I’ve been involved in CRM systems for 30 plus years and the requirement to segment data typically to support marketing and analysis is a recurring theme. For businesses operating in a B2B environment I’ve put together some observations and comments on best practice. These notes do not cover product profiling which will be the subject of another blog. 
First of all, some general observations … 
The users that need to segment data are rarely those that must maintain the data and therefore there may not be the motivation to maintain data quality standards. 
It’s better to have a limited but high-quality set of data than a broad spectrum of poor-quality data. 
Users of a system will judge its effectiveness as much by the data as the functionality it provides. Good data can compensate for poor functionality, but good functionality will rarely compensate for poor quality data. 
Good Practice Observations 
Have as few profile fields as possible limited to those aspects that are strictly relevant to the business. 
Use option sets to restrict the data a user can enter, using text fields will result in inconsistencies that prevent effective analysis. 
For quantity-based profiles use bands rather than discrete numbers e.g. 1 to 10 employees, 11 to 50 employees etc. The banding needs to be “pitched” at an appropriate level for the analysis you require. 
Keep option set lists as short as possible, analysis shows that users select from the visible section of lists and are reluctant to scroll down to find the correct entry, the longer the list the worse this becomes. 
Do not combine two or more profiles into a single option set e.g. Care Homes 10-20 beds, Hospitals 1 to 500 beds, Care homes 21 to 100 beds. In this example its far more effective to have two profile fields one for the number of beds and the other for the type of organisation. 
Avoid ambiguity in option sets e.g. IT Companies and High tech and comms., they are probably the same thing. 
If possible use workflow to automatically change a profile for example a record can be updated from Prospect to Customer when an order is taken, or an opportunity is won. This can be combined with automatically logging the date of the change, so in this example the number of new customers in a period can be tracked. 
If you are wanting to analyse data from a geographic perspective always use postcode, typically the first 3 or characters. Using counties is fraught with problems as county boundaries / names change. 
Contact information 
Profiling contact level information brings its own challenges. 
A classic requirement is to classify contacts by the role they perform in the company using a contacts job title. Some time ago a client of ours wanted to target a campaign to HR staff, the first option was to attempt to use job titles to find the target audience and in a database of circa 10,000 contacts we found over 1,500 variants of personnel / HR related job titles rendering effective analysis impossible.  
To overcome this, we created a simple option set that defined the contact’s functional area and their level of seniority e.g. Sales Senor, Sales Other, Finance Senior, Finance Other, HR Senior HR Other etc. This allowed user’s to easily define their perspective on the contacts job role and seniority and for their marketeers to segment the data set and effectively target their messages to their client base. 
For contacts we also recommend that the contacts employment status is recorded using an option set e.g. In Post, Resigned, Retired, Parental Leave. We combine this with a field Attitude that defines how they view our company. Again, this is done using an option set with the values, Negative, Neutral and Positive. 
The combination of these two fields allows actions to be triggered when there is a change in the job status of a significant contact. 
As a final point a frequent question I’m asked is what to do with a contact’s record when they change job and surface in another company in your database, should you ... 
Reassign the contact to the new company 
Create a duplicate contact in the new company 
The correct approach is always to create a new contact for them in their new company. The rationale for doing this is that a contacts record will include may links to other sets of data such as meetings, emails, opportunities etc and therefore the contact record is set within the context of an organisation. If the contact were to be reassigned from the old to the new company, then all the related notes activities etc would also move and will be out of context and misleading. With Dynamics 365 a Connection can be made between the old and new records if required. 
CRM365 Solutions have experience of profiling and reporting across many industry sectors and provide consultancy and training in these areas. Please get in touch if you have these sort of issues and would like to discuss how we can help you. 
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