Data hygiene and accuracy have never been more important.; As we create more mature relationships with consumers (built on honesty, openness and transparency) then the way that we keep our databases up to date, relevant and accurate must also move with the times.
It is, in fact, a surprisingly mature market; we launched The GAS File (the UK’s first suppression file) in 1992, some 23 years ago. Yet in the majority of suppression files sold today, the offering remains essentially the same. This means it will find someone that it thinks has moved house or died and stop spending the client’s money on sending mail to them. On the face of it, simples! But of course it rarely is. What happens if a person moves jobs, or a business closes (50% of start-ups close in the first two years)? What happens in the event of a divorce (one in four households)? What happens if the husband has died but the wife continues to live at the house (about 34% of deaths)? What happens if the household has only moved out for six months to refurbish the house (80,000 a year)? What if the child, now at university, has the same name as the father or mother (more common that you might think)? Not quite so “simples” as it seems. In the days where carpet bombing and mass targeting were the de-facto strategies, the idea of getting rid of another 40, 50, or 60 thousand names from your file really didn’t matter; the so called “Spot and Drop” model. However, in this new-found era of “less is more”, with marketers trying to forge “real” relationships with their customers and prospects, the number of targets prospects is much smaller. Therefore every single one should be nurtured as fully as possible, creating no room for error. If you get something wrong, they will be in the arms of a competitor faster than you can say Jack Robinson! I still sit in many meetings and have clients say to me “Great, supplier x has achieved twice as many matches as suppliers a, b or c”. I explain that they are asking the wrong question; what in fact they should be asking is “how and why has supplier x matched more than a, b and c?”. Querying where the data is from is a remarkably infrequent question asked these days. A single source of data in such a peripatetic marketplace is unlikely to ever cut it. The Spot and Drop model also concerns me as we should be using that data to enhance our positive targeting. How often do you undertake an analysis of those customers that have moved house without notification? Is this important? If you knew the profile of these individual customers, could you try and preempt it? How often do you take your Gone Away file and, firstly, see if they are still customers and, secondly, if they are not, try and relocate and re-engage? Experience shows that the longer you leave it after moving home, the less likely they are to return. Over the years, we have discovered that by building a universe of population movements we now receive a raft of confirmations that lift the levels of certainty on these issues to extremely high levels. So in the case of home movements, we track the whole range: move outs, move ins, temporary changes, single move outs/ins, as well as a host of other transactional information to validate either a constant address presence or a new one. We apply the same validation rules across our entire data product suite as we know that using the wrong information will always be more expensive than doing nothing at all. This is not to discourage you from doing anything at all, but to impress upon you that, these days, using accurate, qualified data is the only way forward. So the next time someone says they’ve just cleaned up your database and got rid of 500,000 records, think of that as the start of something, not the end of it.
The ever-changing world of business data In the last 12 months, over 170,000 UK businesses have either ceased trading or closed their premises*. How many of these businesses do you think could be in your database, costing you money in returned mail or wasted phone calls? Making contact with businesses that have ceased trading is clearly a waste of time and money, and may result in de-motivated and ineffective sales staff. There is also the very real risk of damaging the reputation of your business over time, with hostile reactions from prospects receiving misdirected communications. Large organisations in particular face many challenges when it comes to keeping their business data clean, as it is often compiled from many different business areas, each using their own systems. This often leads to unavoidable data quality issues which must be regularly addressed.
Measuring the impact of poor data hygiene There is no question that the quality of a company’s data can have a significant effect on business performance – from sales and marketing, through to fulfilment and invoicing. It is possible to feel the impact across the entire business – so brand perception, productivity and revenue may all be impacted. Of course, if the data is good quality, these can all be impacted positively. But by the same equation, if the quality of the data is poor, it is likely to have a negative impact. All things considered though, you cannot afford to ignore anything that could negatively impact the revenue of your business.
So what are the positive impacts? Clean and accurate customer and prospect data is essential for any sales, marketing and customer management strategy. In addition, clean data has the following positive benefits:
- Cost savings – reduced mailing wastage and mailing costs.
- Improved customer interaction – less customer complaints and improved brand image.
- Enhanced decision making – based on improved intelligence from better rates of appending additional information to current data.
- Better marketing response rates – improved return of investment, reduced costs from waste.
- Happier and more effective sales teams – improved revenues!
- Increased focus – segmenting your database to identify the most valuable key targets, so the focus is directed in the most impactful way.
- Improved return on investment – by focusing the right activity at the right audience at the right time.
