Improve Prospect Quality in Account Engagement
I’m a big fan of the Creed movies. Nevermind the fact that Michael B. Jordan is one good lookin’ dude, but I love the training scenes depicting everything he goes through leading up to his fights. Whether it was working out in the desert after breaking his ribs or making a comeback to boxing after being out of it for three years, there was one common theme: he consistently put in the work to be successful. As the saying goes: “You put good in to get good out.” I like to think data in your marketing automation platform adheres to the same saying. The better data you put into the system, the more success you and your team will see. Too far-fetched of a comparison? I don’t think so, and I’ll show you why.
What does “Prospect Quality” in Account Engagement even mean?
Every marketing automation platform has its own name for people in the database. For the purposes of this article, since we are talking about Marketing Cloud Account Engagement1, we are going to talk about the quality of your prospects and the three qualities that I believe make up prospect quality: completeness, accuracy, and relevancy.
Let’s start with relevancy, as I firmly believe it serves as the guidepost for everything else moving forward but doesn’t necessarily come to mind right away. Having relevant data on your prospects can make or break your business. Your sales reps likely don’t need to know the birthday of a prospect they’ve been following, but what about that free trial they just downloaded and the new initiative their department is undertaking? Now we are talking. Having the data your stakeholders, especially the ones closing deals, care about matters.
I’m keeping you on your feet with the order here, so let’s talk about completeness. My wife is a big puzzler (I don’t get the draw), but it provides a nice example. Each piece of the puzzle, when not put together, doesn’t make much sense. It’s not until you start putting multiple pieces together and getting into a rhythm that the pieces start to look like the picture on the box. The same thing goes for data completeness. A single piece of data might not mean much to your stakeholders, but include that with other pieces of relevant data and you might be onto something.
Let’s be real about this whole accuracy thing: it’s 2023. Data is gathered from everywhere and everything (LinkedIn, web browsing history, form submissions, etc.). It can be tough to trust the data we do have available to us, so the better mechanisms we have in place to ensure accurate data, the less junk data you will see muddying up your Account Engagement instance.
What are the benefits of increasing the quality of your prospects?
You’ll become leader of the free world and can eat all the chocolate in the world without any consequences. I’m kidding, but you will be providing some serious value to your organization. Here are the other main benefits I’ve seen when working in Account Engagement:
1. Your future self will thank you.
You won’t be looking back a year from now wondering why the heck you needed yet another custom field. Field sprawl is a real thing, and it takes time away from you and your team on more important tasks. If you make the extra effort in the present to determine if a data point is actually relevant you will save a lot of time down the road.
2. Your grading model will be more effective.
Grading in Account Engagement is a tad different from other platforms, but I like it. As a reminder, grading essentially helps you identify which prospects, based upon data points you include in your model, are closest to your ICP (ideal customer profile). Typically, then, grading is leveraged to determine if prospects should be passed over to the sales team for follow-up. But here is the kicker: let’s say you only pass prospects over to your sales team with a grade of A or B. If you don’t have values on all the fields leveraged in your model, the prospect may not be able to reach the necessary grade level for sales follow-up. You might as well burn money at that point.
3. You build trust around the organization.
As marketing operations professionals, we interact with a variety of different stakeholders each day. Sales operations, campaign managers, CMOs, you name it. Oftentimes requests will come in the form of questions attempting to understand how many new prospects originated via a certain channel or how much pipeline was generated by a specific campaign. If you know from the beginning how success will be measured and how to capture that measurement correctly, you can tell a pretty darn good story to your business partners.
4. You establish a strong foundation for what your organization wants to achieve down the road.
Say you want to build out a multi-touch attribution method one day, and you’re currently only capturing a user’s first touch (or at least you think you are). Until one day you realize you have been doing it all wrong and nobody across the organization agrees with the approach. Similar to before, if you capture the most relevant, accurate, and complete data, your journey to multi-touch attribution avoids a serious roadblock of having to completely re-establish what first-touch means.
How should my company increase the quality of our prospects?
