WTF Moment: ‘Crowdsourced’ Data for Sale

I’ve been hard at work on what I hope will be a helpful and insightful post about how I approach building my marketing tech stack. However, I just had an experience that I had to share immediately, so the other post can wait.

Does anyone remember the old days of Jigsaw and how that database was built up? Maybe you know of Jigsaw, but you don’t know how they got their data. Well let me tell you: it was built on the concept of ‘crowdsourcing.’ Jigsaw had 2 types of customers: those that paid for access to the database, and those that earned it. How was it earned? By entering data into the database. For every XX# of contact records you entered, you earned access to information on X# of records you were looking for. This data had to be entered by hand, which theoretically would make it more accurate than a file which was imported in mass, right? Hm, ok sure.

For small companies with a small marketing budget, this seemed like a beautiful thing, but there are some critical flaws in the model:

  • Presumably, the company entering the data would only be entering data they owned and had a right to share, such as their own employee records. But the deal was the number of records entered must exceed he number consumed, so what’s the likelihood that a small company has more employees on staff than prospecting targets? Strike one.
  • But wait! I’m forgetting the big companies, surely they have a sufficient employee database size to share in exchange for prospecting data provided by others? They might, but they also have sufficient budgets to buy the data they want outright. Strike two.
  • Ok, you might be thinking that there must be some validity to the assertion that data entered by hand with care and intention must be better. I attest that is a nice theory but utter hooey. I feel I have the authority to say that because I was the person entering that data by hand. Yup, in college I had a part-time job for a small company entering data from a 100 page paper packet of employee roster names acquired from who-the-hell-knows-where into Jigsaw so that my employer could extract prospect names. If you ever engage in an unedited virtual exchange with me you’d realize pretty quickly that any data entered by me was probably riddled with typos. Now, I’m sure this was NOT Jigsaw’s intent, but that was the reality. Strike 3.

At this point, by the rules of baseball we’d say this is sufficient to call “OUT!” but I can’t help but mention one more teeny-weeny detail that others may consider a non-issue but frankly. gets my blood boiling: ethics. By global standards, the US is a pretty liberal country when it comes to data privacy laws. What I just outlined above simply wouldn’t be legal in many other countries. In the US, it is, so let’s put the legality of the matter aside, and ignore the logical shortcomings identified above and just focus on the ethics of it all.

Ethics are not black and white, but for the most part (and forgive me this oversimplification) I think most ethical issues can be boiled down to this: the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Would you want your personal information pimped out for the gain of your company? I think most people would say “no.”

Ok, enough background ranting…fast forward to today:

This morning (very early I might add) I received a phone call from a company, which will not be named, attempting to sell me crowdsourced data. The enthusiastic sales guy cited all the great reasons (listed above) that crowdsourced data is superior, and even cited pre-acquisition Jigsaw as the model they have emulated. Apparently, in 10 years we have not evolved a sense of self-awareness, logic, or morals to apply to this methodology. Sigh.

However, we have achieved an evolution of technology. Gone are the days of manual data entry into a dedicated platform. And gone are the days where we have to waste valuable time tediously picking and choosing whose data we will share. Now, all we need to do is install a nifty app onto our phones and it will scan and extract all of our contacts’ data for us, send it to the vendor and be instantly available on the market for anyone who wants to buy it. WTF?!

I actually don’t know whether this is true, but presumably since this is a real company, that means that it is lawful for me to decide to install an application onto my phone and share the personal contact information of my fiends, family and colleagues with another company who will then sell that information to other companies. I won’t even give contact info of my colleagues to someone who I know and asks for a referral without the consent of the colleague whom I would like to refer. Call me over-cautious but that, to me, is simply common courtesy and good business behavior.

It took everything in my power to graciously explain why this was not something I was personally interested in for my own moral reasons, nor was it something I felt my company would be interested in. My lack of enthusiasm was apparently baffling to the person on the other end of the line. Maybe it was because I hadn’t yet had my morning coffee (yes, it was that early), or maybe I’m just a bad American, but the lack of comprehension for why this is an egregious offense and horrifying business model had my blood pumping and my ears burning. What’s worse, obviously there are people out there that install this app and betray their contacts, and there are companies that buy and use this data. Presumably to riddle my inbox with SPAM and blow up my phone with obnoxious calls all day long.

