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Salesforce Trigger Integration – Video Tutorial

Here at Service Objects, we are dedicated to helping our clients integrate our data quality services as quickly as possible. One of the ways we help is educating our clients on the best ways to integrate our services with whatever application they may be using. One such application where our tools are simple to implement is Salesforce.

Salesforce is, among other things, a powerful, extensible and customizable CRM. One of the advantages of Salesforce’s extensibility is that users can set up triggers to make external API calls. This is great for Service Objects’ customers, as it allows APIs calls to any our DOTS web services and helps ensure their contact data in Salesforce is corrected and verified.

In the video below, we will demonstrate how to set up a trigger that will call our DOTS Address Validation 3 service whenever a contact is added to our list of contacts.

See full transcript below.

Hello, and welcome to Service Objects video tutorial series. For today’s tutorial we’ll be setting up a trigger and a class in Salesforce that will call out to our DOTS Address Validation 3 web service. If you don’t already know, Salesforce is an extremely powerful, extensible and customizable CRM. One of the great things that we like about Salesforce here at Service Objects is the ability to call out to APIs so that the data going into your CRM can be validated and verified before it gets entered. This means that you can call out to any of our APIs from Salesforce. You can use this video as an overview for how to integrate any of the service, but for this specific example we’ll be using DOTS Address Validation 3.

To participate in this tutorial, you need the following items. A Service Objects web service key, whether that is a trial key or a production key. You can sign up for a free trial key at www.serviceobjects.com. You will need a developer account in Salesforce. You will also need a working knowledge of Salesforce and Apex, which is the native programming language inside Salesforce. We will go ahead and get started.

To start off, one of the first things we’ll need to do is add the Service Objects endpoint into the list of allowed endpoints that Salesforce is allowed to contact within your developer platform. To do this, you can navigate here and type in remote site settings, or remote, and the remote site settings field will pop up. Here, you’ll see a list of all the websites that your Salesforce platform is allowed to contact. In my account here you can see I have ws.serviceobjects.com and wsbackup.serviceobjects.com. To add a new site, you’ll go and select new remote site. Give an appropriate name, and you will type in the URL here. You can see for this example I’m going to type in trial.serviceobjects.com which will only work if you have a trial license key. If you have a production key, you want to add ws.serviceobjects.com and wsbackup.serviceobjects.com as those will be the two primary URLs that you will be hitting with your production Service Objects account.

This trial.serviceobjects.com URL will only work with trial license keys. Click save and new or just save. You see here if we go back to our remote site settings, you can see that trial.serviceobjects.com was successfully added to our remote site settings. Now that we have successfully added the Service Objects endpoint, we’ll want to add some custom objects in our contact field that will hold some of the values that are returned by our DOTS Address Validation 3 web service. To do that, we’ll scroll down and go to customize. In our example we’re using the contacts field, but you can add custom fields to whatever field is most appropriate for your application, and we’ll select add custom field to contacts. Once we are here, we will scroll down and scroll to this contact custom fields and relationship. You can see here I have several custom fields here already defined. I have a DPV, mostly DPV information and error information, which our field set will parse out from our Address Validation 3 response.

We’ll add another field here for the sake of example. For this field we’re going to add the Is Residential Flag that comes back from the Address Validation 3 service. For this we’ll select text, select next, and here we’re going to go ahead and enter an appropriate field name, which I have in my clipboard. We’re going to call it DotsAddrVal_IsResidential. If you hover over this little “i,” it will say this is the label. This is the label to be used on displays, pages layouts, reports, and list views. This will be a more of a pretty type display. You’ll want to name it something more appropriate and something that will work better in your workflow, but for our example we’re just going to name it this.

