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Keeping Your Database Clean

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
21 May 2009

The tip this week comes from a Senior Account Manager in our Fargo office, Lorael Arnquist. She has more than eight years of high tech marketing experience and has spent over four years deploying, implementing and optimizing lead management solutions.

Data is the heart of all you do as a marketer. Without clean, accurate, complete data, all the whiz-bang features in the world (CRM integrations, ROI reports, automated campaigns, etc.) are no good. All this great functionality revolves around the data in your database. Here are five tips for keeping your data in order:

1) Keep it clean. The heart of marketing automation is a centralized database. It's important to perform regular maintenance and keep your database free of duplicates. If data is disparate and fragmented across duplicate records, you won't be able to see the big picture of your contacts' actions and responses.

2) Focus on email addresses. Email is a critical ingredient in the marketing mix. Email addresses must be accurate, working addresses, but it's equally important to analyze your database to see who hasn't taken any actions - such as submitting surveys, clicking links in emails or visiting your website - on your communications. Depending on the length of your sales cycle, if people haven't interacted with you during the past six to nine months , you should consider removing them from your marketing database or at the very least suppressing them from receiving email messages to enhance deliverability.

3) Progressively capture more data. The more information you gather from prospects the better, because you can incorporate it into your lead-score model, as well as your lead-management and lead-nurturing programs. The information you gather - including BANT, demographic and firmagraphic - gives you an indication of who your targets are, what their needs and preferences are, and where there are opportunities for relationships.

4) "Standardize" your data. Data comes into the marketing automation system through multiple sources: integration, manual imports and forms. The goal is to align the data for targeted segmentation. Standardizing data can include formatting all your state and country values (e.g. making all variations of USA, U.S. U.S.A. into US), categorizing job titles/functions (e.g. changing VP of Mktg and Vice President of Marketing into VP of Marketing) and more. This can be a painstaking process as you initially prepare your data for implementation or integration with a CRM system, but the benefits of doing this will pay off. Once you have your initial batch of data standardized, make the most of dropdowns on survey forms, limit use of open text fields, and run manual one-off data file imports through a standardization "key" prior to importing into your marketing automation system.

5) Identify segmentation opportunities. The more targeted your communications, the more effective your marketing efforts will be. Take an inventory of all the data you have available today and analyze it to pinpoint areas for segmentation. Find similarities and differences in your segments and break out your audience by needs, interests and behaviors. Engage prospects and customers on their own terms, be relevant and provide value at the right time, place and in the best format.

The benefits of keeping the data clean, accurate and standardized will be realized in all areas of your efforts - improved email deliverability, a centralized marketing history, targeted communications and more comprehensive lead-score models - all positively impacting your company's bottom line.


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