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GCL's Data Healthcheck: The Complete Guide to a Healthy, Productive and Efficient Database

GCL | 31 May 2022

Reading time: 25 minutes

 

It’s time for the big push on that new product or solution, the one the CEO has personally been championing. Everything’s in place, the contents done, the infographics look amazing but what about the mailing list? The one you used two years ago will be fine… won’t it?

The fact is that it probably won’t and rushing out to buy a new database isn’t necessarily the answer. According to Gartner, “the annual financial impact of poor data quality on organisations is $9.7 million”. And with the average database degrading at a rate of 30% a year, that database you bought two years ago might now be completely useless.

Instead of serving as an income-generating asset, many databases only frustrate the efforts of the marketing and sales teams that use them. To resolve this issue, businesses have to update their data regularly. The question is: how?

What is a data healthcheck?

Whether you’re using Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Pardot, HubSpot, Marketo or any other CRM (we hope you’re not still stuck on excel sheets!), you need to be regularly checking the health of your data. A data hygiene check is something we do whenever we receive a database for a campaign. After all, without quality data, you can’t get quality results.

Think about it – people move jobs, addresses and phone numbers swap constantly, and mergers and acquisitions happen regularly with over 3000 in 2021, so why would your data evade all these changes. Plus, there’s human error to consider. You need to account for these factors, and that’s the beauty of a data healthcheck. It tells you where the issues lie and allows you to work out how to fix them.

Don’t worry; we’ll be going through what your options are if you do find any problems.

 

 

Benefits of updating your database

When bad data is removed and better quality data replaces it,
your sales and marketing become more effective. You can rely on
on productive, relevant and up-to-date data for your campaigns, and can expect to:

  • • Build a strong foundation from which to work.
    Data is the first link in the chain connecting you with your customers, making it one of the most important elements of any campaign. Improve decision-making capabilities with accurate data from which to make judgements.
  •  
  • • Ensure the running of effective campaigns.
    Scale your database and increase the efficiency in one fell swoop to achieve better ROI, sales and marketing performance.
  •  
  • • Reach the right audience.
    By removing inactive leads, only those interested in your offering remain, meaning you can improve your segmentation. You won’t waste time and resources on the wrong people or dead-end leads.
  •  
  • Make fewer errors.
    Old and inaccurate data will lead to more mistakes, which doesn’t reflect well on your company. The more blunders you make, the quicker you’re breaking down client relationships and affecting your company image and reputation.
  •  
  • Maintain compliance with data standards such as GDPR.

How to evaluate the health of your database

Whilst we’d all like to think we’ve got a healthy well-maintained database, the harsh reality is that unless you’ve had a dedicated resource looking after it full time – it probably won’t meet all your needs. Consider the following factors when evaluating its current health:

  • • Your marketing and sales goals.
  • • The contents of your database when it was created.
  • • The length of time since you last cleaned it.
  • • Whether you can segment by job function, sector, number of employees or turnover?

What are you looking out for?

As a critical part of a good marketing strategy, necessary for accurate prospecting and maintaining trusted customer relationships, you need to look out for anything that can scupper your efforts within your data.

This includes:

  • • Gaps
    Important data points missing from contact or company records.

  • • Inaccuracies
    Misspelt words, particularly in personal or company names, email address mistakes that could prevent them from reaching their destination, and addresses entered incorrectly.

  • • Inconsistencies
    Entries that don’t follow the standard format i.e. in capitalisation, references.

  • • Duplicates
    Multiple records or data entered numerous times within a record.

You may already have 75% of the information you need and you just need the final crucial piece of the puzzle to make the campaign work. Other times, you’ll realise you need a whole new
database.

Choosing the best data option for your company

You’ve realised your database is in a dire way, you need new data, so where do you look for it? When it comes to a data health check, we always complete a cleanse of your existing database first, and then other data options can make your database even more useful. These include data enhancement and data purchasing. Let’s explore when each of these is needed:

What is data cleansing?

Your first option is to cleanse your existing database. This usually involves updating your old and inaccurate information, deleting any duplicates, and filling in any gaps. A quality data service will match your data with live, up-to-date databases and use DNS email verification. And the best will verify the accuracy of data by telephone too.

Before you commit to a data cleanse, you should outline your marketing and sales goals to determine what kind of data you need as well as which industries you need data for. Data cleansing can be applied to your whole database or just a portion, and you might want to cleanse only those parts of your database that need it. Get both your marketing and sales teams onboard as they are in the best position to tell you what kind of data you need.

Cleanse your data when it only needs updating.

What is data enhancement and appending?

Let’s assume that your data isn’t bad. It’s gotten you results in the past, but it’s no great shakes either. Now your sales team tells you they would like a few extra specifics for the sake of touchpoints, and your marketing team wants additional details to help identify trends. The solution is to supplement your existing data with the fields that would enhance your knowledge of your prospects and clients.