For length, we’re going to do length of 15, and for the field name we’re just going to call it AddrValIsResidential. This is the internal field name here. When you’re calling an internal field name, you’ll have to add a double underscore and C in the Apex class. We’ll see an example of that in the next piece of code that we’re going to add. We’ll select next. You’ll select the appropriate field level security here. Next again, and go ahead and click save. To add the actual code that will call out to our Address Validation 3 web service, we’ll scroll down here, go to develop Apex classes. I have already added the class to my developer console, but just for the sake of example, I’ll go ahead and delete it and re-add it. I already have the code in a text editor, so I’m just going to copy and paste that, and just go over the code and explain some key points of it.

Now that I have my code copy and pasted in, I’ll walk through some key elements of it. In the sample code that we have, we have some extra commented out information here that gives you some resources like the product page, the developer guide. You can download this sample code along with this tutorial so you don’t have to pause the video and type it out and everything. The first thing we do is substantiate some of the HTTP request objects in this call WS by ID method. We’ll pull back the contact that’s just been added, and so we’ll pull back all these fields. Mailing street, mailing city, postal code, and state as well as the custom DPV and error information fields that we’ve entered into Salesforce. To call an internal field, an internal custom field that you’ve created in Salesforce, you’ll need to add this double underscore C at the end of it. We can see that we’ve done that here and other place where we reference these objects in the code.

Here, you can see we set the endpoint of the request to the trial URL endpoint, and this will point to the GetBestMatches JSON operation, so this will return a JSON formatted output. We’ve URL encoded all of the address information here. As you can see with this EncodingUtil.urlEncode. We’ll encode it to the UTF-8 standard. Another thing to note here is that you’ll have to put in your license key in this field here. Right now we just have it as a generic WS72 XXX, etc, but you’ll want to put in your specific license key. Here, we’ll send a request to the service, and if the response back is null, then that means there was something wrong with the primary endpoint, so we’ll come back here and check out our backup endpoint. For this example, it’s pointing to the same URL, the same trial endpoint. If you have a production key, you will want to point this primary URL to ws.serviceobjects.com, and this backup URL to ws.backup.serviceobjects.com. You’ll want to be sure to change both the license keys to whatever your license key is.

After that failover configuration, we’ll see here we checked the status code. If it’s equal to 200, we’ll go into processing the response from the service. Create some internal address fields here, and we’ll initialize the error response here to none, which would indicate that no error was returned from the service. What this does is it traverses through the JSON response of the service, and it finds the appropriate field. For this case we’ll see if it finds address1, it will set our initial address field to the address1 that was returned from the service. That will be the standardize and validated address information that is returned. We do that with all the fields that are pertinent to us. The DPV and DPV description, DPV notes description, as well as the IsResidential and error fields down here.

Here, you can see if we get a DPV score equal to 1. That indicates that the address is mailable, it is deliverable, and it is considered good by the USPS. This is the L-statement for the 200 code check here. If the 200 code wasn’t right, then we’ll say put the error description as this generic error message. At the end of this, we’ll update the list of contacts, so we’ll go ahead and click save. Now that we have our TestUtil class made here, we’ll go ahead and scroll down, select Apex triggers. To add a new trigger, we’ll select developer console, select file, new, trigger. For a name, we’ll simply call it Test Trigger.

We’ll go down here and select the contact object. We have the little bit of code right here. I have the actual code in a text editor that will call the service, so I’ll just copy that in. Now that I have this copied, you can see here that whenever a contact is added, or before it’s inserted rather, it will call the class that we made which was called WS by ID, and it will send the contact to it. To save this, just simply go to file and save. Hit refresh. We can see we now have a test trigger here. Now, to add a contact and to test out our new trigger, we’ll simply go up here, select contacts. In recent contacts, you can see here we don’t have any, so let’s go ahead and add one. We’ll add in a fake person by the name of Jane Doe. Go down here to the mailing street information, and we’ll enter in an address. For this example, we’re just going to use our Service Objects office address. We’ll put some typos in there so you can see the standardization and validation that the Service Objects web service does.

