Given that the health and accuracy of customer databases is so critical to the success of our marketing and sales efforts, then why do so many companies allow them to become out of date and inaccurate? Surprisingly, sound data management and data hygiene practices are often the most overlooked components to a successful B2C customer marketing program.  Sure, it’s not sexy, but read on to learn why it’s essential and what you can do to insure that your customer and prospect data is as good as it can be.

In this, the age of the customer, maintaining and augmenting customer information in an ongoing fashion is truly paramount to success.  Without accurate and complete customer data, marketers can’t deliver their deftly crafted messages to consumers.  Without quality information, we can’t develop a true and holistic understanding of our customers.  

And perhaps most importantly, clean customer data is vital for maintaining a strong revenue pipeline. It impacts profitability as well – in a survey of 600 large and midsize businesses in the United States, Europe and Australia, 75% of the companies admitted that inaccurate customer data had a negative financial impact on their business.1 

Looking at it another way, companies with clean data are 3 times more likely to experience revenue growth than those without.2  So what best practices do these companies employ in order to have a successful data management capability in place?  Here are a few success factors that all of these companies share in common:

They established a data management strategy – Be sure that your company has a viable data strategy that works for your business needs and your budget.  Just like a finely-tuned machine, you should put corporate-wide policies and processes in place to ensure the consistent collection, data integration, integrity, and ongoing maintenance of your customer database. 

They set data quality standards – It’s important that every company have a defined set of standards for key data quality metrics such as address and email deliverability levels, missing data, consistency of data attributes, invalid data, and duplicate records.

They partnered with a reputable marketing services company – Work with a good marketing services company that can help you complete an initial physical audit of your customer data. This is a relatively quick and inexpensive process that typically takes just 48-72 hours to complete.  The results of the audit will provide your company with an understanding of the current health of your database.  These vendors can not only give you an objective view of your customer data but they can also help you to correct any issues, regularly cleanse and update the data on your behalf, and can even enhance it as desired.

They plan and budget for data hygiene – As mentioned above, data hygiene is a worthy investment that can reap huge rewards in terms of cost savings and revenue generation.  As with any significant business investment, be sure that on an annual basis your company plans out the timing, tools and services that will be necessary to keep your customer database running like a top throughout the year. 

They conduct regular data maintenance and monitor results – Regular maintenance keeps the data machine running smoothly and efficiently with the best performance.  And as you work to keep your data clean, be sure to measure your progress on an ongoing basis.  Here are a few of the factors/metrics that your company will want to monitor and manage:  deliverability, hard and soft email bounces, record duplication, time since last update, source of update, missing data, suppression rates, field value consistency, compliance with data-related legislation.

The good news is that keeping your customer data up-to-date and complete isn’t difficult and it certainly isn’t rocket science.   It’s really just a matter of focus.  Given the many critical business reasons to have accurate customer information, it’s certainly time well spent.