Grow customer relationships with clean data

The right data can help marketing teams personalize offers to drive revenue, boost conversion rates, and increase customer loyalty.

“Regardless of the source—internal company data, demographic data, or census data from the government—many of these data sets are very messy.”

—Joel Gurin, senior advisor at New York University’s Governance Lab and author of Open Data Now

Gathering the right data to better target customers is no small feat, says Joel Gurin, senior advisor at New York University’s Governance Lab and author of  Open Data Now: The Secret to Hot Startups, Smart Investing, Savvy Marketing, and Fast Innovation, and founder of OpenDataNow.com. Gurin knows the value of great data from first-hand experience.

He is currently compiling a list of US companies using government data to generate new business. His Open Data 500 study reveals the revenue potential of public data, but also highlights a challenge that faces many marketers today. When it comes to using clean data, how can you ensure it is safe and connected across multiple channels?

In this interview, Gurin discusses the profound impact of inaccurate data on a marketer’s ability to accurately target consumers. He also emphasizes the importance of vetting information.

How critical is the role of data in enabling marketers to effectively reach consumers?

Gurin: Data is at the heart of all marketing endeavors. Any company that is seriously committed to understanding and marketing to its customers relies on data from a variety of sources. Working with data that comes from both inside a company and from various public sources presents both opportunities and obstacles.

What are some of the challenges presented by harnessing multiple sources of consumer data?

Gurin: Regardless of the source—internal company data, demographic data, or census data from the government—many of these data sets are very messy. For instance, data stemming from legacy systems is often out of date. As well, it’s not uncommon to find gaps when data is gathered from myriad sources. And, the US federal government relies on an estimated 10,000 information systems. So, a failure to integrate data from these disparate sources can stand in the way of sophisticated analyses.

What are the bottom-line repercussions of inaccurate data?

Gurin: Imagine a large retailer that relies on weather data to either stock its shelves with weather-related products or to predict customer traffic. Now, what do you do about the fact that weather predictions are inaccurate much of the time? The risk is that a retailer can hurt itself with the wrong product supply flow or expectations of customer flow. Companies need to learn both how to use the data and how to manage miscalculations and minimize their impact on marketing initiatives.

How can marketers take data cleanliness into their own hands?

Gurin: In addition to using data quality tools, companies can triangulate data by comparing information from the crowd with official sources. For example, if your company needs to track automotive sales, you could look at more than the official statistics. You could also look at car-buying sites to get some insight into buyer behavior. You could track the changing volume of used versus new car purchases, the types of vehicles bought, and other trends. The result is greater accuracy of information based on the current interests, activities, and comments of real consumers.

As data cleanliness and accuracy improves, how do you see marketers’ use of data changing?

Gurin: The marketing power of data is empowering an even more accurate picture of individual customers. In addition to that, we’re seeing a shift toward a better understanding of how your brand is perceived. We can also gauge how people are reacting to your products. And these are changes that promise to be powerful.

For more on managing data quality, read Gartner’s October 2013 “Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools.”

Related content



Citrix uses Informatica solutions to gain complete customer insight on all products


Zero in on customers without making them feel exploited

Consider implementing data masking or MDM technology to secure your customer data.


Crowdsourced data: Can you trust it?

Sentiment data can drive sales, guide product development, and enhance customer service. Be sure to vet the source and motivation behind it.


5 reasons your CRM system isn't working--and what to do about it

If you don’t have the right CRM strategy in place, you’re not just losing sales. You’re losing the ability to plan and market effectively.