At Dreamforce last fall, I met with lots of other marketing leaders to talk about our most daunting challenges and share solutions. I lost count of the number of times one of us started a sentence with, “Our data says…” or “If we had the data…” As marketing leaders deploy growth strategies and leverage tools like account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence, and more, they’re all driven by (and their success depends upon) data. As we all know, garbage in means garbage out.

Data is the language of marketing today. The better data you have on your customers, prospects, and market segments, the more effective you’ll be at driving every decision, every strategy, every move you make as a company, especially in marketing. Marketers should bleed data.

Since many of your companies are faced with finding a Data.com replacement this year (although you may not be aware of it yet), it’s a good time to step back and think about your sales and marketing data. Not just the data itself, but your entire data strategy and how you manage your data. The prospect of finding a Data.com alternative may seem a little daunting, but the impending pressure to migrate in the next few months gives you the opportunity to emerge with a plan for better data.

It’s always helpful to consider the cost of doing nothing, meaning not to replace Data.com. With good data, marketing is able to craft relevant pitches to the right people at the right times. Not-so-good data impacts all of those, as well as your overall marketing metrics, the cost of your marketing automation system, productivity for both marketing and sales, and the trust in your pipeline. Bad data also impedes you from implementing more modern, data-driven strategies, like total addressable market (TAM), account-based marketing (ABM), predictive intelligence, and others.

Before we go further, let’s clarify that Data.com comes in two flavors: Data.com Clean and Data.com Prospector. Both are going away, but let’s start by talking about what will happen if you don’t replace Data.com Clean. How bad will your data really get?

Left unattended, data gets dirty simply because of change. A recent study found that 64 percent of all workers are comfortable job hopping – defined as spending less than two years in a job. That fact alone can account for a significant portion of your contact records going bad each year. According to SiriusDecisions, at any given time the typical B2B company has critical errors in 10 to 25 percent of its contact records. And some studies suggest much higher percentages.

Then consider changes to companies – relocations, mergers, acquisitions, growth, bankruptcies, and on and on.

Bad data in your sales and marketing database costs money, diminishes productivity, demotivates sales reps, skews your campaign metrics, and hurts your company’s ability to effectively target and execute your sales and marketing strategies. Missing information in inbound leads makes it hard to score, prioritize, and route them quickly to the right reps. Inaccurate firmographic data can throw off your ABM account selection and sales territory assignments.

As your data becomes dirtier, email bounce rates increase, which can get you blacklisted – a painful and time-consuming predicament to remediate. I could go on, but you get the idea. We recommend you routinely purge old records after a specified period of time, simply because they become irrelevant.

OK, so beyond that, what do you do?

You can have the sales and marketing teams correct data as they find errors, but we all know that’s not likely to happen consistently. You can do a one-time or periodic data cleansing, which is helpful but causes gaps in data cleanliness. Or you can initiate a comprehensive data management solution that cleans and enriches new data as it enters your system and then keeps it clean on an ongoing basis. That’s where your mind should be whether you’re looking for a Data.com replacement or not: find a solution to your data management challenges, not just a one-off or temporary bandage.

As for replacing Data.com Prospector? Same principles apply. Better data and insights for your sellers leads to better outcomes. Bad and missing data wastes time, costs money, demotivates, and drags down your sales team’s opportunities to hit quota. At InsideView, sales intelligence is very much a part of our overall data strategy. I urge you to consider it the same.

If you need help developing a data management strategy, whether or not you’re looking for an alternative to Data.com, this 5-step Data.com Migration Planning Guide can get you started in the right direction and help you choose a replacement from among Data.com competitors.