Tag Archives: database

Exactly How Bad is Your Data?

Underestimating the damage caused by an out of date and duplicate riddled database is the most frequently made and damaging mistake.   If I had ten bucks for every time I’ve heard a client admit that their database is lousy, I probably wouldn’t quite be able to retire yet, but I’d sure have a lot more money than I do right now.

When I ask the question -“Just how bad is it? ” the average answer is that about 10-20% of the records are probably out of date and the reason it can’t be fixed is that there just isn’t the time, the money or the directive from senior management to do the clean up.  I can only guess that they have decided  the data is better than it really is and that it’s not important enough to worry about. That really needs to change.

Databases require constant, relentless maintenance. A database is – in my occasionally humble opinion, the greatest example of entropy that exists in the modern business universe. A database is constantly degrading. It doesn’t take a vacation from falling apart and it becomes virtually useless long before it reaches the point where it can’t get any worse.

A database is an asset which when left alone turns into a liability.  Would you tolerate a furnace or air conditioner in your home that only ever delivered half of what you were paying for? Would you put up with a car that only EVER got you half way home or an elevator in your office that never made it up to your floor?  Then what is the logic of taking something as vital to your business as your customer and prospect universe and ignore the fact that 20% of the records are no good?

You really have no idea just how bad it is.  That 10-20% out of date is probably a lot worse.  It’s probably more like 30-40% out of date and even that wouldn’t be quite so disastrous if you could tag and isolate which records are no good, but even that hasn’t happened in many cases.

Your sales team is NOT cleaning and updating your database as they make their calls. How can anyone actually expect that their sales team is cleaning up the database? Really.  I don’t understand if this is a case of completely underestimating the true value of sales time, if its just a pathetic excuse for ignoring the problem or its something that actually might apply to companies who do not have a real sales team, just a bunch of telephone order takers who are perfectly suited to take the role of overpaid inaccurate data entry staff. But if you have a real sales team, making real sales calls, with real sales quotas you expect to be achieved, don’t believe for a split second that they are expending one minute of precious time updating the database. It’s not happening.

So what is it costing you?  The short answer is a larger small fortune that you might think. Your marketing team is working with budgets that will often limit the number of contacts messaged with any given type of campaign. Simplistically, you could say that if 30% of your data is our of date, you’re throwing away 30% of every campaign investment, but it’s not quite that simple. Since contacts are usually pulled based on different criteria  the bad records will be scattered randomly throughout any list. No two will be the same, which means that there is no way to provide a consistent value for either the built in wasted money or the response failures due to bad data.

That means you can’t even accurately measure your responses. So you cannot test or at some point improve ANYTHING.  You cannot measure your creative, you can’t evaluate your offers, you can’t accurately benchmark a single metric.

Your marketing team looks incompetent because your response levels are always going to be lower than they should be (or really are) and you can’t improve them through any mechanism beyond dumb luck.  You will throw away bad ideas without ever understanding why they’re bad and you’ll throw away brilliant ideas because you never figured out they’re any good. One  of the most important tasks a CMO faces is to deliver a measurable and improving ROI on marketing investment and demonstrate a contribution to revenue and the bottom line.  Just how bad do you look as a CMO when everything your measured on is based on immeasurable data?

No one using your database will care about entering more junky information which gives your sales reps the prefect excuse not to keep their notes for client information up to date and will probably mean that not only will your customers not receive any new sales or marketing information, they’ll also miss your administrative updates.

Licensing and maintenance renewals will be lost or late and your A/R results will be similarly affected. If you add up all the ways that your company can lose revenue opportunities and incur unnecessary expenses all because of databases that are out of date.

There are many companies offering software and services that will allow you to evaluate your data and some fixes are more easily secured than others, like address, telephone and email information.

Other, potentially more important updates like finding the correct contact names might require a more individual form of intervention like the Boxpilot’s Data Filler Service

 

 

 

 

Avoid a Database Disaster with 5 Simple Steps

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.

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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:

  1. Remove your duplicates and establish standards of how the data in your fields is entered to avoid adding more duplicates
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.