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How to Prevent Bad Data from Forms

How to Prevent Bad Data from Forms

Guest Blog Post: Elliott Lowe, Head of MarTech, RingLead – 3x Marketo Champion

Numerous studies by Sirius Decisions, Experian, NetProspex and others confirm the common-sense notion that bad data quality impairs the fundraising, recruiting and marketing effectiveness of non-profits and higher education organizations.

A comprehensive and consistently applied data quality process can prevent bad data from ever getting into your database. However, even with the best of practices, bad data can find its way into your database. That’s where data quality tools like RingLead are invaluable in preventing and resolving bad data.

This article discusses specific steps you can take to improve your processes around web forms–one of the biggest sources of bad data. The beauty of many forms is that you can see when a new lead gets created, via an activity entry in their Activity Log.  This entry is very comprehensive, and you can use triggers and filters to hone in on the exact data you need. You can host the forms in your Marketing Automation Platform’s (MAP) landing page, embed them on your website page or display the form on a blank landing page in an iframe on your website page.  This gives you the control and access once a new lead is created from that form.

When creating your form, I suggest that you enable the Form Pre-fill option if available, which will automatically display existing values for known persons visiting your website in order to realize the following benefits for you and the visitor.  

  • The visitor doesn’t have to enter data that you already have with the risk that they might enter conflicting information or inadvertently introduce a typo.
  • The visitor can validate data that they may have already supplied or that you may have appended from a data vendor.  

A returning known visitor will cause a duplicate person record to be created if they change the email address and submit the form.  The tracking cookie in their device browser will now point to that new duplicate record and the original record will no longer be updated with online activities.  This results in split lead scores, lower response metrics, lower ROI on campaigns, sending the same email to the same person or marketing to the new person as a prospect, when they may  be a returning customer.

You might think that the Block Field Updates from Form fillout option on the email field will prevent this, but it does not.  So how can you prevent these duplicates? There are several ways.

  • Add a prompt and link (e.g. To change your email address, please visit our preference center).  In your preference center display only the current email field and provide a separate field for the new email address.  Also create a smart campaign triggered by the form submission and the presence of a value in the new email field. Add a ‘Change Data Value: Email Address’ flow action that will copy the value from the new email address field into the email address field.
  • For a returning known visitor, don’t display the form at all and allow the visitor to consume all of your content without submitting a form, just clicking a download button.  You may want to display a prompt and link (e.g. Please visit our preference center to review and update your email address and other information).
  • Use a duplicate prevention tool that will detect the creation of the duplicate record with a different email address and will automatically merge it with the original record.

Final tip – make sure that the form field validations are the same as those in Salesforce to ensure that you don’t encounter sync errors due to those Salesforce field validations.

Elliott Lowe has led teams that built solid sales and marketing systems and successful programs at rapidly growing startup and public companies.  At CA Technologies (NASDAQ: CA), an ITSMA charter member, Elliott led its initial Account Based Marketing programs. Elliott’s an experienced Eloqua and Salesforce power user as well as a Marketo Certified Expert, 3x Marketo Champion and speaker at Marketo Summits.