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Clean it Up Already!

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
21 January 2008

As marketers, we spend a lot of time and effort gathering information about our customers and prospects. But we also need to maintain that information. Data cleansing and quality are an ongoing activity. Marketers should purge duplicates and “old data” regularly, and follow email marketing best practices for scrubbing “bounces” from email lists.

Here are some tips I like to provide to clients:

  • Designating a master customer and marketing list is key. Deciding where the master records reside, and then refreshing other systems from the list is the first step to minimizing the proliferation of bad data. Always clean data at the source, which for most BtoB companies is their CRM system. Pure, new leads that marketing generates should be de-duped when they are captured or when they are fed into the CRM system so they don’t exacerbate the problem.
  • By executing ongoing marketing communications, you can get immediate feedback on data that is inaccurate. Email messages may “bounce,” or be returned as undeliverable. If an email address “hard” bounces, an ISP is telling you that address is permanently undeliverable. You should  remove it from your list immediately. If an email address “soft” bounces, an ISP is telling you that address is temporarily undeliverable (perhaps due to busy servers or because the recipient’s inbox is full.) If it soft-bounces three times in a row over a 21-day period or longer, you should remove it from your list. Deleting records that bounce not only helps keep your data clean, it can protect your email deliverability.
  • For any data input forms, ensure that data fields are required and are from a pick-list rather than “free-form.” Consistent definitions of key attributes will raise data quality and standardization.

Without an accurate list, you may find it challenging to get more detailed insight into your contact records. Important things like industry, company revenue, number of employees, title and role of a contact and/or account tend to be inconsistent. Without that information, more targeted segmentation and messaging is difficult. Also, if you are scoring leads (as discussed in my earlier post), accurate information is something you can’t go without.




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