We’ll do 27 East Coat. That’s suite number 500. We’ll do Sant Barb for Santa Barbara and CA and 93101. We’ll go ahead and save the contact. You can see here that we still have the old values here, and that’s because the Salesforce doesn’t immediately call the outside APIs. It cues it up a little bit, but if we go and select Jane Doe again, we can see that now we have a standardize address here. In our DPV description, we have a message that indicates, “Yes, this record is a valid mailing address.” For this DPV score, we get a score of one. We can find the “Is Residential,” says false, meaning this is a business address. Again here, we see that the validated address, we see the USPS standardize version of the address which is 27 East Cota Street, Suite 500, as well as the validated city and zip-plus four information.

This concludes our tutorial for how to add a trigger and a class that will call out to our Service Objects web service. If you have any questions or any requests to other tutorials, please feel free to let us know at support@serviceobjects.com. We’ll be happy to accommodate.

 

Our 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

A brand new year is upon us – and once again, many of us are making resolutions for 2018. Perhaps eating better, working harder, or even blowing a thick layer of dust off that exercise machine in our basement. The new year is always a great time to make a fresh start.

Here at Service Objects, we have our own resolutions for 2018 as well. Of course, ours are designed to help your 2018 marketing efforts be even more successful than last year. Here are some of the biggest ones on our list:

Automate your regulatory compliance. More than anything, 2018 will cap a growing era of global consumer rights and stiffer regulation. Between the pending May implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the recent expansion of the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), your use of consumer contact data for marketing is more tightly controlled than ever. And ignorance of the law isn’t bliss: fines for TCPA violations run as high as $15,000 per violation, and GDPR violations can command fines as high as 4% of your gross turnover.

We can help you get started on your path to achieve compliance with both of these new regulations. For GDPR, which requires maintaining explicit customer permission for use of their personal data, products such as Address Validation International, Lead Validation International and Email Validation can flag European addresses for GDPR processing and clean your contact database at time of use. And for TCPA, which prohibits unsolicited calls to consumer cellular numbers, our GeoPhone Plus product can help ensure that customer contact numbers haven’t been ported to new mobile customers.

Help you move into global markets. The world is getting smaller every year, which means that your potential market is getting larger. We can help you validate and verify international leads with tools such as Address Validation International and Lead Validation International, to help you target your overseas marketing more effectively.

Reduce the amount of fraud in eCommerce transactions during sales peaks. Did you know that 2017 saw the largest online sales volumes ever for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? According to data from Adobe Analytics, consumers spent a record $11.6 billion dollars across these two peak sales days – and according to Forbes Magazine, fraudulent transactions spike during these peak periods as well. We have a wide range of solutions for eliminating online fraud, ranging from lead validation to best practices such as validating IP addresses, to ensure that order from Kansas isn’t originating in Kyrgyzstan.

Give your customers a better experience. Your business rises and falls with the service experiences you deliver your customers. Our flagship delivery accuracy solutions, powered by continually-updated USPS, Canada Post and international address databases, makes sure your products get to the right people at the right address every time. And even when customers slip up and give you an undeliverable address, our Address Detective product can help make things all better.

Lower your costs. Would you like to get better lead response rates in 2018? Keep your contact database clean and up-to-date as prospects move or change jobs? Or improve your marketing ROI by filtering out bogus or fraudulent leads? We can do all of that for you, and more. We have a whole smorgasbord of solutions that help you have genuine, accurate and up-to-date data, improve marketing campaign performance, ensure better leads, and do more with less.

One more thing that makes our New Year’s resolutions better than most people’s – we always keep ours! That’s why we have over 2400 clients and counting today. And we look forward to serving you in 2018.

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!

The Direct and Indirect Costs of Poor Data Quality

Imagine that your company runs an online ad for a product. But when your customer gets to your website, this product has actually been discontinued. And from thereon in, every time the customer surfs the web they are now constantly served with banner ads for this non-existent product.

This scenario really happens more often than you think. And it is a perfect example of marketing at its worst: spending your budget to lose customers, ruin your service reputation, and destroy your brand.

