Data cleansing and data enhancement are two of the most important parts of data management for business owners. Most B2B marketers will be well aware of how important it is to have a good database of leads, but what they may not understand is how they can clean the leads, and keep them clean in the long term.
Data cleansing and data enhancement will help you to put together a clear and efficient database that delivers on what you want – it will help you to ensure that you are not wasting time with untargeted leads – or, worse, people who have opted out. It will also ensure that in a situation where you have merged with another company to combine your marketing efforts, you do not have duplicates in your sales and CRM systems – duplicates which could potentially cause serious problems.
Common Cleansing Methods
The most common data cleansing methods are consolidating your databases and performing matching and de-duplication. Consolidating means, at the most basic level, merging the tables so that the names and addresses are matched. This must be done with care, however, as you may mistakenly discard some information if the structure of the databases is different. Also, matches may not always be exact so you will need someone to go over the database and find duplicates.
Matching and deduplication are things that are very important, because a customer service nightmare could occur if records get confused and communications aren’t attached to the right one each time. You can use commercially available software to sanitize most common databases, but there will always be a human element to determining the ‘survivorship’ rules in complex cases where there are multiple records for a person or company.
You will also need to look at cleansing and coding data with data quality management tools. For example, it is important to ensure that postcodes are in the correct format, phone numbers are standardized (are country codes used, and if so do you include the +, what about area codes?), and that emails are at least valid in format – even if you do not yet know whether they are accepting mails.
Data Enhancement Via Tools
Again, much of data enhancement can be automated, but there will be some occasions where you will need to perform manual checks to look for obviously fake addresses, telephone numbers that include 555, and other ‘false’ data.
Once your database has been cleaned up with data management software, it will be ready to use. However, it is important to note that if you accept user-provided input (for example if your account system is tied to your website) then you will need to perform checks on a regular basis to make sure that your database stays in a reasonably accurate and valid condition. Otherwise, you will quickly find that bad data builds up as users fill out forms with incorrect information in a bid to avoid marketing messages, or simply because they do not like handing over their personal data online. Keeping your database accurate will require a good data quality manager and still, this will be an ongoing, and rather difficult, battle.