Dirty data myopia

Which critical accountabilities of marketing operations do not connect with corporate CRM systems?


A systems-based view of data for which marketing has responsibility reveals an almost implausible but hard-fact reality: vast portions of data lie in isolated, one-of-kind systems or, worse still, exist only in physical paper-based forms, records, and the perennial “shoeboxes” of stuff.

The figure below depicts customer relationship management systems (CRM) as the typical centerpiece of marketing information management, expanding up and down the stack of enterprise data sources and databases.

Few if any databases in marketing operations connect with enterprise CRM, leaving myriad insights, customer innovations, and market opportunities behind.

Few if any databases in marketing operations connect with enterprise CRM, leaving myriad insights, customer innovations, and market opportunities behind.

In practice, many medium to larger enterprises have multiple, nonintegrated Sales CRM systems and only loosely coupled integration with the more mission-critical Operational CRM systems—help desks, call centers, and maintenance and repair organizations (MRO).


Medium to larger enterprises may have a combination of the following sources of data, content, or information.

Marketing Analytics supports segmentation, using special tools, data visualization techniques, and enriched data to identify unserved needs, willingness to pay price premiums, new markets.

Program Management for marketing supports the integrated campaigns and media-mix optimizations.

Content Creation often comprises several subsystems, including a repository of reusable media assets, document management of creative briefs, multimedia editorial workflow (review and approval), and enterprise publishing for printed material and Websites.

Localization speeds adaptation of copy, imagery, and designs that engage local market tastes and sensibilities.

Content Optimization makes Web pages easier to find, grouping content into more user-intuitive categories, faceted navigation, personalized tag clouds, etc.

Web Content management (WCM) systems rarely provide user comments and insights to upstream system uses; nor do most WCMs integrate with marketing analytics and media-mix optimization activities. As a result, a lot of Web content remains disconnected from all other marketing activities.

E-Messaging delivers personal emails and newsletters to customers and prospects, inducing them to participate in Webinars, seminars, or promotions. E-Messaging systems may also integrate with direct mail functions that may or may not reside in CRM systems.

Customer Masters provide “one version of the customer truth”—a data mart with normalized data from financial systems—incorporating transaction data with customer account histories. However, Customer Masters rarely contain sufficient data to support segmentation and predictive modeling of lifetime customer value. Customer masters need enriched data and specialized tools from Marketing Analytics (indicated above)

Customer Insights apply data from various surveys, pop-up polls, and enriched data overlays to customer profles, enabling powerful insights: ideal customer profiles, product-mix optimizations, etc. When combined with Customer Masters and Marketing Analytics (specialized columnar databases, advanced data visualization tools, and lots of clean enriched data such as household or business credit histories), Customer Insights often frame an intuition and potential breakthroughs for engagement.

Social Monitoring systems “spider” content from millions of public blogs, forums, posted comments, social networks, and wikis, making inferred assessments of flash-point topics, sentiments, and new customer innovations.

Voice of Customer systems summarize the sentiments and reactions to virtually every customer touchpoint—policy, service, and product quality—using verbatim transcripts of customer interviews and specialized content classification and summarization tools.


GISTICS’ research of the journey to analysis-driven marketing and engagement reveals that most firm fail when expanding from CRM and its rat’s nest of dirty data. Rather, best practice dictates starting at the top: Marketing analytics wedded to customer masters.