Note to my friends, family and colleagues: if you give away or sell my contact data for any reason unsanctioned by me, we’re fighting.  

1950’s Housewife Rules for Marketers

Let me ask you something that I ask every company I consider working with:

What role does your marketing department play in your organization?  Are they considered an organization that exists to serve sales? Or do they serve the business as an equal partner, in conjunction with sales and all other business functions?

Put another way:

Who is marketing’s client? Sales? Or the business’ customer?

A lot of companies think of marketing as an organization that exists to serve and enable sales, who ultimately is the bread-winner for the business. This, in my opinion, is a sad, shortsighted, and antiquated view of marketing’s role. I apologize in advance for this very American approach to this topic, but I can think of no better parallel than the quintessential 1950’s American Housewife. If you’re not up on your mid-twentieth century domestic American history, you can brush up here.

In this scenario sales is the husband, marketing is the wife, and the business is their family. Here we go:

1950’s Housewife Rules for Marketers

  1. Have everything ready. Plan ahead. When sales wants leads they should be ready and waiting, warm and ready for conversion. But sales may decide not to work the leads you prepared that day, or he may be dissatisfied with your leads and ignore them. He may even get mad at you for not giving him the leads he wanted that day, but do not talk back or let this upset you. You should always have a backup of other leads ready and waiting.
  2. Prepare yourself. Sales works hard to provide for you and the business, and he doesn’t want to look at ugly marketing materials. Keep your offerings pretty and fresh. Stay up to date with the latest styles and know what he likes and give it to him (even if it’s not what the customer wants), because at the end of the day you exist to serve sales first and the customer second.
  3. Listen to him. You may have done tons of market research and have a lot to say, but always let sales talk first. If you don’t think his ideas will work, try them anyway and be prepared to take the blame. If you have a really good idea, gently work it into conversation and let him think it was his idea. And of course, let sales take the credit. He works hard to provide for you and your family, and has earned it.
  4. Let the day be his. Never complain or be upset if he doesn’t show up to meetings or follow-up on all of your leads. Try to understand that he works hard, and even though you do too, at the end of the day his works contributes directly to revenue and your contributions are one-step removed.
  5. Arrange his lead queue and monitor his opportunities. Speak in low soothing tones and if necessary, administer his CRM for him so he doesn’t get bogged down in silly things like learning how to do his job in the modern world.
  6. Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. So what if he’s ignoring customer requests and spamming the prospects you’ve been so gently nurturing? Remember, he is the master of the house and brings home the bacon so you have no right to question him.
  7. A good marketer always knows her place.

Ok, so this is an over-dramatization of most sales/marketing relationships. But I am personally aware of companies that both consciously and unconsciously operate their businesses with this mentality. Just as the mentality toward marriage has evolved in our society to be one of equality – where husband and wife are equal contributors – so too should the view of the role of marketing and sales evolve. Equal does not mean the same. Marketing and sales are very different, and bring a unique and equally important value to every business.

By the way, this post is not meant to be interpreted as a plug toward social or feminist views on modern domestic issues. If you have a different idea of what modern-day marriage means, and you’re still pro-patriarchal in your beliefs, that’s fine. There are many cultures and many beliefs, which are all perfectly valid as long as that works in your relationship. I will not judge you for the decisions you make in your personal lives.

But if you’re a business, and you still exalt your sales organization as the patriarch and view your marketing department as a subservient entity, which exists to support sales, I do judge you. Because you’re wrong. A well staffed, funded, and run marketing department can be a valuable contributor and equal partner with a lot more to bring to the table than a hot meal.

5 Signs Your Sales/Marketing Marriage is Failing (and how to fix it)

Bad Marriage

The sales/marketing relationship is essentially an arranged marriage. You’re stuck together and you need each other, so you have to make it work. Embrace it, and it’s possible to be a happy power couple of revenue-generating achievement. Fight it, and you both with be unhappy and ineffective.

Here are 5 signs your marriage is failing, and how to fix it:

1. You take each other for granted
Sales – you need marketing to drive qualified leads. The reality of today’s selling environment, whether you like it or not, is 70% of the buyer journey is complete before a prospect reaches out to sales. The sales process is changing and the balance of power is shifting. You’re now the third most important part of the sales process (after the buyer and the marketing team). If your marketing team is doing their job right, they are shepherding prospects through the first 70% of the funnel.

