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Why Businesses Are Building Pipelines Instead of Buying Lists Purchasing a list of B2B sales prospects is a shortcut to nowhere.

By Angela Ruth

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Marketing a B2B company is challenging. Instead of reaching out to a widespread consumer market, you must first identify target businesses and then find the appropriate contact person at each of those businesses. Since personnel can change from one month to the next, sourcing and maintaining a database is tricky.

When it comes to lead prospecting, successful B2B marketers don't buy their fuel at the pump. Instead, they build a pipeline to maintain their sales velocity. This is done by investing in high-quality data solutions that are always up-to-date and accurate. In the long run, this small investment saves businesses thousands of dollars in lost income. Bad data eats marketing ROI and eviscerates a good customer experience.

To be successful at B2B marketing, you need a strategy in place. Here are the common components of a good data strategy to help you get started.

Related: 12 Ways to Actually Get an ROI Using Influencer Marketing

Audit your current data providers.

If you aren't reaching out to people, you risk eroding the basic trust necessary to earn long-term loyalty from those considering buying from you. Prospects who see right away that you have the best solution for them are more likely to sign on. This starts by choosing solutions that take that trust seriously.

Companies like Salesforce are well aware of the importance of this customer-salesperson relationship and take measures to honor that trust. Salesforce has built a microsite dedicated to monitoring the uptime of its various applications. This provides businesses the peace of mind that comes with knowing that its data will be available when they need to access it.

Once that is in place, it's important to regularly auditing your data sources and looking for discrepancies. If you notice that your current vendor isn't providing the most accurate contact information for each business in your database, be prepared to change vendors. One helpful resource for finding new vendors is G2 Force, which lets businesses read what other professionals are saying about software they're considering.

Related: 5 Data Management Challenges Facing Small Business Owners

Regular delivery

How do you build your contact database? Some businesses start by purchasing mailing lists, then supplement that with information they capture through their website. Unfortunately, this data strategy is no longer sufficient to remain competitive.

Experienced marketers now realize they must have a process in place that offers regularly delivery of contact information. This can be done internally, by assigning one or more employees to conduct online research to keep mailing lists as effective as possible. However, an increasing number of businesses are choosing to use a vendor for lead generation and database upkeep. Solutions like LeadGenius leverage publicly-available data on businesses and professionals, as well as proprietary data sources, to keep databases updated. Data is then quality assured and expanded with their own team of data miners, who personally ensure the integrity of each record.

Related: 3 Reasons Why You Should Manage Sales Activity Instead of Pipeline

Marketing and sales teams must work together.

Sales teams are struggling across the board. In fact, according to Clari's 2017 Opportunity to Close Research Survey, less than 50 percent of sales reps achieved quota last year. This is a problem for businesses that rely on the income these teams provide. When they work with marketing teams, together they can meet their goals.

Marketers need strong data demand generation programs in place to ensure they're generating the information they need to consistently reach out to new markets. Sales professionals need data that improves their ability to convert leads into customers. Working together, sellers and marketers can create an ideal customer profile that helps them create a workable strategy.

Related: Why 'Smarketing,' or Integrated Sales-and-Marketing Strategy, Is the Future for Small Business

Beware of data decay.

One of the most frustrating things about managing a database is the rate of data decay. As soon as you have a database you feel is up-to-date and useful, information is already outdated. According to LeadGenius data, more than one-third of a business's contacts become outdated each year, with data decaying at a rate of more than three percent each month. The company creates tools that help you keep your lists up to date so this doesn't hurt your marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, with so many campaigns relying heavily on email, you may not even be aware that your marketing messages are landing in inactive mailboxes, where they're never even read. Manually checking each contact for accuracy every time you launch a new marketing effort can be extremely time consuming, making database automation a basic requirement for any business that relies on databases to interact with prospects and existing clients.

Related: How to Clean Up Customer Data and Revive Your Company

Invest in process.

Operations are a critical component of any organization's data strategy. That means as you set time aside to plan your marketing campaigns, you should also consider your long-term plans for your business's technology and infrastructure. Your processes should be consistently geared toward evaluating processes and finding ways to improve them. If your sales teams aren't closing, you should have a setup in place to be able to determine where improvements can be made. As you're choosing solutions, make sure you'll be able to consistently access the reports necessary to track performance and improve your campaigns moving forward.

A tool like Chartio can help you measure your efforts through customized dashboards accessible to your entire team. When everyone can monitor performance, multiple departments can stay aligned in their objectives. As technology improves, these insights will grow even more helpful, making it easier for businesses to save money and increase ROI on their sales and marketing efforts.

Data is an important part of any marketing campaign, but it also can help increase a business's sales. But bad data is a difficult and expensive problem to fix. When businesses invest in data solutions from the start, they can avoid wasting money and effort on outdated contact information. It's important to include data strategy in your business's planning processes to increase your ROI and avoid wasting resources.

Angela Ruth

Entrepreneur and Consultant

Angela Ruth is a freelance writer, journalist and consultant in Silicon Valley. She is a member of the YEC and a startup aficionado. You can follow her online on Twitter and Facebook.

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