We often talk about data quality on this blog, but this time I would like to focus on the results of lack of data quality. In the case above, poor linkages between inventory data and marketing lead to a bad customer experience AND wasted marketing dollars. Much the same thing is true with our specialties of contact data and marketing leads: bad data leads to a wellspring of avoidable costs.

First there are tangible costs. Bad leads and incorrect customer addresses lead to specific, measurable outcomes. Wasting human effort. Throwing away precious marketing capital. Penalties for non-compliance with telephone and email contact laws. Re-shipment costs and inventory losses. According to one Harvard Business Review article, the real costs of poor data quality now exceed $3 trillion per year in the United States alone.

Then there is the part few people pay enough attention to: the indirect costs of poor data quality. In a recent piece for CustomerThink, data management expert Chirag Shivalker points to factors such as sales that never materialize, potential customers who turn away, and the subtle loss of repeat business. Whether it is a misdirected marketing piece, an unwanted pitch on someone’s cell phone, or a poor customer experience, some of the biggest consequences of poor data quality are never quantified – and, perhaps more importantly, never noticed.

Finally there is the fact that data, like your car, is a depreciating asset. Even the most skillfully crafted database will degrade over time. Contact information is particularly vulnerable to decay, with estimates showing that as much as 70% of it goes bad every year. A recent article from insideBIGDATA put the scope of this in very stark terms: each and every hour, over 500 business addresses, 800 phone numbers and 150 companies change – part of a growing ball of data that, per IDC, will swell to over 160 zettabytes (for the uninitiated, a zettabyte is one sextillion, or 10 to the 21st power, bytes). And the bill for validating and cleaning up this data can average $100-200K or more for the average organization. So an ongoing approach is needed to preserve the asset value of this data, as well as prevent the costs and negative consequences of simply letting it age.

A recent data brief from SiriusDecisions breaks down these costs of poor data quality into four key areas: hard costs, productivity costs, hidden costs, and opportunity costs. And it is not like these costs are exactly a surprise: according to Accenture, data inaccuracy and data inconsistency are the leading concerns of more than three-quarters of the executives they surveyed. Their solution? Better use of technology, combined with process improvements such as formal data governance efforts.

The people in our original example above probably had no idea what kind of lost business and negative brand image they were creating through poor data quality. And ironically, I would say let’s keep it that way. Why? Because it is a competitive advantage for people like you and me who pay attention to data quality – or better yet, build processes to automate it. If you are ready to get started, take a look at some of our solutions and let’s talk.

What’s New: DOTS Lead Validation International

Service Objects has recently released a new member of the Lead Validation family, DOTS Lead Validation International.  Lead Validation International builds on the strengths of our DOTS Lead Validation service but adds a significant number of new tests and features.  Lead Validation users will likely find Lead Validation International familiar; however, a brand-new interface adds new levels of detail over the older service. Lead Validation International works better than ever for US and Canadian leads but now covers over 250 other countries as well. This service gives users the flexibility to validate leads anywhere in the world.

The Lead Validation International service looks at six key components: Name, Business, Email, IP Address, Mailing Address and Phone, performing over 200 tests to determine both how strong the individual components are as well as how well they connect to each other. These tests give a strong indication of the quality of the lead. Each component is given a 0-100 score, and a recommendation.  The service also provides an overall lead confidence score, giving users a lot of flexibility in how they want to evaluate their leads.

While building on the strength of the old service, Lead Validation International adds scores of new tests, digging deeper into the leads than the old US and Canadian API as well as providing new international specific tests.  The new API exposes more data and points of interest than the older API and provides more details than previously returned by the service. The Notes sections for each component highlights interesting data points that used to be more obscure. An overall Notes section highlights comparisons between data points, providing more indications of how well the various components in the lead matched each other, making it more obvious where the data broke down or providing more confidence in the quality of the lead.

