Are You Letting Your Vendors Throw Away Valuable Customer Data?

Man sitting in a yellow chair tossing paper with data into a trash can

As a marketer, you pay for every piece of customer data in blood, sweat, tears, and cash. But if you don’t take steps to actively retain and update the data that’s collected by your platform vendors, you could be letting that valuable information slip through your fingers.

Let’s put the issue in perspective. What would happen if, tomorrow, all the data on your marketing automation platform disappeared? All those leads, all the information about what they clicked on, what they downloaded, which webinars or events they attended—all gone. It would send you back to the Stone Age.

A scenario this drastic is unlikely, but it serves to illustrate a growing risk for today’s marketers. With every passing year, we’re building more sophisticated marketing stacks and collecting more and more data through third-party software, including CRMs, marketing automation, social media management, marketing orchestration, and so on.

The upside is that this enables us to build more sophisticated, nuanced customer profiles and use those insights to improve and accelerate the customer journey. The downside is that we’re allowing more and more of this valuable data to sit on third-party platforms, which makes it more difficult to access, manipulate, and control. In the worst-case scenario, a merger or acquisition, or a change in policy could find you cut off completely from the data you rely on to drive the marketing engine.

Fortunately, the solution to the problem is within your control.

FACT #1: The data you collect through vendors is legally yours.

Few of us bother to read the user agreements when we download or update a piece of software. We’ve all learned to quick-scroll to the bottom and click “agree.” Similarly, few marketers read through the subscription agreements for their organization’s sales and marketing platforms. This could be why so few of us realize that we own the data and can demand the release of it at any time.

At DemandLab, for example, we use Marketo and Salesforce—a very common CRM/MAP pairing. Section 3.2 of Marketo’s End User Subscription Agreement clearly stipulates that “customer owns any data, information or material originated by customer or that customer provides in the course of using the subscription services.” Similarly, section 8 of the Salesforce Data Processing Addendum states that SFDC will return customer data to its customers. Check your agreements and you’ll find that the data collected via vendor platforms is owned by you, whether it’s personal or anonymous data.

FACT #2: Retaining your data helps you stay on the right side of compliance.

The recent flurry of data-management activity caused by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a sobering reminder of how quickly data security and privacy requirements can change.

Yes, you should collect and retain your own data because it’s yours and you’ve earned it, but it’s also a good idea from a compliance perspective. When you make a habit of collecting and retaining your data from vendors on a regular basis, you can control how that data is stored, what types of data are retained, and how long they’re retained.

Retaining the data also helps you to establish clear audit trails for customer consent and keep those records on file instead of relying on the vendor’s policies.

FACT #3: Retaining the data supports longer sales cycles.

If you’re marketing in a B2B environment with a long, complex sales cycle, it’s even more important to be diligent about collecting and retaining the data from vendors. For example, at DemandLab, we work with some clients in higher education, government services, logistics, and finance whose sales cycles can last as long as twenty months and in extreme cases over three years. Depending on the vendors you use, you may find that the data isn’t retained by the vendor long enough to last the entire sales cycle. For lengthy cycles, this is detrimental to understanding source attribution and your marketing investment planning.

FACT #4: Exporting the data enables robust analytics.

The fragmentation of data across platforms is one of the biggest challenges marketers face. Downloading the data from multiple vendors and consolidating it in a data lake or data warehouse lets you realize the data’s true value. While the data has value within the platform, it’s when you’re able to export it that you can enrich, improve, and analyze it in new and powerful ways:

  • Roll up your customer data into account scores that help you determine the level of engagement for specific accounts.

  • Run sophisticated deduplication algorithms to reduce marketing costs and improve visibility and performance.

  • Understand the complete customer journey and empower customer journey analytics to gain insights on stalled pipeline revenue and be able to intercede with customer churn.

It’s time to take ownership of your customer data. You’ve worked hard to accumulate it, you’re legally entitled to it, and once you’ve retained it on your own system, the risks are substantially reduced and the possibilities are endless.

On a future blog post, we’ll show you how to collect and retain your data from vendors.


About the Author

Eric Hollebone

Eric is DemandLab's Chief Services Officer. He is a three-time Marketo Champion, a two-time Revvie Award winner, author of “Change Agents: The Radical Role of Tomorrow’s CMO,” and an early advocate of marketing automation, measurement, and analytics. Eric has experience leading all facets of global marketing and product management, including customer acquisition/retention, brand awareness/development, corporate/content marketing, product management for large public sector enterprises, early-stage ventures and private organizations.

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