Marketing database cleanWith more than 4,500 entries, my personal address book has gotten out of control. It’s all because of one Gmail feature that’s both a blessing and a curse: its ability to retain all email addresses. Although I could turn it off, it stays on because it has come in handy enough times to justify the mess.

So imagine how hard it is for businesses to manage a database containing thousands – or tens of thousands – of entries. And chances are great that it contains many mistakes. According to Sirius Decisions’ “The Impact of Bad Data on Demand Generation,” 25 percent of the records in the average B2B database contain errors.

Inaccurate records can be costly if a company doesn’t scrub its database regularly. “The State of B2B Marketing Data 2013” from NetProspex reports that it costs $1 to verify a new record, $10 to clean and de-dupe it and a whopping $100 when no action is taken. Problematic records affect email deliverability, the sales team’s efficiency, redundant mailing costs and lead scoring accuracy.

Costs savings are only one side effect of a well-managed database. Another is that a clean database boosts sales results. In “2011 Marketing Automation Benchmark Report,” Eloqua has found companies that regularly clean data see seven times the number of inquiries and four times the number of leads.

NetProspex has a five-point scale that rates the health of a company’s market database on a scale from 1 to 5; 1 means “Risky” and 5 means “Optimal.” The bulk of the companies — 64 percent — surveyed fell under the “Unreliable” category, a 2 on the health scale.

An “Unreliable” health score of 2 means:

  • 20 to 30 percent of the records are duplicates.
  • Only 50 to 65 percent of the records are complete and accurate.
  • Email deliverability is a dismal 60 to 70 percent.
  • Phone connectability is a grim 50 to 60 percent.

Even if your company has never scrubbed its database, it’s not too late to start and get a process in place.

Here are the steps to help your company take good care of its marketing database:

  1. Identify all resources. What are the sources for the data? This can be websites, trade shows, landing pages, direct mail and so on. Accounting for all resources allows you go to back and modify the fields, if they don’t meet the standards.
  2. Create a data standardization team. The team comprises of representatives from different departments that use or interact with the data. For example, the IT department doesn’t typically use the data, but they can help determine if data management apps and tools are compatible with your company’s technologies.
  3. Set standards. The data standardization team identifies standards for data freshness, completeness and accuracy. Some things they might determine are the minimum information needed, standardize and prioritize fields, identify what makes a complete record, determine how to detect duplicate records and define customer segments.
  4. Use apps and tools. This shouldn’t be a manual process or one that relies on a tedious spreadsheet. Marketing automation and CRM systems have features and add-ons to help maintain a healthy and thriving marketing database. Your company may have a system in place. So find out if you’re taking advantage of all of its features or if you need to add a tool. Such tools can de-dupe records and append data. You might investigate capture solutions that use smart forms, cookies and progressive visitor profiling. This allows you to ask fewer demographic questions and focus more on BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, purchase Timeframe) and psychographics.
  5. Clean database on a regular basis. The standardization team can determine the best timeframe for cleaning the database to eliminate duplicate and incomplete records. How often depends on your tools and requirements. Some tasks may run daily and some monthly.

Data standardization and normalization needs to be routine. A clean database means saving on costs, improving team efficiency and driving revenue. The five steps here give you a place to start. If your team is swamped, there are vendors who can teach you the caring and feeding of your database.

What other steps would you add to maintain a marketing database?