DOTS Lead Validation International’s new interface also allows more customization than previous services.  A new set of fields called InformationComponents allow client specific rules and outputs to be written.  This allows new rules outside of the normal Lead Validation structure as well as the easy addition of new rules we feel could benefit all users.  One of the biggest strengths of the new operation is its ability to be tailored to almost any client need.

Service Objects has always been strong in International Name, Email and IP Address validation.  With the recent release of International Address and Phone validation products, we can cross-reference far more of the contact record’s data points to provide a qualitative view of the international lead and deeper insights into the lead, creating a fuller picture. The user will know the location of origin for all data points now and be able to find the red flags in their data.

International Lead Validation Provides the Complete Picture:

International addresses present their own challenges in identifying, parsing and outputting. While Lead Validation International is not a perfect replacement for a true international address validation tool, the outputs in this new API are designed to be as universal as possible.  Users will get a result that is formatted consistent with the country of origin, as well as details on the locality, primary administrative areas and country of origin.

International phones, address and IP addresses use a new Service Objects proprietary fuzzy location identifier that does a great job of cleaning and standardizing data points so that even the messiest of data can provide useful validation.  If the proper locations can be identified, we have the best chance of cross validating all of the components.

Our international lead service can be deployed in several ways; whether seamlessly integrating our fully supported, real-time API into your software, as a plugin for industry-leading CRM, marketing and sales platforms or as a list service to validate and improve existing lead records.  We also provide sample code, sample data and a robust developer guide to help get the service up and running.

If you are interested in learning more about Lead Validation for the US and Canada, please visit our DOTS Lead Validation product page.  If you are interested in our International service, please check out our International product page.

Service Objects’ DOTS Lead Validation Service

Service Objects recently released the latest and greatest version of DOTS Lead Validation, our lead verification API that cross-validates five critical lead quality components: name, street address, phone number, email address and IP address. The new service includes a technology update to some of the latest frameworks, a new interface, more options for customization, enhanced reporting and new algorithms.  We explore these in more detail below.

The new operation – ValidateLead_V3 –  offers more options for connecting with Service Objects.  In addition to SOAP, GET or POST, users also have access to a RESTful interface and can now choose XML or JSON for their response.  Current users should expect about the same sub-second speed for a transaction despite the new behind the scenes engine.  While the new engine is faster, it is also doing more work.

Regardless of REST or SOAP preference, users also will have access to a cleaner more descriptive new interface in the new ValidateLead_V3 operation.  The new DOTS Lead Validation fully supports both Residential and Business leads, however, the older interface was designed with Residential leads in mind and the new version was designed for both.  Some newer optional inputs include things like Domain name and EIN (business tax identification number).  Service Objects is working to make their business offerings even stronger and will be rolling out new features month by month.  Other optional inputs include more options for names (pre-split names and salutations).

The biggest difference for Lead Validation will be on the response.  One of the most important new feature is the “Notes” sections.  Each component (name, address, email, IP, phone, etc.) as well as the overall general lead has its own independent Notes section detailing most of the interesting things we discovered about the component.  The previous version of Lead Validation was limited to the three biggest warnings to describe what was going on with a lead.  The new version includes a lot more granularity including items both good and bad.

Individual component Notes contain specific key pieces of information about the component itself that help give more details on why a high or low score might have happened.  Was the IP Address an anonymous proxy or was it known to have been used for malicious purposes?  Is an Address vacant, is it deliverable, or is it missing key information for validation?  Is the name too short to be real, does it contain vulgar words or does it match to a well-known celebrity?  Is the phone number a mobile number, does it belong to a business or it is a google voice number?  These things and many more give clearer insight to the components of a lead.

General Notes contain information about the lead as a whole, considering multiple components.  Did the name and email match up?  Did the phone, name and address match up?  Does the IP Address seem to match the Business name or domain?  General notes often give the best indication about why a lead received a really high score or a really low one.

