By Lisa Heay, Senior Marketing Consultant for Heinz Marketing

It’s October – the time for pumpkin spice, corn mazes, trick or treating, and spooky stories. Speaking of spooky stories, here’s one you might have heard before.  Marketing operations approaches sales and says, “Hey – I want to clean up our database, and I plan to delete a whole bunch of leads.”  THE HORROR!

From my experience, nothing scares sales more than deleting leads.  Well, maybe it’s not hitting their quota, but deleting leads has got to be a close second.  What if we delete someone that is interested?  What if we don’t have enough leads to work?  What if we need to comb through the notes on that lead?  Or look through the activity history?  What if they are unsubscribed, we re-import them again, and email them by accident??  We’d better keep ALL the leads that have ever entered our database.  Just. In. Case.

Coming from a Marketing Ops perspective, it’s not that we want sales to have less leads or make their jobs harder.  Quite the opposite in fact.  We want to make sales’ job easier by providing them with good leads to work with and easier access to reporting and data, all while keeping our systems clean and functioning efficiently at the same time.  When the sales team is happy and enabled with the right tools and data, deals get closed (more often, anyway), the organization makes money, and we each get to keep our paychecks (for now).  Win-win for everyone.

So, to all the sales people out there thinking marketing ops is set out to ruin their lives, hopefully I can ease some of your fears.

First, we are not monsters.  If a lead belongs to a target account, or is a customer, partner, is engaged, etc., we don’t want to delete those either.  That’s the good stuff.  But, it’s safe to say that if a lead is unsubscribed and hasn’t been to your website in 6+ months, they are not interested in what you have to offer.  At least right now.  If they have a need or interest in the future, they may come back in to your database from a form fill or event registration, and you’ll be off to the races once again.

“But, this lead just resurfaced…shouldn’t I see what the lead engaged with over a year ago?”  I can see the validity of that concern, but really, are you going to comb through activity logs and call records from way back, when there is more recent and relevant activity happening now? That kind of data is also very hard to report on – often it’s buried deep in notes.

Rest assured that marketing isn’t just trying to mess with you.  Here’s how all those excess leads impact your friends in marketing operations:

  • They skew our reporting
    • Unmarketable leads can create reporting discrepancies. When we send an email to a bunch of bad leads, it affects our sent vs. delivered %, the hard bounce values become elevated, etc.  We could even become blacklisted – affecting our sender rating and ability to reach the good stuff, too.
  • They take up our time
    • Building and executing campaigns and reports in marketing automation platforms take enough time as it is. When you hit go, you then don’t want to wait while the cursor spins and spins on the screen—endlessly chugging along trying to process all that unnecessary data.  Less leads and better data equal an increase in campaign, list pull, and reporting speed and efficiency by eliminating unnecessary processing of bad leads.
  • They cost us money
    • Each marketing automation platform is different, but some charge based on the number of records you have in your database. The more money we spend on database tiers, the less we have to execute other campaigns and attract those good leads for you to follow up on.  Don’t let bad leads cost you time AND money.

Now, just to be clear, I don’t support marketing ops that want to delete leads willy-nilly.  This must be a planned and intentional process.  Don’t go deleting mailable leads that haven’t been to your website in a month.  You need to think about what makes sense for your organization.  For us, if a lead has not filled out a form, visited the website, opened or clicked an email, or had any other activity change in six months, PLUS they have not ever been a customer or had an open opportunity AND they are unsubscribed, we delete them.

Another good group to target for deletion are those with permanent bounce error codes (the address just doesn’t exist anymore and won’t do you any good to keep it around), junk data, and duplicates.

Notice I didn’t mention competitors.  We recommend keeping competitors in your database.  You can glean some interesting information from their activity.  What are they downloading?  What web pages did they visit?  What events are they present at?  Just make sure to blacklist them instead so they don’t get all your cool product release announcements and news bulletins.

Finally, I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but it is best practice to ALWAYS back up your leads before you delete.  Just in case.  Do an export of all the record data and save the CSV file to your company’s shared files for your entire team to access.  You never know when you’ll win the lottery and peace outta that place.

From Marketing ops to sales – help us help you.  The next time marketing comes to you and says, “I think we need to cleanse our database,” don’t be scared.  We’re all in this together.