Top data mistakes small businesses make and how to avoid them

Simon Lawrence explores how to turn data into profit and avoid some of the common pitfalls he’s seen businesses make with data-based marketing campaigns.

25th May 2010 at 9:30 am

Data is the most valuable asset a business has, and sits at the heart of all marketing strategies. How successful these marketing strategies are, depends entirely on the businesses ability to turn the data into real and usable knowledge of their prospects. Ultimately, this insight can be turned into profit – and who doesn’t want that in these troubling times?

However, there are a number of common mistakes businesses tend to make with how they grow and use their data – all of which are easily avoided:

Assuming there are an infinite number of prospects for any business

It’s simply not realistic to think you can go to a number of data providers and grow an ever-increasing list of prospects that will serve to deliver consistently for you business. And unfortunately, you can’t create prospects from nothing. Businesses need to understand the overall universe of prospects and the segments within it that will every be likely to buy their products. This ensure that resources are targeted to get best return – and anything else is just wasted time, budget, and effort.

Not treating data as strategic

Every business should be constantly nurturing its prospects. So many will focus too much on the response, instead of focusing on the reasons behind the non-response. A ‘no’ now doesn’t mean a ‘no’ in 4 months time. There is definitely room for businesses to understand their prospects better, rather than simply replicating their previous tactics and hoping for the best. Yes, what worked before may well work again, but you wont know why and this approach can also result in missing new potential prospects, who may be interested in your product.

Assuming all databases are complete, fully populated and correct

Just because a record is on a database, that doesn’t mean it’s complete – or accurate. There is a lot of work to be done by data owners to ensure that their databases are fully representative of the sectors they seek to cover, and to ensure that every record has accurate and complete classification information that ultimately means they can be selected. Businesses need to invest in infilling any missing information, and focus on how they can create this information. This is only going to become more of a challenge, as businesses are tasked with running global campaigns.

Thinking that price doesn’t matter

It does. Data isn’t a commodity, and we need to start paying attention to the benefits that come with paying a premium; it gets the right message to the right people at the right time. Those that say price doesn’t matter, and go with the lowest cost option, are fooling themselves with a false economy, and at worst could lose their job after the campaign bombs.

Not asking their data suppliers the right questions

When businesses do this, the whole campaign is at stake. If a business is having trouble knowing the right questions to ask, then it’s important to use experts to procure the data for them, and ask questions such as where the data is sourced. It is imperative that the business gets under the skin of the data, so to speak. Not all data is the same, and shouldn’t be taken at face value.

Failing to set expectations internally with colleagues and superiors is one of the most common mistakes businesses make. Over-promising results in confusion across the board, and more often than not, disappointment in the results. Using open and honest communication, and transparency when sourcing data, is imperative.

Simon Lawrence

Simon is the founder and CEO of Information Arts one of the UK's leading business-to-business marketing consultancies set up in 2000. Simon has over 17 years experience within the industry and is widely regarded as a leading expert in businesses marketing to other businesses.

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  1. […] relies heavily on a business’s ability to turn data into real and usable knowledge. An article by Small Biz Point notes the common pitfalls experienced by small businesses and the best way to avoid […]

  2. Paul says:

    The “infinite number of prospects” assumption is always an interesting one and particularly relevant for specialist businesses selling & marketing to a niche audience/client base.

    The most common scenario for this one is that old chestnut whereby a business currently getting X revenue from Y clients believes that by increasing its marketing tenfold will yield a tenfold increase in clients and therefore revenue.

  3. Andy Nauman says:

    Fantastic tips all business owners should follow. Great article, thank you!

  4. Diane says:

    I loved this line “Every business should be constantly nurturing its prospects”

    I had someone who ignored me because I said “no, not now” and was so rude that when I was ready to turn that no, not now into a yes I am ready now I gave the business to someone else!

    Plus prospects who say no can provide great referrals if you ask.


  5. Simon says:

    Agree with Andy. Very useful info. Thanks

  6. I guess one of the challenges is finding the time to clean your records after a mailing. It is inevitable that some records will bounce, its at that point you need the discipline to follow-up and establish the right contact.

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