Other new outputs include some additional component based location information. In the previous version much of that was tracked and scored behind the scenes, but in the new version all three of the main location based components (address, IP address and phone) attempt to return a locality, admin area and Country of origin.  These can help provide some insight when data points do not seem to match up.

See for yourself how DOTS Lead Validation can help your business gain immediate insight into the quality of your leads. Sign up for a free trial key and test up to 500 transactions.

Getting the Most Out of Data-Driven Marketing

How well do you know your prospects and customers?

This question lies at the heart of what we call data-driven marketing. Because the more you know about the people you contact, the better you can target your offerings. Nowadays smart marketers are increasingly taking advantage of data to get the most bang from their marketing budgets.

Suppose that you offer a deal on a new razor, and limit the audience to adult men. Or take people who already eat fish at your restaurant on Tuesdays, and promote a Friday fish fry. Or laser-target a new lifestyle product to the exact demographic group that is most likely to purchase it. All of these are examples where a little bit of data analytics can make a big difference in the success and response rate of a marketing campaign.

According to UK data marketing firm Jaywing, 95% of marketers surveyed personalize their offerings based on data, although less than half currently measure the ROI of these efforts, and less than 10% take advantage of full one-to-one cross-channel personalization. But these efforts are poised to keep growing, notes their Data Management Practice Director Inderjit Mund: “Data availability is growing exponentially. Adopting best practice data management is the only way marketers can maintain a competitive advantage.”

Of course, data-driven marketing can also go sideways. For example, bestselling business author and television host Carol Roth once found herself peppered with offers for baby merchandise – including an unsolicited package of baby formula – even though she is not the least bit pregnant. Her suspicion? Purchasing baby oil regularly from a major chain store, which she uses in the shower, made their data wonks mistakenly think that she was a new mother. Worse yet, this kind of targeted marketing also led the same chain to unwittingly tip off a father that his daughter was pregnant.

This really sums up the promise, and the peril, of using data to guide your marketing efforts. Do it wrong, and you not only waste marketing resources – you risk appearing inept, or worse, offending a poorly targeted segment of your market base. But when you do it right, you can dramatically improve the reach and efficiency of your marketing for a minimal cost.

This aligns very closely with our view of a marketing environment that is increasingly fueled by data. Among the best practices recommended by Jaywing for data-driven marketing, data quality is front and center with guidelines such as focusing on data management, having the right technology in place, and partnering with data experts. And they are not alone: according to a recent KPMG CEO survey, nearly half of respondents are concerned about the integrity of the data on which they base decisions.

There is a clear consensus nowadays that powering your marketing with data is no longer just an option. This starts with ensuring clean contact data, at the time of data entry and the time of use. Beyond that, smart firms leverage this contact data to gain customer insight in demographic areas such as location, census and socioeconomic data, to add fuel to their address or email-based marketing. With cost-effective tools that automate these processes inside or outside of your applications, the days of scattershot, data-blind marketing efforts are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

The Great Debate: When to Validate Your Contact Data

A famous beer commercial had people debating whether it tasted great or was less filling. A similar debate is brewing among data quality professionals: do you validate your contact data when you first add it to your marketing automation platform (MAP), or at the time you use it?

The answer to both debates is exactly the same: YES.

First, let’s look at the first argument. Validating contact data such as names, email and physical addresses and phone numbers before recording them to the MAP has several advantages up front:

Saving money.  Most of the platforms charge based on the number of contacts in your MAP.  By validating the lead ahead of time, you can avoid adding and paying for bad leads in your MAP.

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 MAP in the first place.

Avoiding penalties. Saving the wrong contact data can cost you – big time – if it violates regulations such as the TCPA and Do Not Call lists for phone numbers, or CAN-SPAM compliance and ‘spam traps’ for email addresses. Automated validation tools let you flag high risk contacts before you save them.

