Governance of your data is critical. If you lose control of it, fixing the problem is a painful exercise. That is the experience of Sean Smith head of customer experience at Endeavour Drinks Group, the new name for Woolworths liquor group.

Speaking at the Oracle Marketing Cloud Modern Marketing Meet Up in Sydney earlier this week, Smith shared what he calls “worst moment of his career” — what happens when governance goes wrong.

Working for an Australian online travel business, with a US parent company, the actions of an international marketing team uploading customer data in bulk and buying contact lists earned the company the ire of Spamhaus.

“Spamhaus is like this kind of secret Jedi order of people around the world who are dedicated to eradicating the world of spam,” Smith said.

In simple terms, Spamhaus provides internet service providers with blacklists to block emails sent from certain IP addresses. Organisations need to clean up their email lists before they are removed from the block list. Shortly after joining the unnamed company he worked for at the time, Smith found the company’s emails blocked by Spamhaus and he was faced with an enormous clean up.

“We had a distributed marketing team in countries around Europe or all over the place, and their KPI was customer acquisition. They had a budget. They had this tool, the data uploader, and they would go out and run some of the acquisition stuff, then they would bundle it up in excel or something stupid like that, pump it into the data uploader and uploading it to our data,” Smith said.

“If they got towards the end of their KPI period and they hadn’t quite caught enough customers, they would just go looking for lists to buy. They would buy lists, dodgy lists, cheap and nasty lists, and just shove them into the bulk uploader.”

After crippling the bulk uploader, Smith then had to dramatically cut the size of the businesses database.

“By the way, if anyone has something like that and they need some help, call me. Because there is so much more to it to fix that,” he added.

Businesses need rules and governance around its data. How it is captured, managed, customer contact rules and legislative requirements are critical for digital marketing, Smith said.

Marketers Need Leadership Backing

Speaking more broadly, Smith said marketers must align themselves with company strategies.

“I know that sounds obvious, but it’s not actually that clear to many people. If you think about your organisation, every organisation is in a different phase of strategy.”

For example customer acquisition for start-ups, or growing sales, revenue or market share or, needing to reinvigorate a business by thinking about customer experience or NPS.

“These are company strategies that you may not be thinking of as a marketer, in terms of your marketing cloud, but if you don’t align what you are doing with those company strategies, you are going to run into problems later,” Smith said.

Following on from that advice, Smith emphasised the need for marketers to get buy in from management, which means ditching the jargon and speaking in a language they understand.

“You need to speak the language that the senior management understand, which is generally revenue and EBIT. That can be hard in the digital world, explaining what it is that you do,” Smith said.

Smith recalled a time he needed to convince an executive to approve a $1 million contract to renew the company’s marketing cloud and email platform.

“We had a conversation that was basically, his understanding was, if we were to post a catalogue in the letter box, then we would need to invest in the stamps that would go on the letter. Literally that is what the conversation came down to. Once we got around that conversation, he thought, ‘Righto, this is really critical. There’s your million dollars.'”

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