Data is at the core of any informed and successful business.
Data is everywhere and organizations have the obligation to collect and use that data responsibly. Companies without a dedicated data strategy need to wake up and learn that the integrity of your data matters, and in a huge way. With privacy and data misuse at the forefront of news headlines day in and day out, the time is now to commit to developing a solid strategy for collecting, maintaining and using the powerful data at your fingertips.
Data collection & usage is a privilege
Technology has played a HUGE part in how we collect, manage and use our data. From social media to website tracking to CRM and marketing automation, we collect (whether we think we are or not) infinite amounts of data about our audience, leads and customers regularly. This data needs to be handled with care, appreciation and respect.
What does that mean?
It means that, as an organization, you need to develop an internal culture that truly values this data and executes well thought out strategies based on the data collected.
Companies need to make the shift towards becoming more data-driven and aware of the consequences misused data can have on an organization.
The consumer is trusting us, the professionals, with information about their lives. It is then, in turn, our privilege to be able to offer that consumer personalized experiences based on the data we collect about every one of our contacts.
When we misuse their data, the consumer loses trust in the company, and when trust is lost, so is the customer.
Data is a company-wide initiative
Data collection and management is a company-wide initiative. Every department collects specific (and important) pieces of data about the customer.
Sales, marketing, customer service and operations all have access to pertinent data sets that collectively make up a 360-degree view of the customer. While each department collects different information, each also uses data from each department to improve their own efforts and engagements with the leads and customers.
For example, sales uses customer service data to understand pain points, past conversations, inquiries with support and so on. This information helps them better tailor their pitches and deepen their relationships with leads and clients.
Marketing can use customer service data to create compelling content that answers customers’ most commonly asked questions.
Customer service can use sales and marketing data to better understand what information the contact has previously absorbed, like webinars attended or content consumed. This information provides context and an increased opportunity to better navigate the customer service – client relationship.
We often talk about how important the alignment between sales and marketing is, but customer service is just as important. As stated earlier, each piece of the puzzle makes up a thorough and comprehensive view of your leads and contacts.
Data needs to be managed
Because we have SO much data and have to uphold our promise to our leads and customers to use their data responsibly, every organization must have a data strategy. A data strategy is put in place to ensure data is up-to-date and clean. It also helps to secure the content and avoid any misuse that could potentially harm or anger the company or more importantly the customer. Clean and up-to-date data matters.
Why clean data matters:
Reduce costly/embarrassing mistakes
Buyer personas/the customer at the forefront
Delivering better customer experiences
Data management and the creation of data-driven strategies comes from the top-down. This means that everyone in the company is responsible for the data a company collects, even the CEO. He must drive a data-driven organization by actively showcasing the positive effects of proactive data management and usage. They must establish it as a foundational pillar for company culture. When the entire company is on board with effective (and responsible) data management, everybody wins.
Maintaining Data Integrity
In this section, we will discuss a number of methods for maintaining a clean and up-to-date database.
Make data a priority and driving force within your organization
As mentioned earlier in this article, data integrity must be part of the company culture. It spans across all departments, all team members and all executive levels. Successful data management can drastically change the way you do business. It can make you more effective, able to make more informed business decisions, and improve business process and customer experience overall.
Data collection and management should be made a priority and a key player in your sales, marketing and customer service strategies.
If you do not currently have a data strategy, or have not made it a priority within your organization, I suggest holding an all hands meeting to review the importance of data and how it directly affects your team and their own quality of work.
Start with clean data
This may seem like an obvious one, but if you’re just getting started with CRM, marketing automation or other data-driven solutions, it’s a plus to begin with clean and up-to-date data. If your current data is all over the place, start by consolidating it into one organized spreadsheet.
Once your contact data is in one central location, such as an Excel spreadsheet, you can begin to identify duplicates, missing data, inconsistent data, variations and more.
Fix these issues before importing them into a new platform.
Organize your contacts into groups as well. For example, you might want to organize them into leads, customers, past customers, etc. You could also group them by sales professional, location, etc. However you decide to segment your data, make sure all of this information is directly associated with your contacts.
Once you have cleaned and reviewed your current data, you are almost ready for import. Before doing that, you’ll want to review and follow the below best practices.