Finally, there is the broader question of lead quality. MAPs provide lead scoring based on how the user used the site, but may not protect you from fraudulent or bad data. Contact-level lead validation adds a quantitative value of lead quality, based on over 130 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 regularly, 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 marketing to identify sources of high and low quality leads, and providing more accurate reporting.

Avoiding penalties, part 2. You logged a phone number in your MAP last year. You used it in a marketing campaign this year. What is the difference? Up to $14K in TCPA fines, if this number changed from being a landline to someone else’s cell number. Always validate phone numbers and email addresses before every campaign, to ensure TCPA, Do Not Call and CAN-SPAM compliance.

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 are easily automated within most MAP systems – for example, Service Objects’ contact validation tools have webhooks and API interfaces you can use with platforms including Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot, Ontraport and others.

Incidentally, that beer company never did resolve the “tastes great/less filling” controversy. Likewise, we’re going to play both sides of this debate – because it is easy and inexpensive to validate your lead and contact data every time you enter or use it. With the right automation partner, data quality can simply become one less thing to worry about in your marketing efforts.

Making an (email) list and checking it twice: Best practices for email validation

For most organizations, one of the most critical assets of their marketing operations is their email contact database. Email is still the lingua franca of business: according to the Radicati Group, over a quarter of a trillion email messages are sent every business day, and the number of email users is expected to top 4 billion by 2021 – roughly half of the world’s population. This article will explore current best practices for protecting the ROI and integrity of this asset, by validating its data quality.

The title of this article is not just a cute play on words – and it has nothing to do with Santa. Rather, it describes an important principle for your game plan for email data quality. By implementing a strong two-step email validation process, as we describe here, you will dramatically reduce deliverability problems, fraud and blacklisting from your email marketing and communications efforts.

The main reason we recommend checking emails in two stages revolves around the time these checks take: many checks can be performed live using a real-time API, particularly as email addresses are entered by users, but server validation in particular may require a longer processing time and interfere with user experience. Here are 3 of the most important checks that are part of the email validation process:

• Syntax (FAST): This check determines if an email address has the correct syntax and physical properties of an email address.

• DNS (FAST): We can quickly check the DNS record to ensure the validity of the email domain (MX record) for the email address. (There are some exceptions to this – for example, where the DNS record is with a shoddy or poor registry and the results take longer to come back.)

• Email Server (VARIABLE, and not within the email validation tool’s control): Although this check can take from milliseconds to minutes, it is one of the most important checks you can make – it ensures that you have a deliverable address. This response time is dependent on the email server provider (ESP) and can vary widely: large ESPs like Gmail or MSN normally respond quickly, while corporate or other domains may take longer.

There are many more checks in Service Objects’ Email Validation tool, including areas such as malicious activity, data integrity, and much more – over 50 verification tests in all! We auto-correct addresses for common spelling and syntax errors, flag bogus or vulgar address entries, and calculate an overall quality score you can use to accept or reject the email address. (For a deeper dive, take a look at this article to see many of the features of an advanced EV tool.)

Here are the two stages we recommend for your email validation process:

Stage 1: At point of entry. Here, you validate emails in real-time, as they are captured. This provides the opportunity for the user to correct mistakes in the moment such as typos or data entry errors. Here you can use our EV software to check for issues like syntax, DNS and the email server – however we recommend setting the API configuration settings to no more than a wait of a couple of seconds, for the sake of customer experience. At this stage either the user or validation software has a chance to update bad addresses.

Stage 2 – Before sending a campaign. Validate the emails in your database – using the API – after the email has been captured and the user is no longer available in real-time to make corrections. In this stage, you have more flexibility to wait for responses from the ESPs, providing more confidence in your list.

It is estimated that 10-15% of emails entered are not usable, for reasons ranging from data entry errors to fraud, and 30% of email addresses change each year. Together these two steps ensure that you are using clean and up-to-date email data every time – and the benefit to you will be fewer rejected addresses, a better sender reputation, and a greater overall ROI from your email contact data.

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

Service Objects has verified over 3 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