Problem areas that can have a negative impact Duplicate records – it’s essential to identify and remove duplicate records to ensure any communication is directed correctly and not sent multiple times to the same contact. Duplicates are expensive and irritate customers and prospects, plus making contact multiple times doesn’t make a business look very professional. Inaccurate records – are all the business details you hold still ‘active’? Or have some ceased trading or changed address? Are the contact details still up to date and the telephone details still accurate? This level of care over data hygiene is essential to a business that wants to make contact with current customers and also target prospects based on the intelligence they have on existing clients. Missing information – Successfully adding intelligence to the business details you have is only really viable if the original record is accurate. It’s important to improve the insight that a business has on their clients by adding missing information. Consequently, this enhances targeting and therefore improves conversion and sales success. To conclude The impact of poor data cleansing on business success is potentially huge. This is because key decisions that affect every aspect of the business could be made based on the foundation of inaccurate customer information. And that’s before you consider the wasted time and money associated with making contact with businesses that are no longer trading and contacts that have moved on. Therefore, poor data cleansing can lead to miscommunication, a waste of time and money, customer dissatisfaction, brand erosion – well, the list goes on, but I think you probably get the picture. So making sure the data you have on clients and prospects is regularly maintained, cleaned and when required enhanced makes perfect business sense. *Source: Market Location
Use our Top Tips to improve the return you generate from your database.
Keeping your prospect and customer database as up to date as possible is key to establishing and maintaining good relationships with your contacts, and maximising the return from any direct marketing activity you undertake. Here are 10 Top Tips that will help you keep your database clean and accurate.
Tip 1. Get a Free Data AuditAssess the quality of your database regularly by engaging a specialist data cleansing provider to conduct a database audit for you for free. Their conclusions will help you determine how much work is needed to improve your data.
Tip 2. Make sure your data cleansing supplier understands your requirementsWhen choosing a data cleansing supplier make sure you are confident they understand your requirements. If you are new to data cleansing you will need them to guide you on what you need. For example, it may be preferable to conduct different levels of matching when de-duplicating, or you may decide you want different levels of suppression based on their recommendation.
Tip 3. Take action on your data ‘issues’There are a range of outcomes that can be highlighted from a data audit, including profiles of your key customers and also data issues such as duplicate and incorrect records. Make sure that your data cleansing supplier can provide an ‘over-reaching’ solution, involving correcting records and appending information in addition to removing records where necessary.
Tip 4. Ensure you allow enough timeIf you want to conduct a marketing campaign to your database, don’t leave the data to the last minute as you will need to give your data cleansing supplier sufficient notice to schedule and carry out the work.
Tip 5. Ensure each record has a Unique Reference Number (URN)Adding a URN to each data record will help you keep track any changes made and merge clean records back into your database correctly.
Tip 6. Clearly date your recordsIn this way you can see for each record when an activity occurred, and so identify which records may need more attention than others, and which contacts haven’t been contacted within a given time period.
Tip 7. Standardise data entryEnsure all staff that input data into the database are properly trained and know the standard expected. Make particular fields mandatory for completion, such as company name, title, full name, address details and contact information.
Tip 8. Check to ensure your database can accept clean data back inSome CRM software programmes do not allow you to bulk import updated records and flags. Make sure that you explore this with your data cleansing provider at the start of the process, as a reputable supplier will be able to offer guidance.
Tip 9. Protect your dataYour business data is one of your most valuable assets, so don’t hand it over to a data cleansing provider without both parties signing a non disclosure agreement (NDA). A good supplier will be able to provide one and it will ensure your data is protected.
Tip 10. Regular cleaning works bestIf you are regularly contacting your database you should aim to regularly clean it aswell, rather than doing it just once a year. You will be able to better budget your data cleansing costs, and your database will be more accurate and therefore more responsive.
Now 2017 is well under way, the question of what the impact of the General Data Protection Regulation will be when it comes into force in May 2018, suddenly seems to loom large for most businesses.
The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is due to issue the next set of key guidance on consent and profiling in the coming weeks. This guidance on GDPR is eagerly anticipated by businesses who are feeling increasing uncertainty on what the impact of the General Data Protection Regulation will actually be in these areas. The DMA have provided several guides and articles on GDPR and their recent article (Dec 2016) seeks to clarify the rules for B2B Marketers: “The only difference between B2C and B2B marketers now is in connection with email and text marketing to employees of corporate organisations. When dealing with sole traders or partnerships, the rules governing B2C marketing will apply to B2B marketers so the general position for email and sms will be that you will need opt-in consent. For telephone and direct mail, you need to offer an opt-out. When dealing with employees of corporates, that is limited companies, LLPs, partnerships in Scotland and government departments, the rules for telephone and direct mail are the same, opt-out However when emailing or texting, you do not need the prior consent/opt-in from the individual. You can therefore send them a marketing email/text as long as you provide an easy way to opt-out of future communications from you.” To be clear, the rules for email and text messaging are defined within PECR (the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations) – and these are currently being reviewed. The ability to opt out of future email or text communications must always be provided to corporate employees, as stated in the Data Protection Act; again this is not new. Marketing in the B2B sector continues to be about communicating information on products and services that are relevant to the recipient. The key obligations under GDPR that businesses (and anyone who holds personal data) must adhere to, relate to the collection and storage of personal data, the ability to provide clear evidence of consent, simplicity of opt out, the right to be forgotten, and an audit trail of where the data came from – which means for most businesses a review of their current processes and privacy statements. As mentioned above, there are other changes afoot – the ePrivacy Directive which forms PECR is currently being reviewed and this may well have further impact on how B2B marketeers communicate. There is a draft version of this and the aim is to have this agreed for May 2018 – given how long GDPR took, this might be a stretch!