip – people who work closely together but get under each other’s skin. But in your workplace, one of the most common frenemy relationships is between sales and marketing.

On paper, of course, both teams drive the revenue side of their organization. Their functions are critical to each other, and they support each other’s efforts. But scratch the surface, and you’ll often find some built-in sources of conflict:

“Marketing doesn’t give us enough good leads.”

“Sales piddles around and then blames us for not closing the deal.”

“Marketing doesn’t listen to our needs.”

“Sales is always making unrealistic demands about lead quality.”

In reality, both teams are linked to a common shared goal, and often frustrate each other when these goals don’t happen as planned. And very often, the culprit is data quality.

The problem in most organizations is that data quality is nobody’s job. Marketing is focused on lead acquisition, and sales is focused on closing contracts. Making sure that contact data is accurate, names aren’t fraudulent, or leads are qualified all take time away from people’s daily workflow. And over time, more than 70% of this data becomes even more incorrect as changes happen. Unfortunately, the result is that bad data is accepted as part of the status quo – or worse, leads to fingerpointing.

The solution to this problem is obvious: automate the process of data quality. Thankfully, solutions exist nowadays for turning your raw contact data into a stronger revenue generation engine. Here are some of the capabilities you can build right into your contact intake and marketing process:

  • Lead Validation can verify contact addresses against real-time USPS and Canada Post databases, cross-validate these addresses with phone, email and IP address data, and then return a lead quality of 1-100 from an analysis of over 130 data points.
  • Phone Append can take your contact data and find corresponding phone numbers, using a proprietary database of over 800 million consumer, business and government phone number listings, with up to 75% accuracy.
  • GeoPhone capabilities can produce latitude and longitude data from your phone contact data for geographically-based marketing efforts – or even find corresponding mailing and SMS/MMS addresses, for over 400 million available phone numbers in North America.
  • For outbound telemarketing campaigns, Phone Exchange can verify the accuracy and type of your phone contact records. In addition to lead accuracy, this can help you discover numbers that have changed hands since your last campaign, particularly wireless numbers – and help keep you from running afoul of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), where fines for unwanted calls can run as high as $1500 per violation.

Capabilities like these yield an immediate ROI for the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts, which are fueled by the quality of your contact data. In addition, as prospects turn into customers, they can play a key role in preventing fraud and maintaining customer satisfaction.

This is a situation where a little technology can make a real difference in the dynamics of your sales and marketing teams. Here is an analogy: with real life “frenemies,” family therapists generally try to find solutions that help both sides feel like they are winning. Data quality tools are like family therapy for your sales and marketing team: they take their most common points of conflict and turn them into revenue-building solutions that everyone can be happy with.

Omnichannel Solutions and Data Quality

Just a few decades ago the concept of a “channel” didn’t exist, other than on your television. If a customer or prospect wanted to contact you, they called you or wrote you a letter. And if you wanted to contact them, you got out your Rolodex – or if you were a large enterprise, perhaps your batch mainframe computer, with disk drives the size of a washing machine.

Today, sales, marketing and customer support take place across multiple touch points that include point of sale, online orders, emails, social media inquiries – and even those same traditional phone calls and letters. Increasingly, this contact data is managed by integrated enterprise systems rather than separate vertical applications. Which also means that all of your sales and support channels often serve as pipelines to a common contact database.

Over the past five years, we have been in the midst of an omnichannel revolution in enterprise solutions. The reason is simple economics – particularly the growth of inexpensive, scalable, cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. Once upon a time, enterprise software seemingly required months of planning and a cast of thousands to implement. Today, even the smallest operation can license applications that integrate ALL of their customer touch points on an inexpensive per-seat basis.

The era of integrated, multi-channel applications also means that the impact of bad contact data is now greatly amplified. Here are some examples:

  • Many customer touch points are notorious for providing incomplete or incorrect contact information. This can range from the person who enters “Mickey Mouse” or a fake address to get free marketing incentives, all the way to customer support tickets with missing contact data.
  • An estimated 25% of marketing contact data is bad – and in an enterprise solutions environment, this bad data propagates across all of your sales and marketing activities, wasting time and resources.
  • Telephone numbers change constantly, and your next telemarketing campaign could find you inadvertently – and illegally – calling consumer cell phones in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), exposing you to potential fines of up to $1500 per violation.
  • Data entry mistakes in order processing can lead to lost shipments, wasted time and human intervention, and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Identity fraud cost businesses over $18 billion in losses in 2014, and much of it could be avoided by matching IP address locations to customer orders – so, for example, your system can red-flag a big-ticket domestic order originating from an overseas computer.

