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.  

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Is your marketing automation system just an expensive stand mixer?

Is your marketing automation system just an expensive stand mixer?

Imagine that you’re a successful five-star restaurant owner (congratulations!), but you do not currently serve dessert (gasp!). You realize that in order to compete and continue to be successful you need to serve dessert, so you do a little research and find that every one of your competitors with great desserts has a stand mixer, so you go out and get the best stand mixer money can buy. You give it to your cooks and say ‘make me five-star desserts!’

What do you think would happen? Do you think you would get a five-star dessert? Probably not. You’ve got a skilled team, so you’d probably get something passable as a dessert, but it will probably be 2 stars ☆☆…maybe 3. ☆☆☆

But why not five? That stand mixer is the BEST. You paid a small fortune for it, so why can’t it produce amazing desserts?

Because that stand mixer, as great as it may be, is just a stand mixer – a tool. It’s a powerful tool, and a worthwhile investment to be sure, but just buying a tool is not enough. The same goes for a marketing automation system. It is not magic, it is a tool that can help you make many masterful desserts, but it requires a skilled pastry chef (or team of chefs) with great recipes, and it requires investment in ingredients, attachments, cleaning and maintenance to really add value to your kitchen.

So let’s break it down:

A skilled pastry chef
You can’t just plop your line cooks, or even your head chef in front of a stand mixer and expect them to make a masterpiece. And you can’t throw your demand, field, or product marketers in front of a complex automation tool and expect them to produce great results. A marketing operations or automation expert, like a pastry chef, has a specialized skill set that takes knowledge and experience to master.

Great recipes
This is the foundation of any chef’s skill set, and the best practices your ops expert brings to the table are foundational to the successful use of your automation system. These best practices define the processes that determine how your automation system functions – how it processes data, scores leads, passes them to sales, sends emails, reports on result, etc. And just as food tastes, trends, and techniques change, so do automation trends, so invest in ongoing training for your pasty chef so that existing recipes can be fine-tuned and new recipes can be learned.

Ingredients
There are many ingredients that go into a great dessert, and without them the stand mixer is a useless vessel mixing air to no end. Your automation system is useless without inputs like data, assets and workflows. And the supply of these must be never-ending because they’re use is limited – one set of ingredients can only produce so many desserts before you must put more ingredients into the mixer and start again to create another great delicacy.

Attachments
Stand mixers are one of the most robust and versatile tools in the kitchen, yet many people don’t use them to their full potential. Most people know how to use the mixer attachment, which comes standard, but did you know that with the right attachments you can roll and cut pasta, juice fruits and veggies, grind meat, knead bread dough, slice, dice, and more? Your automation system is a robust tool and with the right attachments you’d be amazed at what you can do, from lead scoring to third party integrations toclosed-loop reporting. Some of these great features come standard, and some cost extra, but you should explore your options to make the most of your investment.

Cleaning & Maintenance
I hope you will agree that cleanliness is absolutely necessary in a kitchen. You must keep your mixer clean to avoid contamination that could affect the quality and safety of the food, and if it gets too dirty it can even impact the functionality of the mixer itself (ew!). While not a safety issue, the cleanliness of your automation system certainly is critical for quality and functionality of your system. Cleaning needs to be performed regularly in order to ensure that the old ingredients, like bad data and expired workflows, are washed away.

And voila! You have the foundation for many five-star desserts…I mean, successful marketing programs to come. ☆☆☆☆☆

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn – November 11, 2014