Contact Database Performance and Scale — Your MAP’s Best Friends


Recently, I attended the Marketo Marketing Nation Summit, the annual conference and bash held by marketing automation platform (MAP) provider Marketo. I joined thousands of my fellow marketing automation experts at the show and this year, MAP tips, tricks, use cases and implications surrounding AI, GDPR and ABM were big themes. What I couldn’t help but think, as I attended many sessions incorporating these alphabet-soup acronyms, is that there’s one golden thread that must be woven into all these marketing strategies, and that’s contact database performance and scale.

A contact database designed for performance and scale is a must if you expect success utilizing all the whiz-bang capabilities that marketing automation and other marketing tech tools offer. A well-utilized and finely tuned MAP provides today’s marketers with capabilities we were dreaming about 10 years ago — like the ability to store and process greater and greater numbers of records, and the ability to run more and larger campaigns — all while continuously reducing the manual maintenance of these campaigns and records. In fact, during a session at Marketo Nation, one marketer explained it used to take him sixteen hours to send a time-sensitive email to 10,000 contacts. In that same session, the Marketo team told us to expect at minimum 1,000 email sends per minute via Marketo.

So, what are the key aspects to review and update when it comes to contact database performance? Here are some of my top tips.

Improving contact database performance

Every MAP uses a database, but you’d be surprised how many marketers neglect theirs. For maximum success using your MAP, leverage best practices surrounding data hygiene, such as:

Size: The smaller, the faster.

  • How many records are in your MAP?
  • How many fields are there? Do a field inventory, looking to combine fields when possible. Some systems don’t allow you to remove fields, but you can remove the data in the field (archiving first, of course).
  • Are your fields syncing from your CRM?

Indexing: Help your need for speed.

  • Most MAPs calculate segments separately from normal handling, and they generate pre-filtered lists for each segment.
  • Without segments, every record must be checked to meet the query criteria.
  • When it comes to performance, segments speed up queries against the database.

System load: Limit your triggers!

  • Each triggered process puts a load on the system. Too many of these happening for too many records can really tax the system. If you ask the system to re-score records after each webpage visit, that’s a lot of work.
  • The same applies for data management processes such as country / state standardization and duplicate detection.

Structuring for scale

Consolidating processes and forms, along with creating segments and implementing lead scoring, will allow you to scale up the performance and volume of your marketing automation-based campaigns, while reducing manual labor time. Here’s what to do and why:

Consolidate your data management processes.

  • If you don’t have all your business knowledge in one place, it’s more difficult to leverage insights, repeat successes, or make changes to optimize your processes.
  • Changes to disparate processes are unmanageable unless there’s a system of organization.

Consolidate your forms.

  • Creating custom forms for each campaign is a burden you and your staff don’t need to take on!
  • Generally speaking, you should be asking for the same information on each form.

Implement a lead-scoring model.

  • The business logic of what makes a good lead for Sales is often incorporated into the strategy of each campaign. Consolidating this knowledge into a scoring model makes it easier to make changes to this logic for all inquiries.
  • Because a score is a number, you can compare the quality of each record in a consistent manner (e.g., a score of 75 is a better lead than a score of 74). This allows for deeper insights on what’s working or not, and your team can then make adjustments across all inquiries.

Create segments and leverage them as lists / filters for campaigns.

  • Beyond system performance, implementing new campaigns is faster when you’ve created segments, because you don’t have to write logic to determine who should enter (or not) on each campaign.
  • In addition, you can change your lists / audiences holistically by modifying the segments.

Understand your reporting needs before implementing.

  • Reporting often seems to be an afterthought, but it’s really one of the most important aspects to consider from the start.
  • If you plan to analyze results using a certain type of report, but your campaign wasn’t configured correctly to gather the required data, your reporting will be faulty.
  • Take heart — a challenging metric to gather may not be so challenging if your processes are configured to capture the supporting data.

Your contact database’s performance and scale may not be at the top of your list when you’re thinking about marketing automation, but there are so many benefits, it really should be. If this seems a bit overwhelming, get in touch! We have on-staff database experts who can help you with your specific challenges. Let’s start a conversation about your database project needs.