But you aren’t limited to the standard details - turnover, SIC code, number of employees and head office location. A good data provider should be able to provide almost any information. The best will be those that run their own call centres and know what information would best serve their customers.

When you just need a few extra details, append your database.

What is data purchasing?

Maybe your existing database doesn’t contain the data fields needed to make it useful. In this case, it’s better to buy data. You could buy a cheaper generic database, but the spray-and-pray approach dictated by such databases costs their users in the long run. They cost more to maintain and frequently result in calls to people who just don’t want to hear your pitch. Can you afford to risk damaging your brand image by sending irrelevant messages? No? Well, a bespoke database is always a better investment.

A highly targeted database helps you to reach the people most likely to become valuable customers. The extra data fields allow for more accurate segmentation of your audiences and allow for messages of greater relevancy. As the surest way to higher engagement rates, such a solution is the best way to improve your bottom line.

Custom databases tend to be smaller, and are therefore cheaper and easier to manage. Some say it’s a case of doing more with less. But that’s not true. It’s doing more with more. A custom database includes more of the information that you really need and less of that you don’t.

Buy data when your current database simply isn’t enough.

Six best practices for data cleansing (and appending)

Firstly, standardise the info you have. This includes common discrepancies such as writing out phone numbers, addresses and abbreviations in the same format. Identify any stray characters or spaces – these affect your data integrity and if present in email addresses may increase your bounce rate.

1. Refresh outdated data

If your system is filled with incomplete data, you’ll have trouble reaching customers. For example, if you’re using email automation, your campaign will be less effective because it won’t be able to reach every contact on your dataset. A way to improve this is to delete any junk contacts and fill in any missing information. You can do this by matching it with live, updated databases, and verifying the data via telephone or DNS email verification.

2. Identify and merge duplicate contacts

If you have duplicate contacts, you could end up targeting the same customer twice—which isn’t a very professional look for your business. Merging duplicates will smoothen the nurturing process for your prospects. If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t delete them, the duplicate contacts might have different information—so merging them gives you more insight into your potential customer. Try to go through your lead database once a month and merge duplicates.

3. Remove inactive leads

Inactive leads are just as bad as duplicate leads. People who aren’t opening your messages don’t provide any value to your organisation – all they do is take up space and skew your metrics. And if they stop reading your messages, they might forget why you’re sending them in the first place and mark them as spam. If they haven’t opened one of your emails or visited your website in the last six months, consider removing them from your list, or you could damage your brand’s reputation.

Anyone who has bounced or unsubscribed, remove from the database.

4. Add missing data

By spending so much time scrubbing up bad data, you could forget about your good data. It’s important to keep up with your good information and add new insights whenever you can. Enrich the data you have by sprucing it up and converting it to a more useful state. If you constantly enrich your data over time, you’ll add value and ensure the information you have on file is accurate.

5. Supplement with additional fields (and remove unused fields)

Just by adding a few fields to your existing database, you will be amazed by the insight this will provide into your customer and prospect base. By adding the right fields you could get a better understanding of your core sectors and where there could be potential for growth in the future. Using your data as evidence you could assess what type of companies provide the largest orders and what type of companies may not be worth pursuing. With the ever-increasing demand from the top to show tangible ROI for all aspects of business, the more data and insight you can provide into the benefits of effective marketing campaigns the better.

If you have data fields that you are not using, or have fields with records of the same value, delete them. Not only are they unnecessary, but deleting them frees up more space than cleaning up contacts. The best way to keep your data fields clean is to make sure each field has one piece of information and one purpose. If you have the same data represented in multiple columns, the redundant fields can distract you and make it harder to analyse your data.

6. Standardise contact entry requirements!

Whilst it’s great to have your data cleaned periodically, to maintain the quality of your database at all times, don’t let unhealthy data be entered in the first place! Create a standardised format of data entry, and make sure your team are up-to-date and accurate. This will help catch any errors or duplicates before they have the opportunity to create a problem.

Appending your data

The next step is to enhance your existing data and match it against the provider’s data. Some providers may charge for this service so it’s always worth checking before you send your file for matching. Don’t expect a 100% match rate however; a good range to aim for is between 60-80%. Often different providers will have better coverage in different areas so always get counts from multiple vendors before you commit or find a data broker you can trust to do that job for you.

How to purchase data properly

Be realistic with your requirements and always test the data before committing to a large purchase. When in doubt get help and work with a data partner you can trust to deliver you quality data for any eventuality.

1. Clearly define your data requirements

Before buying a database, it’s important to understand what requirements the data needs to satisfy and if those requirements
are realistic. All too often marketers rush into buying data they think they need; only to find the requirements they thought they had didn’t drive them to source the correct data. Work backwards from what requirements the data needs to fulfil. Targeting an IT Director looks fine on paper but in SME’s do they have the real decision-making power?