Marketing – you need sales to close the feedback loop. If sales doesn’t work your leads through the correct process and close the loop, you don’t get feedback on what’s working and what’s not.

Can the two of you do your jobs without each other? Maybe, but it will be a hell of a lot harder. You will all be much happier and successful if you to take the time to understand what you each bring to the table and appreciate those inputs and learn how to embrace them.

How to fix this: Acknowledge you need each other and do so regularly. Marketing and Sales Leaders – it’s up to you to cascade this through your organizations. Don’t just say it – prove it by facilitating channels of communication and shared experiences. Encourage both alignment and understanding. Sales – take the time to understand what marketing is doing to draw in prospects and nurture and qualify them before they come to you. Are they providing you with insights that could inform on a more impactful sales conversation? Marketing – what is sales’ process? What are the obstacles they face that can get in the way of converting even the best marketing qualified leads, and how can you help?

You’re all in the same boat and you won’t get anywhere if you dont row in the same direction.
Reading recommendation: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.


2. You complain about each other to your friends
It’s easy to fall into a downward spiral of negativity when your partner is letting you down. It’s even easier to complain to your friends/colleagues/peers than to address the problem with your partner. We all handle this differently in our personal lives. Some people avoid confrontation like the plague. I’m more of the direct confrontation shout-it-out type. In the business world you need to exercise a bit more tact.

How to fix this: Address the issue directly. Talk to your sales/marketing leader. Leaders – again, facilitating lines of communication and feedback loops is critical. You also have to make the conscious decision to stop complaining about one another. Negativity breeds more negativity. Be the bigger person and stop. Here’s an article about how to respond to negativity in the workplace.

I don’t want to understate how important this is or how hard it can be. I’m totally guilty of side-line chats with colleagues expressing my frustration with sales in a less-than-tactful manner. The words “I can’t stand sales” and “I don’t know how to fix stupid” have definitely been uttered more than once. And I’ll be the first to admit thats the wrong attitude. “Stupid” may not be fixable, but lack of alignment is.


3. You co-exist and otherwise ignore eachother
The only thing worse than complaining about your partner is pretending they don’t even exist. You cannot function on separate planes. Failing to acknowledge your co-dependency and doing your own thing in your own way is a recipe for failure. You are not mutually-benefitting; you’re mutually sabotaging one another.

How to fix this: Defer to item #1. Open the lines of communication and be the power couple you were destined to be. Here’s a great HubSpot blog on How to Align Sales and Marketing for Results (Not Just Harmony)


4. You never hook up
It’s hard to maintain a relationship in the absence of a physical connection. I’m not suggesting you get it on with your colleagues, but if the sales and marketing departments aren’t coming together on a regular basis, intimacy and alignment is basically impossible to establish and maintain.

How to fix this: Hook up regularly. I suggest shared sales/marketing kick-offs at least annually. These are great ways to reinforce the fact that you’re all on the same team. But don’t just leave it at big annual hoorahs. Get some quickies in there – a monthly touch base on big wins and progress against shared goals could do wonders to keep the alignment in tact and the lines of communication open.


 5. You’re both selfish assholesvintage-haha
Sometimes, the problem is a bit less innocent than simply falling out of step with one another. Sometimes, we’re just selfish assholes. We are each doing our own thing, living our own lives, and aren’t worrying about how this impacts our partner.

Usually this happens organically over time and may be driven by goals we’re each trying to achieve that result in an every-man-for-himself attitude.

Sometimes, this behavior is conscious and goes hand in hand with that negativity I mentioned. An attitude may manifest such sentiments as: “Fuck sales, if they don’t want to pay attention to the leads we give them we just won’t give them leads…or give we’ll them everything that comes and let them wade through it all.”

Regardless of how this bad behavior came about, it’s not good for your marriage. And you need to fix it.

How to fix this: Stop being a selfish asshole. Stop and think about how your actions and attitude affect your partner. And if you really are that selfish, then think about how your asshole-ness is actually hurting you, because being aligned with your partner would actually benefit you.

Sales and marketing leaders – it is incumbent on you to dig into the root of the issue and work toward remedying the cause. If misaligned goals are causing sales and marketing to compete rather than act as partners – fix it. There nothing wrong with a little competition, but if it gets in the way of actions for the greater good of the business it’s not doing anyone any good.

In case you don’t think it’s worth all the effort, here’s a post that discusses the financial impact of sales/marketing alignment.