What is “Data Deadweight” and Why Should Marketers Care?

Bill Crowley

Executive Vice President, Data

Data deadweightWhen we talk with EMEA and APAC marketers pursuing data-driven pipeline generation, one of the most common obstacles they talk about is their existing marketing list. It is filled with Data Deadweight.

What is Data Deadweight?

Data Deadweight is the portion of a prospect list that makes a marketing team feel like they have enough names (e.g. “we have 25,000 prospects”), but does nothing for any marketing tactic. These “prospects” don’t open, click, respond or even opt-out. They literally pull down the results of all of your marketing.

How does it hurt your online marketing efforts?

Data Deadweight can damage your digital marketing efforts in the following ways:

  1. Everything looks ineffective with click-through-rates starting with so many zeros.
  2. Low email engagement rates hide themes and ideas that are actually working. If your click-through-rate “jumps” from .09% to .12% nobody gets too excited. But if you pulled out the deadweight portion of your list, you could see insightful trends worth pursuing.
  3. Data Deadweight causes marketers to pursue worthless tactics. Frustrated with low response rates, they promote witty items (“what would the Kardashians say about endpoint security?”) to get some, any, activity. But these ploys do nothing to initiate pipeline.

Causes of Data Deadweight

Data Deadweight is caused by names that are too old, and contacts that don’t have a real interest in your technology area (i.e. “purchase intent”).

  • “Too old” happens more quickly than you think – List aging is a frustrating reality. The obvious stuff happens to contact lists: people change jobs, phone numbers and titles regularly. But IT buyers shift interests even faster and more frequently. For example, a prospect may have been working on an SAP-Hana project 4 months ago, but now has switched groups and is building cloud apps. TechTarget data shows that just 3 months after a burst of research activity, a prospect is 80% less likely to be interested in a topic as within the first month post-activity. “Old” is a short period in tech.
  • Poor or non-existent purchase intent – Because contact data has become so cheap, many marketers have filled their databases with contacts that are simply not interested in your technology. “Data” vendors scrape LinkedIn or use offshore telemarketing to identify “prospects” in huge numbers and offer the contacts at a price that seems too good to pass up. But these contacts aren’t interested in your technology and may NEVER respond to anything you have to say. These contacts become an anchor-heavy drag on your online marketing results and your learning. Sound familiar?

3 strategies to fight Data Deadweight – from our experience

TechTarget’s list management practices can give you some ideas of how to manage your way out of this situation.

  • If you are inactive, you are out – If a TechTarget member takes no site activity for certain period of time, we take them out of normal email marketing. We put them in a separate program to discover their new interests. In practice, this means we remove a large percentage of our list every month.
  • Face the reality of database refresh – Our business depends on finding active prospects for aggressive tech companies, so we invest a lot of resources and thought in attracting new members. This is the primary job of our editorial and site marketing teams of >200 people globally. They are tasked with delivering tech content so unique that thousands of IT buyers join our sites each week.
  • Earn prospects’ interest details to keep them engaged – When members read content on our sites, we log their interest down to at least 3 levels of specificity (e.g. Storage > Backup > Backup for Virtual Environments). With this insight, we can tightly target the content we present to them. Our users appreciate this and stay engaged with our sites.

While TechTarget operates at a scale beyond most companies, these same principles  work for most marketing teams.

How does TechTarget help marketing teams lift the productivity of their marketing databases?

TechTarget’s Priority Engine service helps customers refresh their database through:

  • Hundreds of opted-in contacts who have been active in the last 90 days on subjects core to your technology area. This volume of fresh contacts gives you the scale needed for effective online marketing.
  • Details on contacts’ tech interests and firmographic details so you can sort data down to the grouping best suited for a specific campaign effort (e.g. FSI accounts, security-focused app buyers) to clearly see if your message works.
  • Weekly refreshed contacts and purchase intent data to avoid Data Deadweight by refreshing weekly with new contacts and providing net-new insight on existing active contacts.
  • Data confidence – Priority Engine insight is derived from user–generated activity ONLY (no telemarketing-forced activity); it comes from sites that are ONLY about enterprise IT and tagged down to the sub-topic level. This data is cleansed and refreshed every week.

If you are interested in talking more about your Data Deadweight problem or how you’ve solved it, please connect with me.

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