Agree on how you plan on recording and storing your data
Data uniformity is critical if you actually want to be able to effectively use the data you collect. For example, there is a difference between US, U.S., USA, U.S.A., and United States. If you need to filter out all of your customers residing in the United States, you want to be able to do so quickly and easily. If everyone inputs the country using different versions, then you will have to use multiple filters to create your list. And, at that point, can you really even be sure that it’s accurate? No.
Inconsistencies like these can cause a lot of stress and headaches, not to mention waste a lot of time and valuable resources. The trick? Create a standard and ensure the WHOLE TEAM understands the systems and more importantly, WHY it’s so critical.
Once you have data uniformity, you can be much more confident when trying to filter through and segment your contacts. No more missed contacts or ones that should not have been on your list in the first place.
For the marketing professionals in your life, segmentation is KEY. And to make this segmentation work, you need to have congruent and uniform data.
Not ensuring your data is uniform (and up-to-date) can result in some embarrassing mishaps at the least or a loss of clients at the worst.
Sit down with your team and establish a standard for your data. Again, when data is part of your company culture, this becomes second nature.
Identify duplicate contact records
Duplicate contact records can be a pesky little problem for businesses. With people having multiple email addresses, duplicate contact records can happen. However, this can cause problems if not dealt with regularly.
For example, let’s say a client downloads an ebook with another email address you don’t have associated with that contact. If that happens, they could be pushed into some sort of lead nurturing or other journey that is not relevant to them at all. Or let’s say you send out two email newsletters each month, one to your current clients and one to your leads. If for some reason, there are duplicate contacts in each of these groups that haven’t been cleaned up, that contact will receive BOTH newsletters. Not only is this redundant, but it doesn’t help the company’s reputation for understanding who they are contacting. It represents sloppy data management, and if that’s sloppy, what else is?
When importing and creating contacts, a good system is designed to recognize duplicates based on email address, names, etc. If during the import process the system cannot identify via the email address, whether it is the same contact or not, it should have a process to filter for additional similarities. For example, in the importing process you can use the following field combinations (in order or priority): name + phone, name + address, name + mobile and name + company. However, this is only for the import process and will help eliminate duplicate contacts.
Once your contacts are in the system, you should have the capability to identify and merge duplicate contacts and clean your database with ease.
Watch out for junk leads and contacts
There are many people out there who like to give fake emails to avoid giving out their real information. This can cause database issues. Luckily, if you have a complete CRM and marketing solution, there are ways to actively clean your database to organize your inactive contacts.
The best way to manage these contacts is to add them into a separate group that you do not email or engage with. Please note, you do not want to delete contacts from your database. Doing so means you are removing any and all history of that contact whether valid or not. You need a record of your contacts, how they came to your site, what signup forms them used, etc. That being said, you want to keep them (as well as unsubscribers) in an inactive group within the system. Finding a platform that doesn’t charge for inactive contacts is the most affordable way to maintain a healthy database.
Use permission based access to your contacts
While the entire team should have access to the contact data they need, it’s important that each team member have their own login with their specific access and permissions to manage certain contacts’ data. It is even more important to restrict or grant access when it comes to who can delete contacts. It would be a tragedy if someone within your organization deleted (whether accidentally or not) a load of your contact and/or their data.
The best way to avoid mishaps like the one above is to ensure that each and every employee has their own dedicated login and password. That way you can account for any and all changes to your database.
Read more here about why every team member needs their own login.
Regularly review and clean your data
Data is not fixed. It changes…a lot. Emails change, a contact’s company can change, their marital status, location, number of kids, etc. All of these data points can change, and believe me, they do. Because change (in data) is constant, it is imperative to review and refresh regularly. Don’t let your data get stale. Stale data cannot be trusted.
Regularly review bounced contacts, duplicates and unsubscribes. Make sure you merge duplicate contacts, put bounced and unsubscribes in inactive groups, and regularly test filters and other segmentation methods to ensure your data is clean and up-to-date.
At the end of the day, you will only be effective as your data is clean. Clean data can help you reach and engage your contacts in much more meaningful ways. Using data correctly builds trust, helps you deliver better customer experiences, and will directly affect your bottom line.