Here are some best practices I provide to my clients:
1. Be creative and purposeful with how you set up your forms.
Not only should you only ask for relevant data on your forms (sorry forms, but I can use Facebook to remind me about your birthday), but leverage the more advanced capabilities Account Engagement forms offer. I like to use the following:
- Progressive profiling is a great way to keep your forms short and still gather the data you need.
- Dependencies can help you with accuracy (how many times have you seen somebody with a state of “California” but their country is “China”?)
- Pre-fill, when used correctly, limits the amount of data users have to input, thus increasing the likelihood they’ll actually submit the form.
2. Use picklist fields instead of free-text fields on forms.
Our end users need help. You can give all the instruction in the world on how to properly do something, and people will still do something incorrectly. Using picklist fields ensure the data is captured in the manner you want it. No cleanup on Field 5 needed.
3. Leverage enrichment tools, but approach this with caution.
Some providers are solid, and some you should completely avoid. For the pieces of data we can’t capture ourselves, we can rely on third-party service providers to fill in the gaps. Definitely consult your legal team on this one, though.
4. Deploy automation rules and Engagement Studios to regularly cleanse your data.
You’ve done everything you can to prevent crap from coming into the system, but the intern got “curious” one day and started fooling around with the data. Not to worry. You can deploy automation rules, and even Engagement Studios if you’re feeling extra spicy, to run batches and clean up those messy data points.
5. Take initiative and host regular feedback sessions with your sales counterparts.
Break down the barrier between marketing and sales and find out what pieces of data your sales team currently uses, what they wish they had, what they hate, etc. Be upfront about what’s actually feasible and be sure to communicate when those updates are in place. I hear sales teams aren’t particularly fond of unannounced updates to their page layouts.
When should my company take on this initiative?
Every company is at a different juncture in ensuring a high quality of prospects in their Account Engagement database, and that’s okay. Regardless of where you are, take some time this week to sip some coffee, turn on some smooth jazz, and review what data is in your Account Engagement instance right now. Document your findings and/or thoughts (where the fields are used throughout the instance, how they are populated, what purpose you think they serve, whether or not you trust the data, etc.).
From there, start to develop a roadmap of items from highest priority to lowest priority. This varies by organization, but think outside of just your team. What other departments could this be affecting? If you know you have messy data in one particular field that’s affecting grading, which is ultimately affecting your prospect handoff to the sales team, start by running a Segmentation Rule to clean it up and fix your form.
Most importantly, work with your team to develop a timeline/roadmap, communicate that out, get feedback, and tackle that bad boy.
Who should I involve in the process?
Teamwork makes the dream work! Here is who I would involve throughout the process and why:
- Your marketing operations team – they have great context into the day-to-day work, whether on the platform operations side or the campaign operations side, and leverage the data daily. I’m confident they will have some good insight into what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t work.
- Your other marketing stakeholders (i.e. campaign managers, ABM managers, demand gen folks, etc.) – these folks wanted to implement their ideas yesterday, but the data wasn’t available. I’m sure they have a wishlist of data points that can improve the effectiveness of their work.
- Your sales stakeholders – did I mention the sales team is important because they are the ones closing deals? These are folks you want to build trust with, and if they don’t currently trust the data on your MQLs, they aren’t following up with that prospect. You can’t give them everything they want, but you can make it easier for them.
- Your prospects – hear me out on this. Prospects can provide very solid first-party data, and the numbers won’t lie. Use the Account Engagement reports to understand which forms are seeing the highest submission rates, which in turn provides you with the knowledge you need. Without even knowing it your prospects are doing you a great service.
So while we all can’t look like Michael B. Jordan, we can certainly be heavyweight champions in our organizations by ensuring our Account Engagement instances contain accurate, complete, and relevant data. Did that dad joke land? In all seriousness, I have found success when I involve my business partners early, leverage the Account Engagement out-of-box capabilities wherever necessary, and evaluate the health of my database on a regular basis. While it may not seem like the sexiest work out there, keeping a high quality level of prospects in your instance can result in dollar signs down the road.
What are ways you and your company maintain a high quality level of prospects? Roast me and tell me what I missed in the comments below.
Thinking of ways to improve the setup of your Account Engagement instance and not sure where to start? Reach out to us today for a free marketing automation platform health audit!
1In April 2022, Salesforce renamed Pardot to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement.