Why your customer data could pose the biggest threat to your business

Failing to accurately qualify and cleanse customer data could cost your company a fortune, says Robin Caller, CEO of LolaGrove.

With the spectre of the General Data Protection Legislation Regulation (GDPR) haunting businesses, it has never been more important to take control of your customer data – the information you collect through marketing and advertising on potential sales leads.

GDPR comes into force on May 25 next year. However, if you want 12 months’ worth of compliant prospect data in your sales funnels and CRM systems, now’s the time to address the issue.

The new king

Consent is the new king. GDPR and e-privacy directives increase the requirements for data controllers to ensure that consent and permissions have been obtained, can be evidenced, can be withdrawn, altered, etc. Meanwhile, data protection needs to be designed into your business processes.

The ultimate goal of data-based marketing is to strike up a conversation with someone that eventually leads to a purchase. This begins with the collection of personal data, driven by a prompt to sign up for a newsletter or brochure, or a ‘click here’ for more information.

GDPR now means you need to be more careful than ever how you carry out this process, and handle and protect the resulting data. And the penalties are eye-watering – ranging from €10-20 million. It’s definitely a good reason for companies to get their data ‘house’ in order from the moment of capture until the moment of sale (or deletion).

However, these penalties are a mere drop in the ocean compared to the money that companies are wasting right now due to the quality of their customer data. Each lead harvested and passed on to the marketing or sales team that is irrelevant is wasting advertising spend and staff time. It is spreading inefficiency across a business. Each non-prospect added to a company database is spreading a virus that essentially renders what should be a company’s most prized asset – the route to conversation and conversion with its key market – increasingly ineffective, in turn making its sales team more and more inefficient.

One problem dogging companies is that the marketing function is not tasked with reducing the processing costs. All too often marketers refuse to take responsibility for the waste, only the volumes. Meanwhile, sales teams only want to call the sure things. It’s going to take a CEO, CFO, or COO to break these internal silos and look at the ‘total cost’ of a lead – on a cost-to-revenue basis – before the waste is truly tackled.

Switched on senior executives already know that they waste up to half of their advertising because they collect data from people who are such cold prospects that they are practically encased in ice. Despite all the investment in advertising, sales and marketing technology, and the problem remains that they don’t know which half.

How can companies be doing such a bad job collecting customer data? How does a CEO know if her or his company is on top of their game?

Well, as a simple test, choose your own website enquiry form (or one of a major car manufacturer. Do a simple search and when you get to the website, find the enquiry form and complete the form incorrectly. Include some obvious nonsense, perhaps throw in a gentle expletive or two and/or a preposterous false name. It’s highly likely you’ll receive a brochure as requested, and what’s more, your alter ego, the rather cuddly Fluffy McFluff, will soon be residing on the BMW customer database – and yes, encased in ice! It’s always fun to give your real phone number and wait for the call! But be gentle to the poor sales executive whose job is debased by this waste of time.


Oracle’s Cory Treffiletti openly admitted that he believes 30% of the tech giant’s databases are filled with garbage. This would suggest that at around a third of the media budget spent in obtaining that data is comprehensive waste. For a business the size of Oracle, with global clients, that’s billions upon billions of dollars thrown away. Compare that to the potential €20 million GDPR penalty. And that’s without looking at the cost of wasted staff time in pursuing the garbage. These penalties are now becoming embarrassing (or job threatening) enough to drive the shrewd C-suite executive to tackle the issue. After all, the amount of customer data at a company’s disposal is only going to increase.

So let’s keep it simple, and put in a three step change to our attitudes.

First off, when moving the data from A to B – collection point to company database – it should be treated like a Rembrandt painting, because it is personal data and has a high value.

Second, it should be handled and stored securely to prevent it being lost and stolen – no one wants to fall foul of GDPR.

Third, assess the data for value – how strong a lead it really is and whether it qualifies to go into your database and get your investment in a sales conversation.

People behave in a certain way when they interact with your data forms that signal their ability and/or intentions towards your business. The technology is now here to enable you to monitor their behaviour and personal information, and then score them for intention and ability to purchase. Only those that tick the box on both counts should then be added to your database. This significantly improves the quality of your data so that your advertising is more effective and your team are working on the best prospects. Oh, and all this is done safely and securely making GDPR compliance a given.

In the new normal of tightening data regulations, hyper global competitiveness, and exploding amounts of data, should this be viewed as an optional extra or critical to the future success of your business? You decide…but quickly.

LolaGrove is a data processor, specifically designed to overcome the systemic issues inherent in the buying and selling of personal and other data.

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