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Imagine this scenario: You’ve spent countless hours creating a direct mail piece with a brilliant design and persuasive messaging. Real “knock ‘em dead” stuff! But when you send your mailing list to your printer, they inform you that there’s a problem:

Your mailing list sucks.

This happens more often than you may realize. When you start working with a CRM system, you have the best intentions to keep the records clean and well organized. But over time, real-world pressures and priorities intervene. Over time. records become incomplete, inconsistent, out of date and duplicated. They’re not properly categorized and segmented. In short, they have become a mess.

Before you can have your printer send out your big mailing, you must clean up your customer database. Here’s why you need to make this a priority – and how to do it.

The high cost of bad data

Bad data can cause a ripple effect through many parts of your organization, including marketing, lead generation, sales, customer care and even finance. These statistics from ZoomInfo shed some light on the costly impact of bad data:

  • 62% of organizations rely on marketing and prospect data that’s up to 40% inaccurate.
  • Up to 25% of B2B database contacts contain critical errors.
  • 40% of business objectives fail due to inaccurate data.
  • Bad data costs U.S. businesses more than $611 billion each year.
  • The longer bad data remains uncorrected, the more it costs you. On average, it costs $1 to verify a record as it’s entered, $10 to scrub and cleanse it later, and $100 if nothing is done to fix it.

From a marketing standpoint, bad data results in a lower return on your marketing spend. What’s worse, if bad data prevents you from having meaningful engagement with your key customers, you may lose them.

Why clean your CRM data?

It’s quite simple: Cleaner, more accurate data about your customers and prospects leads to significantly higher conversion rates. This is especially important if you plan to use variable data printing to personalize your mailing pieces.

High-quality, up-to-date CRM data is not only important for customer acquisition but also to build long-term relationships with customers. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 69% of buyers expect Amazon-like buying experiences. In other words, a complete picture of all of their past purchases and interactions with your company, and recommendations for other products or services they may need, based on their buying behavior.

The Connected Customer report also indicates that 57% of respondents have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.

The bottom line is that bad data can be very costly to your company!

How to clean your data

To do an effective job of cleaning and updating the records in your CRM database, it’s often helpful to export them into a more flexible format where you can view them from a variety of perspectives. One of the best ways to do that is to export them into an Excel spreadsheet. Its columnar format and powerful sorting and filtering capabilities make it easy to see what’s missing and what needs to be fixed.

First, start with the low-hanging fruit: records that are obviously old or irrelevant. For example, people who are no longer your customers, or who have moved out of your company’s market or industry. If you know your customers and prospects well, this should be the easy part.

Next, look for duplicate records and delete them. To do this, sort your spreadsheet by customer name. If it’s a large list, you may find it more helpful to sort by two columns: company name first, followed by customer name. This will group your contacts by the company for whom they work, and then within each company, it will display the people alphabetically.

Next, look for missing data. LinkedIn and ZoomInfo are often good sources to help you “fill in the blanks” with updated job titles, addresses and other key information.

Check to make sure that your prospects are properly coded and segmented based on their stage in the sales cycle. This is the key to cost-effective, targeted and effective mailings

Finally, once you’ve done all you can to ensure that your records are up-to-date and complete, have your printer and mailing partner run your list through a National Change of Address service. This will eliminate incomplete or incorrect addresses from your list.

Don’t overlook prevention as a data cleanliness strategy

One of the best ways to avoid accumulating bad data is to ensure it never enters your CRM in the first place. Differentiate between “must have” and “nice to have” prospect data. Maybe it’s time to slim down the amount of data you’re collecting.

Create better CRM templates. To avoid incomplete records, make sure the fields of all the “must-have” data you need to collect are required. When data is entered, double-check the record’s spelling. Use validation on dates, email addresses and other structured information to ensure consistently-formatted data.

To avoid invalidating your data, you should set consistent procedures on how everyone should import, export and handle data within your system. At the same time, be realistic. It’s almost impossible to keep your CRM database pristine. But with the proper processes and data hygiene in place, you can maintain the quality of your customer database longer.


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