Though many of us might not admit it, data cleansing is one of those initiatives that gets consistently neglected. It's easy enough to ignore because it can be so hard to tackle. And it's no wonder since many of us have databases with 100,000+ records. Here's the big question, though: do you really need to clean your whole database?
Let's assume 25% of your database is inaccurate, as is typical after 1 year of aging. Of that 25%, wouldn't it be fair to assume that at least some of it is data you don't even want? Everybody has their share of event leads, inbound leads, sales-entered leads, etc. that aren't good targets, so why go to the trouble of cleansing those? In fact, you could even take it a step further and only clean the data that's a perfect fit for your marketing efforts. That way, you could get very focused and make sure you're targeting your market sweet spot with 100% accurate data (or at least close to it).
Here's a quick, 3-phase process from our new eBook on how to establish a data refreshing program that doesn't waste time on all the unfit data in your database. You can also download the full eBook at the link here: http://marketing.reachforce.com/QuickStartDataRefreshingMethodology.html
Start with a review of your pipeline including wins and open opportunities to identify your top market segments.
Where are you closing the most deals, the largest deals, and the quickest-to-close deals?
Use the data you've gathered to build a profile of your best customers.
Work with key parameters like verticals, revenues, employee sizes, installed bases, etc.
Create a profile of the decision-making unit to identify the types of buyers (and their titles) involved in the buying process and the roles of these buyers both in the buying cycle and within their organization.
Break it down by end users, influencers, decision-makers, procurers, etc.
Select data for cleansing and augmentation
Identify a list of target companies that meet the criteria you've documented in Phase I.
These will most likely be some of your top accounts.
Pull a list of pre-existing contacts that correspond to your target accounts so you can begin the process of deduping, identifying missing fields, and identifying key gaps in the data such as relevant players in the buying cycle.
You may find that your closed-won opportunities have the most complete contact profiles, which would certainly make sense.
Data validation, enrichment and growth
Validate, cleanse, enrich, refresh your data by any means necessary.
This is gonna be a grind. If you have internal resources to use and can manage them effectively, then go for it. Otherwise, you'll want to outsource this work to a partner. You'll probably want to incorporate validation/verification by phone where other methods fail.
Ongoing data maintenance
Once you've isolated data to cleanse and augment and have executed the cleansing exercise, you'll want to put some methods in place to make sure you protect that investment you've made in your data. Here are some good ones to consider:
Assign a data steward
First and foremost, put someone in charge of managing the ongoing data maintenance. It'll fall apart quickly when the responsibility is distributed across everyone in your marketing department.
Standardize and automate data entry
Establish requirements for data formatting and quality control. Have your data steward enforce these company-wide and across all data entry channels.
Don't pollute the well
Be more stringent about data you put in the system. I know it's easy to just import those event leads as is, but take the time to make them conform to your new standards.
Monitor trends in your pipeline to identify opportunities to augment your data
As you win more deals, keep going back to Step 1 in this process to determine if your sweet spot is changing and how you can find more companies that match those in your sweet spot.
Multiply your data entry headcount exponentially
Use lead nurturing techniques to encourage your customers and prospects to update their own data.
Establish a regular schedule of data cleansing and augmentation
You knew this was coming, didn't you? It's like taking your car in for maintenance. Even if you switch to high-octane fuel, you still have to change your filters every once in a while. Try to get as close to a regular quarterly cleanse as possible.
FINAL STEP: REAP THE REWARDS OF CLEAN DATA!!!