Declutter your marketing database: 6 steps for success

By Chuck Leddy

Like it or not, you have to clean your house regularly because dirt and clutter have a way of accumulating over time. The same is true for marketing databases: but instead of accumulating dirt, databases get cluttered with duplicate data, disengaged contacts, incorrect data and other forms of messiness that need to be cleared out.

Cluttered databases cost B2B marketers: you waste valuable marketing dollars because you’re sending messages to duplicate, out-of-date, or simply uninterested contacts. When you have a clean marketing database, you get the most from marketing expenditures (budget, people, time), enabling you to send fewer messages to a more accurate, engaged audience. According to Marketing Insider Group, poor data costs companies an estimated $10 billion annually. Not cleaning your house, or your database, is a terrible and costly mistake.

Garbage in, garbage out

B2B marketing is data driven, so low quality data leads to low quality performance. “Garbage in, garbage out,” as the old saying goes. Only 30% of B2B marketers say they have confidence in the quality of their data, according to an Adobe Marketo infographic, meaning that a whopping 70% of B2B marketers lack confidence in their data quality.

Without good, clean data at the start, everything B2B marketers do later on is filled with clutter, including customer segmentation, data analytics, personalization efforts and more. At the end of the day, you need to de-clutter your database in order to increase the productivity of your marketing efforts. So how do you go about that process of decluttering your data? Grab a broom and keep reading . . .

6 steps to cleaning out your marketing database

#1 Sweep away the decay. Customer contact lists decay by 25% per year on average, meaning an uncleaned list gets messier faster than a messy frat house. The causes of list decay are many, from contacts moving locations to contacts changing jobs to retiring and beyond. Life (and death too) happens and change is inevitable. You have to keep your list updated.

For example, look at your hard and soft email bounces as an indicator that you may need to delete those contacts. Like so many functions, you can hire third-party providers to identify decayed contacts and clean them out for you. Either way, database decay must be dealt with.

#2 Drop the disengaged. Do you have friends you’ve lost touch with? People you reach out to from time to time by text or email but who never get back to you? It might be time to take the hint and move on with your life. Your database is exactly the same. You’ll see different levels of engagement over time, with some contacts seeming to have fallen off the face of the earth. Take the hint.

Not every contact who refuses to engage with your content will unsubscribe. They may want to break up with you but haven’t made the effort to officially cut ties. You should consider them “passive unsubs” who waste your time and effort. There are two options with passive unsubs (contacts who haven’t engaged with you at all for 3 to 6 months): (1) run a reactivation campaign that compels them to opt in to your contact list again or (2) drop them from your list altogether. Moving on can be good for all involved.

#3 Delete dupes. Duplicate records commonly accumulate in big databases, growing like kudzu (an invasive plant that smothers other plants around it). Managing a database effectively requires a lot of investment, but duplicate records waste your money, time and effort. Begin by identifying duplicate records, such as multiple identical email records, through running reports. For the longer haul, set up alerts that notify you when dupes enter your database.

Once you’ve identified a dupe, weed it out. As decluttering guru Marie Kondo might say: “it won’t bring you joy, so throw it out.” You are pruning a garden, so keep a constant, careful eye out for dupes to prune.

#4 Standardize data input fields. To err is human, but your forms should seek to minimize the space for human errors like misspellings and incorrect inputting of information. As much as possible, avoid text entry fields on forms (the risks of misspelled data is too high), using drop down menus and/or pick lists instead.  Obviously, ensuring that data is input in a standard, accurate manner is important for downstream activities like pulling lists and personalizing outreach, which require accuracy.

“You can’t maintain a healthy database if your process allows for bad leads to funnel in,” notes the Marketing Insider Group. “Ideally, you want to make sure that you have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) when it comes to acquiring data to reduce human error. A good standard practice to start is to automate the point of data collection.”

#5 Standardize UTM codes. A UTM code is a snippet of code you can add to the end of a URL to track the performance of campaigns and content. These codes can be extremely important for tracking and measuring results, helping you understand where your leads go and what they do. But (we’re seeing a theme here) inconsistent or duplicate UTM codes can create big problems for B2B marketers, leading to confusion and an inability to track and measure accurately.

Marketo Engage recommends that you take the following actions regarding UTM codes:

  • Remove duplicate codes and related fields
  • Standardize lead source names
  • Use lowercase letters
  • Avoid spaces

#6 Introduce a regular cleaning schedule: Alas, the work of keeping your marketing database clean will never end. The weeds just keep popping, so you need to prune regularly. Defining a regular cleaning schedule, perhaps once a year during a slow time, is a very good idea.  You don’t have to like doing it, but regular maintenance and clean up will reap rewards, while failing to clean out the clutter will cost you more and more the longer you put off doing the work.

Conclusion

Being a data-driven B2B marketer means more than simply accessing and using data—it means using clean and accurate data. Keeping your database clean will help nearly every aspect of your marketing, saving you time and money, while enabling you to effectively execute and measure your campaigns. Following the steps above will also ensure that you have the clean data that will drive better results and marketing ROI.

Interested in learning more about cleaning your marketing database? We can help – reach out to us today.

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