The solution to issues like these is to build data quality right in to your enterprise contact data, with a little help from Service Objects. Our tools can validate, append and update addresses using continually verified data from the USPS or Canada Post. We can geocode and analyze your order data for fraud verification, tax compliance and more. We can do real-time phone number verification to help you maintain TCPA compliance. More strategically, we can do lead scoring and enhancement to turn your contact data into a revenue-generating engine. Using API and batch processing interfaces, these tools and more provide a seamless way to put your contact data quality on autopilot.

The omnichannel era is here to stay – and in the process, contact data has become a strategic asset for companies of any size. We can help you leverage the power of this asset, by making sure this data is genuine, accurate, and up-to-date. And with the right partner, you can let data quality drive a tangible difference in revenue across all of your channels.

The Importance of Address Integrity

“We all know that direct marketing can be tough when at least 30 percent of all leads generated online are bogus. Here is the problem: marketing departments are incentivized to bring in as many leads as they can. However, it is nearly impossible to know which leads have potential just by looking at them.” – Geoff Grow, Founder and CEO, Service Objects

Service Objects’ Founder and CEO Geoff Grow understands better than most people the importance of having quality leads, increasing conversion rates and lifetime customer value, while avoiding fraud and waste. This is why Service Objects offers real-time API data quality solutions and cloud-based connectors for leading CRM and Marketing Automation providers. These solutions are designed to improve your marketing efforts through data quality excellence.

This video will show you how you can instantly identify, verify, and qualify lead information at the point of entry. You will learn about tools that verify and correct your contact information, score leads from 0-100 using proven audience and conversion models, validate addresses against geographic IP locations, and append neighborhood-level demographic information to your leads to increase their value.

My Bright Orange Swedish Pension

Our professions don’t exempt us from real life. Doctors get sick, contractors have leaky roofs – and people who work at Service Objects receive misaddressed mail, just like the rest of us. But one piece of junk mail that recently arrived at my house wasn’t just a mistake: it was a full-fledged tutorial on everything that can go wrong in a direct mail campaign.

For starters, it was a big orange envelope with a bold message on the front – in Swedish. Which I don’t speak. A quick visit to Google Translate revealed that by opening the envelope, I could discover how to see my entire Swedish pension online.

Alas, I don’t have a rich Swedish uncle who has left me a pension. However, the person who used to live in my house did speak Swedish. So this mailing might have been useful to her when she lived here. Unfortunately, that was over 12 years ago.

So now, let’s suppose that this was meant for her, and that she in fact would like to learn about her Swedish pension. The next problem was that her last name was incorrect. Or more accurately, it would have been correct had she not gotten married 18 years ago and taken her husband’s last name.

But that’s not all. The street address was incorrect as well. Actually, they kinda sorta got it right, which is why it probably ended up at my house. But the street name was translated into the same kind of pidgin Swedish that I haven’t seen since the prank subtitles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For example, “Saint” = Sankt and “Anne” should be “Ann”.

Mercifully, they did get my city of Santa Barbara, California correct. But it was written in European format, with the ZIP code first (e.g. 93109 Santa Barbara CA). And apparently they don’t do commas in Sweden.

Finally, they did at least make sure that this went to the United States. Because they put this no less than three times in the address, in three different styles (US, USA, and U.S.A.)

Of course, spending a little quality time with Service Objects could have fixed all of these problems, easily and automatically:

  • Our Address Validation 3 product would have turned this address into a correctly formatted, CASS-certified USPS address.
  • More important, our National Change of Address (NCOA) Live would have produced a current, up-to-the-minute address for the intended recipient.
  • Finally, our Lead Validation product could have validated their contact record and assessed the overall accuracy and viability before sending.

This incident was pretty funny. But at another level, it is also sad. Think of all the resources that were expended sending this piece of junk mail across the Atlantic. Now multiply this by all the other misaddressed pieces of mail that were probably sent out in this campaign. Then multiply it again by the amount of direct mail that crosses the globe every day. That sum could pay for a lot of Swedish pensions.

If there is one silver lining to this story – aside from hopefully entertaining our blog readers – it is that at least this piece of mail will not end up in a landfill somewhere. It now hangs proudly on our Wall of Shame here at Service Objects, as a reminder for why we do what we do. And how we can help YOU save money and resources.

