Keys to a Healthy Marketing Database
Data management isn’t the most exciting part of our jobs as sales and marketing professionals, but a well maintained, clean database is one of the best assets you have. Properly and routinely segmenting your data is necessary for personalized messaging, testing, routing, and reporting.
If your data is out of date or incomplete (or heaven forbid just wrong), you may be missing out on opportunities to personalize your message, market to eligible prospects, or get the right people in front of sales at the right time. It can also make reporting more challenging and lead to email deliverability issues.
Studies show, B2B data degrades anywhere from 20-70% per year, with the higher turnover being mostly attributed to the technology industry. Look at the layoffs recently announced by Meta and Twitter. That means those of us in the B2B world have our work cut out for us – database hygiene isn’t a one time job, it has to be an ongoing process. In order to stay ahead of it, Summit Technologies uses a combination of automation and regular, manual review of our own valuable data.
There are some simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to keeping the data in your database clean and useful. Summit Technologies advises the following for database health.
Don’t Automate Everything Especially When It Comes to Critical Moves
Time conscious database administrators like to build automations. Rules and workflows can save admins time. However you’re playing with fire if you automate the deletion of data. When it comes to deleting data from your database you need checks and balances to ensure that you aren’t deleting data your company still needs. Critical processes, segmentations, and datasets can easily be wiped out or degraded by deleting a swath of data. Create smart lists or alerts which search for unengaged users, outdated workflows, etc. and review the data, but manually review and delete.
Don’t Delete Salesforce Contacts
Your contacts are more likely to be (and to have been) engaged with sales, customers, former customers, or previously engaged prospects. Deleting contact records may lead to the loss of some reporting data and even more historical data. In most cases, contacts make up a small portion of your database, so they shouldn’t be taking up too much space. Focus instead on keeping contact records complete, consistent, and up to date. Data accuracy is equally important to database health as data age.
Do Standardize Everything and Utilize Picklists
Fields like state and country codes absolutely should be created as standardized picklists. Whether you standardize the data at import or create automation rules in the background that correct, for example, U.S. of A to US, you greatly improve the integrity of your data. No one wants to create a report and have to include multiple variations of every way US might have been entered in order to capture all US records. When it comes to fields that you routinely use to segment your database, open text is not your best option. Focus on standardizing these fields using picklists and/or data management campaigns to update commonly used variations back to the standardized option. This is just as true of company specific information as it is of state and country codes. Text fields for notes are perfectly acceptable but remember what a drain it creates on system resources if multiple users are searching the entire database for a word they vaguely remember entering into a notes field during a conversation with a lead.
Do Deduplicate Records
In most cases, any leads with the same email address should be merged together. In Salesforce it can also help to create household accounts to connect multiple members of the same residence or organization even if they share an email address. It can also be good practice to look at leads that have the same first and last name, but different email addresses. It takes a bit more manual work, but you may be able to spot leads who have variations of the same email, typos, a personal and work email, etc. Equally important this can help you spot leads and contacts who have changed jobs. You don’t want to risk losing pertinent historical data about someone just because they change jobs.
Do Find and Delete Junk Contacts
No matter how valuable your gated content is, there are going to be some people who aren’t willing to trade their personal contact information for it. Create a list to find these form fills or attendee fishbowl registrations and delete them. In order to hunt down the bogus data, there’s a few trends to watch for:
Unusual character combinations asdf, repeat letters (aa, bb, etc.), anything with numbers or special characters, etc.
Clear typos like @lgaim or @ayhoo
Real words junk, fake, spam, none, nope, no, email, name, first, last, etc.
Shared emails marketing@, abuse@, postmaster@, info@, security@, etc.
Do Review Personal Email Addresses
Note we say review, not delete. Personal email addresses are not necessarily bad email addresses but not everyone is using their gmail or yahoo or outlook email address on a regular basis and will often substitute them for accessing your gated content or joining your mailing list without receiving your mail.
Not every company or database administrator agrees on this one. Some B2B marketers prevent leads from filling out forms with personal email addresses or exclude them from email lists. As a rule of thumb, Summit Technologies recommends keeping them. There are lots of reasons a valuable prospect might opt to use a personal email instead of giving out their business address – they may be in early stages and considering multiple options, anticipating switching companies soon and be evaluating for their new employer, or just trying to avoid sales calls until they’re ready. If you’re unsure about including them, keep them for a while and keep an eye on them. See if you’re seeing engagement, unusually high bounce rates, conversions, etc. and decide from there.
Don’t Keep Inactive Leads
Chronic non-responders can have a negative impact on your inbox placement, could be contributing to blacklisting of your IP or domain, and are wasting database space and driving your performance metrics down. Break your non-responders into four groups:
Re-engagement: Any leads that were previously active, but have been inactive recently or haven’t been inactive for too long are good candidates for some final nurturing. If they still aren’t responding, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Dead Leads: Any leads that have never been active or have been inactive for an extended period of time and don’t have any reporting value can be deleted immediately. The length of time you should use here is subjective and varies based on your audience, sending habits, and sales cycle length. If the dead leads appear to have come in during a seasonal campaign you could alternatively bucket them for future reference when the season rolls around again.
Reference Leads: These are leads that should be removed from your marketing campaigns, but need to stay in your database for administrative or reporting purposes. These leads are usually leads who were at some point very engaged, but are no longer active due to job changes.
Do Clean Up Bounced Emails
Most marketing automation systems will automatically make hard bounces unmailable and those contacts can be managed using the same method as other inactive leads. Soft bounces are another story. While technically, soft bounces are expected to resolve and most systems have a process for managing them automatically, you may want to create tighter rules. DBAs might mark a lead as invalid after 2-3 repeat soft bounces in a 30 day window. Some companies will flag these leads for phone calls from the sales team and a final attempt to update the email address. If your emails aren’t getting through, it’s not worth the risk to your sender reputation to continue sending.
Do Consider Data Management Tools
Invest in additional tools to augment, deduplicate, append, and manage your data. While purchasing low quality lists can do more harm than good, there are some high quality vendors who can help append or update your existing contacts or check your email data quality to lower bounce rates and remove spam traps and honey pots. Many of Salesforce’s marketing automation tools assist with bot removal as well. There are also tools available to bulk merge duplicates, standardize data input, and prevent spam form fills. If you see a weak spot in your database quality, consider investing in a tool to help fill that gap.
So how long does this take? Forever. Cleaning data is an ongoing process.
Once you do a thorough cleanse of your existing database and automate some lists, alerts, and data clean up, make sure you routinely check in. Review any reports or lists, manually delete leads who need to be removed, and ensure everything is still running smoothly. While the first database cleaning can take some time and effort, maintenance shouldn’t be too time consuming and will make a positive impact on all of your campaigns.