2. Know your source!

With Data you must trust the supplier and the quality of information you’re buying. Ensuring that data is of the best fit and
highest quality for the purpose not only supports your existing campaigns but will give you real options for the future. We’ve all seen the “flash sale” or million records for an unbelievable rate. However, large volumes don’t always beget quality and as with anything in life often buying cheap means buying twice. Get counts from as many data providers as you can and compare the number of records, if one provider is offering substantially more records than anyone else it’s probably too good to be true.

3. Consider your options

Now that you know what’s on offer and for how much, is purchasing data still the right option? Purchasing data could be the right option for you however if the data available doesn’t match your requirements then you may want to consider other options such as building the data or cleansing the data you already have. Building data may seem like an expensive option but at least you know that every record built will match the exact customer profile you have specified.

4. Make it work for you

Make sure that everything about the data works for you. The format, quantity and timing of your data purchase need to be right. If you really need 100,000 records do you need them all right now? Would online access or drawdown service work better for you? Remember that the larger the order the more likely you are to get flexibility on delivery and pricing.

5. Test, test and test again

Most importantly – Test it! If a data company won’t give you reasonable samples (at least 10 or more records) then walk away, you wouldn’t invest in a car you’d never driven or a house you hadn’t seen, don’t let data be any different.

Tools vs services

When it comes to enhancing your data, you have options on how to go about it. You can purchase a data-cleansing tool and do it yourself, or you can enlist the help of a data company, whose services can offer a more comprehensive solution.

Tools

Data cleansing tools offer a low-cost solution to updating and organising messy, outdated data. These four are amongst the most popular:

Data.com

Data.com’s data cleaning tool matches your data against databases like those kept by Dun and Bradstreet. But, this solution also makes data management easier by including real-time dashboards, reports, and other functions that can help to democratise data.

Hoover’s Optimizer

Like Data.com’s cleaning tool, Hoover’s Optimiser improves the accuracy of your data by validating it against Dun and Bradstreet’s global database. It can also remove duplicates, fill in missing gaps, and create charts and graphs.

OpenRefine

OpenRefine is an open-source tool for making sense of messy data. Unlike, the previous two solutions, it doesn’t allow you to match your data to a third party database, but it is very useful for formatting large swathes of data and has a large community.

DataCleaner

DataCleaner is similar to OpenRefine in that it is better suited to formatting data than updating old data. With this tool, you can easily restructure messy data sets into clean, readable, data sets that can easily be shared with your community of data users

Services

Data cleansing services vary from low-cost options that simply verify and update your data to comprehensive solutions that cleanse, segment, and enrich your database for you.

While a simpler solution can help you restore your database to a condition in which it will provide adequate campaign support, it takes a tailored solution to ensure that you have the best data possible. A qualified data company will take your objectives into account when preparing a data list and will ensure that you have the right information on the right contacts.

Generally, you get what you pay for, and you just have to decide how much improved sales efficiency is worth.

Choosing the right solution or supplier

When choosing a data cleansing solution, consider your budget, your objectives, the state of your data, and the potential for improved sales efficiency. If your sales operations are on the modest size and you run the same campaign for the same target market over and over, you probably only need to refresh your marketing data as it becomes outdated. In this case, a data cleansing tool would be sufficient.

But, if you regularly run complex campaigns in which several or more marketers and salespeople depend on the accuracy and relevance of your data, you would benefit more from a tailored solution, in which your data list is optimised to ensure high ROI from your sales and marketing operations.

A good data partner will assess your database and help you decide when to enhance what you have and when it’s best to cut your losses and buy new data. There are hundreds of data providers out there so make sure you do your research and give a perspective provider as many details as possible. Explain to them the problem you are trying to solve and listen to the solution they suggest. A sign of a good provider is that they will ask you for more detail and make suggestions on how to maximize your potential data pool.

Conclusion

A clean database will improve the quality of your contact information, which will essentially lead to increased conversion rates. No matter the state of your marketing data, there will be a product or service to transform your outdated database into a valuable sales-generating asset. By solving some of your toughest data management problems you can ensure your campaigns are more effective – whether it’s through data cleaning, data enhancement, a new bespoke database, or a data management service.

Choosing a supplier who is reliable, can tailor their offer to your requirements and can provide data compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. At GCL, we keep a large internal database that is continuously updated with data from carefully selected partners and we use our 50-seat call centre to tele-verify all data every six to twelve months to ensure accuracy.

GDPR and international data laws can be complicated, and by partnering only with credible providers, we can ensure that our data and the methods with which it is collected are completely compliant with GDPR and international data laws and are 100% safe.

 

How can GCL help?

GCL has over 30 years of experience turning databases into valuable sales-generating assets. We focus on giving our clients solutions that will ensure the greatest possible ROI on their most important marketing asset, whether that is through data cleaning, data enhancement, a new bespoke database, or a data management service. Specialising in unscripted telemarketing, we understand just how important it is to have accurate and relevant data, and our products and services are designed to ensure that our client’s marketing efforts are given the best possible support

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