The amount of data in a marketer’s hands can sometimes be overwhelming, especially while trying to keep that data clean and current. Oftentimes, marketers believe that in order to make room for new data, they must first remove old data that may not be completely clean.
Unclean or unstructured data consists of data sets with duplicates, incorrect addresses, incorrect phone numbers or addresses that have opted out of the list. Using these irrelevant types of data in your marketing strategy often leads to poor results and a lower ROI. Meanwhile, a clean database is accurate, up-to-date and serves as the foundation of numerous successful data-driven marketing campaigns.
But purchasing new data doesn’t always have to be the answer for businesses looking to clean up their data sets. Instead, marketers have an opportunity to salvage old data sets by using the right data hygiene and appending technology processes. These services and strategies can make bad, unclean data as good as new.
The Costs of Bad Data
By now, all marketers should see the value in big data, but those who fail to use a data hygiene solution to separate the good from the bad are left with ineffective campaigns. Nearly half of B-to-B marketers don't use third-party solutions to clean prospect data before it enters their system, making their so-called “targeted” and “personalized” marketing campaigns nothing of the sort. This is a waste of both time and money for marketers.
In fact, The Data Warehousing Institute reports that faulty customer data costs $611 billion each year for U.S. businesses, largely due to wasteful postal expenses, sales representatives spending time following incorrect leads and the opportunity cost of missed sales.
What’s more, unclean data can have overall soft costs on the company too. With every error in data that reaches a customer, the company risks a loss in brand reputation. Additionally, internal customer service teams are forced to deal with the fallout, leading to a loss of employee morale.
How to Take Action
Cleanse: Today, data can become out-of-date very quickly. Simply because a record is accurate now doesn’t mean it will still be six months or a year from now. Let’s say within the last year, a company called ABC, Inc. changed its CEO and moved its offices to a different address. If the business targeting this company failed to update its database, it would send mail to the wrong place and likely miss an opportunity to address the decision maker. Marketers must have a process in place that reviews records to make sure they’re always accurate, standardized and recent.
De-Duplicate: It’s important to make sure you’re not using two different records for one lead. Marketers should be working with services that are able to identify and consolidate duplicate records to eliminate wasteful marketing expenditure. Returning to our example of ABC Inc., let’s say that the CEO of the company is also the chairman. Furthermore, let’s say that his name is William, but he goes by Bill. Without de-duplicating, marketers targeting ABC, Inc. might send two pieces of mail, one for William the CEO and one to Bill, the chairman. As you can see, it’s both costly and risky to a brand’s credibility to send more than one piece of the same direct mail — or any piece of marketing content — to a prospect.
Analyze and Enhance: By analyzing trends within the data, marketers can get a better understanding of the market and better target customers. For example, a marketer could take advantage of demographic and psychographic trends from businesses similar to ABC, Inc. and gain insights such as employee count or sales revenue. This enables marketers to alter and personalize their messaging even further, thus targeting more effectively. Without clean data, executing this successfully is nearly impossible.
Append: Another strategy is to add new data to existing records. New nuggets of information such as email addresses or date of birth can create a fuller profile record. For instance, when targeting ABC, Inc., it would be helpful to know information about who makes purchasing decisions within the company, or perhaps about the company’s email structure so sales representatives can target the right person through the most effective channel. Another creative way to append data is by discovering pieces of new entries from your other existing datasets. Perhaps you already have a customer’s email address or date of birth in a customer database but not in the marketing database. In this case, you just need the right technology to merge the different bits of information that create a more holistic prospect.
Data hygiene and appending processes ensure that marketing resources aren’t being wasted on unclean or unstructured data. Maintaining up-to-date and accurate database records should always be a key objective of all marketing departments. With greater accuracy and depth to enhance your existing customer records, data-driven marketing can more effectively drive sales and lead to higher ROI.
Michael L. Iaccarino is Chairman and CEO of Infogroup, a leading provider of high-value data and multichannel marketing solutions delivered in real-time and used by small business and enterprise brands.