How to Reorganize Your Marketing Database to Optimize Data

A review of Acquia's approach to reorganization of our marketing databases to improve optimization of our data to increase client communications.


Spring brings many things that our team at Acquia is excited about: warmer weather and longer days, and all the fun activities that come with it! From a business perspective, there is a lot of activity abound as projects committed to during the first quarter take on renewed importance. 

One common initiative that many organizations undertake is an annual audit of marketing databases to meet certain benchmarks for client communications, developing new contacts and lead generation. Here we’ll review how Acquia approached this review, and some points to consider when deciding whether a centralized or decentralized model may best suit your organization’s annual marketing plans. 

First Phase: Engaging a Consultant

In the third quarter of 2018, Acquia’s marketing operations team began an audit and quickly recognized our marketing database was reaching its contact allotment capacity unlike our office snack jars, which we can never replenish quickly enough! 

After getting together to talk through ideas, the team decided to engage a consultant to conduct a broad review of the whole database to best ensure a granular understanding of the most critical issues they were trying to solve for. Chris Algiere, a senior marketing operations specialist at Acquia, describes the state of his department’s database, Marketo, as at once being greatly above contact allotment, and well below the industry standard for the percentage of marketable contacts that were maintained. “We discovered during an evaluation a significant part of the problem was the contacts maintained in the database were only 40 percent marketable — we needed to understand the composition of the remaining 60 percent. This was particularly important to research further from a cost perspective, as this meant we were overpaying by 60 percent based on the number of Marketo contacts we were maintaining.”

Second Phase: Findings

Following the consultant’s review, Algiere and his team learned approximately 60% of contacts that were categorized as not reachable were based in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) countries in the EU that either have selected to opt out of communications, or have not yet chosen to opt in. As contacts in GDPR countries must agree to receive marketing materials, Algiere and his team set up filters to ensure these contacts were removed from the Marketo system to save space for contact allotment and to reduce the number of daily syncs that take place between the systems.

The consultant also outlined these findings:

- Redundancies in contacts

- Contacts with no email addresses

- Contact that were not accepted systematically by Marketo

- Contacts with missing essential information for communications

Following recommendations outlined by the consultant, Algiere and his team set up smart lists to ensure contacts deleted in the Acquia sales operations’ database, Salesforce, were also removed in Marketo. This led to updating the syncing relationship between both databases, such that they set up a one-direction sync filter between Marketo and Salesforce to ensure the team could delete contacts in Marketo to conserve costs, yet the contacts would remain in SalesForce. 

This covered the database cleaning side of the audit. Yet, there was a second aim: organization. As part of the audit, the team also began looking at programs and campaigns that they had accumulated over the years and realized many of these files were creating the closet version of old-worn shoe clutter. 

Rachel Wandishin, senior marketing operations specialist, described their process for deciding what to keep and what should remain. “Since receiving the audit back, I devoted an hour a week to go through all the sections of Marketo we have, tackling a folder at a time, all of the emails we have ever sent, syndication programs, and online advertising programs, to make sure they are organized into the folders they should be, first to ensure anyone in Marketo can actually see and find what they need; and second, for usability, as it is much easier for our team to use the database when you are not sifting through a bunch of old stuff, so anything that is older than this year or last year, I placed it in a folder titled “old,”  with the ultimate goal to archive all of these files.”

Third Phase: Setting Up Security and Permission Rules

The third component to the clean-up was security and permission rules. Algiere spoke about the importance of reviewing and discarding, when necessary, all user access to the system among other departments, as well as externally, to figure out what kind of access each user should have. This resulted in a review and edit of permission levels both internally and externally. Certain users were deleted, while others were given the appropriate level of access. The consultant had pointed out 70% of our organization’s users had administrative access; following the review, Algiere and his team were able to whittle this down to five admins. 

A smaller component of this review encompassed looking at the integrations in Marketo to understand which other systems still have access to read or write Marketo data and removing those that we could not find a use case for. 

Through this process, an important question was raised in terms of which model may be most efficient. For example, is it best to have a central database, a.k.a., one source of truth, in which all data is maintained and contacts are funneled through segmented lists to each department’s database to ensure cost control and streamlined efforts or to have a decentralized set of databases in which each department is able to exert greater control in terms of editing and contact management. Both models have their benefits and drawbacks, so it may be helpful to write out a pro / con list for when it may come time to choose a company model. 

At Acquia, while our review is still ongoing, much progress has been made: we have removed a significant portion of inactive leads and contacts in our marketing database, and our marketable percentage has risen to 73%. While our team aims to achieve 90%, we realize this will likely be an ongoing effort, with all hands on deck through the year. 

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