How Lead Validation Works

Lead Validation, Service ObjectsAs a marketer, one of your jobs is to ensure that your sales team has access to high-quality leads. So how do you go about screening your lead lists for accuracy? Believe it or not, most marketers are doing very little to measure the quality of their leads , leaning heavily on the lead scoring tools in their marketing automation platforms to help screen leads. But this is not enough and is only one small part of the bigger lead validation picture. In fact, according to a study conducted by Straight North, about half of the leads generated by your marketing campaigns are not actual sales leads.

In our previous blog, ‘Custom Lead Scoring and How it Works‘ we touch on the perils of lead scoring. So what can you do to ensure you’re handing off high-quality leads to your sales team? Service Objects’ DOTS – Lead Validation solution is a good place to begin.

How Does it Work?

Now, you’re probably wondering how does Service Objects “know” whether or not a lead is a legitimate person or viable contact? Without getting too technical or giving away trade secrets, I can tell you that we use a combination of our best-of-breed data quality tools to look at key elements of a contact record. By examining a combination of the contact record’s data points like; name, email, address, IP address, device, etc., we are able to derive an overall lead certainty and quality score for each contact record. This is what DOTS Lead Validation does.

Once you have these lead quality scores, you can create specific rules and actions based on the scores. To give you some real-world scenarios, let’s run through a couple quick examples showcasing how you can use Lead Quality scores to develop rules-based actions that will streamline your marketing and sales processes:

Chip’s Call Center

After implementing DOTS Lead Validation API into their lead capture process, “Chip’s Call Center” sets up the following rules for their incoming, real-time leads, making it more efficient for their sales team to prioritize and respond to their potential customers.

If the lead’s quality score is between:

  • 75-100, Lead is systematically moved to the top of the call center’s call list and assigned to the best performing sales reps.
  • 60-74, Lead is assigned secondary priority on call list and sent to second tier sales reps.
  • 50-59, Lead is sent an email asking for further confirmation/interaction
  • 25-49, Lead is placed on an email drip campaign (cost effective)
  • 0-24, These leads are largely considered time-wasters and ignored or placed on a monthly newsletter with low-conversion expectation

Martha’s Marketing Agency

Martha is driving traffic from multiple channels and audiences within these channels, and needs to decide the best way to allocate her monthly budget. The sales cycle for her company is 9-12 months, so she has little concrete data from which to base her decisions.

  • Most of Martha’s leads are delivered from external sources like Adwords, LinkedIn and Facebook. With Lead Validation, Martha can easily determine the lead quality scores for these channels. Here’s how that score report might look:
  • Adwords – Campaign#1, average Lead Quality score of 78
  • Adwords – Campaign#2, average score of 36
  • LinkedIn, CEO Audience – 90
  • LinkedIn, IT/Developer audience – 54
  • Organic, average score of 87

Based on these average scores, Martha decides to place the majority of her marketing budget in the top scoring channels.

Heather’s House of iPhone Accessories

Heather wants to buy a highly-targeted email list to drive traffic to her online store. In the past, she has purchased lists that did not perform and needs a reliable way to pre-determine the quality of these lists before buying them. As part of her negotiation with the list broker, she asks them to, “Please bounce your email list against Service Objects’ Lead Validation service and let me know the average score. I only want to buy leads that score a 50 or higher.

The point I’m highlighting here is that by investing in a Lead Validation Service to determine Lead Quality scores, your company can create whatever strategies, rules, and actions that best fit YOUR experiences and needs. Even more importantly, you can preset sales quotas and expectations around the different lead quality scores.

The Power of Lead Validation

DOTS Lead Validation is the first step in recouping the inevitable 50% of unusable sales leads coming in. You have been shown a great resource to increase ROI on your marketing campaigns, save your company unnecessary costs, expand marketing and sales efficiencies, as well as elevate overall company morale. The benefits of incorporating a lead validation system will bring about a successful, sustainable business and we would love to help you get started!

Service Objects is the industry leader in real-time contact validation services.

Service Objects has verified over 2.5 billion contact records for clients from various industries including retail, technology, government, communications, leisure, utilities, and finance. Since 2001, thousands of businesses and developers have used our APIs to validate transactions to reduce fraud, increase conversions, and enhance incoming leads, Web orders, and customer lists. READ MORE