There’s no denying that your company’s customer/marketing database(s) is an invaluable asset to your business and at the same time a major pain in the neck. There are just too many ways that it can be damaged – as far as usability is concerned- and unless you’ve been through it all before, chances are you will not anticipate how you can go wrong.
It’s difficult to define the exact information you need to input in the first place. Don’t just go with the software defaults, unless of course it really is important for you to record the President’s secretary’s birthday.
When you’re buying data, it’s equally easy to be seduced by countless fields of nice-to-know stuff, but if it doesn’t stay up to date is pretty worthless in the long run.
When you have different individuals who are inputting data (including the dreaded sales team), consistency can quickly go out the window. While adding partial data seems much better than adding nothing at all, you’ve just kicked the “Duplicate My Records” door wide open and if some of your original source information comes from self-filled on-site forms, you’ll quickly find that much of what people give you is not true.
Complicating the problem of errors in the design of your database and inconsistent input, it’s horribly true that a database is a fabulous example of entropy because the people and companies in your database are constantly changing.
Taken together, these (and many other factors) spell Data Disaster, unless you can consistently follow 5 Simple Rules:
- Remove your duplicates and establish standards of how the data in your fields is entered to avoid adding more duplicates
- Use it or Lose it. Untouched data does not remain accurate, regardless of how good it was when it was originally entered or how much you paid for it.
- Look at a manual or automated append service to bring your records up to a usable standard. It’s much easier to avoid entering duplicated when you append simple address information against which you can match the files.
- Verify your key information. One thing I can’t personally buy into is to allow anything automated to update actual contact names given the many different ways that job titles can be interpreted. Even using a verification source like LinkedIn can still allow for the insertion of contacts who have already left a company before you even enter them. Ironically enough, I’m far for comfortable accepting automatic information for C-Level and Board Member contacts in major corporations than the information for their subordinates. Any data for middle management should be confirmed by a call to the company. This is where the volume of your contacts will probably be and the most errors.
- Stay on top of your data. Consistently applying a relatively small amount of time, attention and money to maintenance, will help to keep your database as an asset to your company instead of an albatross.