What to Know About CRM Data Hygiene
Our digital world is dominated by data, and the sales and marketing fields are no exception. Handling customer information with care and consideration is vital to marketing success, especially in the education sector. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of CRM data hygiene, why it’s important, recommended tools and practices, and why it’s often worth outsourcing to a trusted vendor.
What Is CRM Data Hygiene?
To understand CRM data hygiene, it may be helpful to break it down into its two parts, namely “CRM” and “data hygiene,” respectively.
CRM stands for “customer relationship management.” According to Salesforce, “(CRM) is a strategy that companies use to manage interactions with customers and potential customers.”
In short, it’s a set of activities organizations participate in to create fruitful relationships and productive dialog between the business and its consumers or clients, ultimately enhancing partnerships and/or driving revenue and profit.
The above definition gives us a very high-level understanding of CRM, and it’s important to note that when it’s discussed in a business context, it almost always refers to the digital systems that companies utilize. CRM architecture typically consists of a number of tools or platforms designed to facilitate different aspects of CRM processes.
CRMs play a number of specific roles in marketing and sales. As HubSpot explains, we sometimes think of moving through the sales funnel as a linear journey, starting with brand awareness and ending in conversions. However, most prospective customers veer off-course at some point. Maybe they encounter an obstacle or have a question they need answered before proceeding to the next phase.
That’s where marketing and sales CRM comes into play. Brands can typically track every user’s path through analytics software that documents website visits, email opens, add-to-cart functions — you name it. All of this information can be used to deduce where something is going wrong (that is, when conversions aren’t happening), and to adjust the marketing strategy or collateral accordingly.
Data Hygiene in Brief
Data hygiene may sound like a strange concept at first because hygiene is most often understood in the context of cleaning ourselves, animals, objects, or the environment around us. But, data hygiene is just that: Cleaning your data by establishing policies, workflows, and protocols that ensure data is accurate and reliable.
“Data cleansing” plays an intrinsic role in data hygiene. As the name suggests, this activity (also called data cleaning and data scrubbing) is the process of purifying data by removing duplicate data, incomplete information, and inaccurate data to create precise and dependable figures and particulars.
When you put “CRM” and “data hygiene” together, its meaning becomes more apparent. Per HubSpot, CRM data hygiene refers to how correct and valid (“clean”) customer data is within categories across a CRM database, like:
- Identity (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.)
- Descriptive (marital status, education level and so on)
- Quantitative (number of conversions, logged tickets and the like)
- Qualitative (consumer ratings and feedback)
The Value of Data Hygiene and Compliance
CRM data hygiene may seem more applicable or relevant to industries that are largely data-driven, such as financial services and commerce. But, it’s equally important in marketing.
CRM Data Hygiene in the Marketing World
As we largely move away from more traditional advertising forms such as TV and radio, digital marketing takes center stage. This form of marketing gives marketers unprecedented access to detailed information about customers.
Old-fashioned marketing that, by its nature, wasn’t precisely targeted—it was largely a case of throwing out advertisements in radio, TV, and newspaper ads and hoping something stuck — and largely couldn’t be tracked.
By contrast, digital marketing facilitates data collection at every stage of the sales funnel. Marketers can leverage this information to focus their targeting and marketing efforts. But, the efficacy of such marketing hinges on how exact the utilized data is.
Furthermore, digital marketing is increasingly becoming automated (most notably in the realm of email marketing), and marketing automation relies on data. Email marketing automation now gives marketers the ability to automatically send emails to carefully selected customer groups based on some kind of characteristic.
Effects of Poor Data Hygiene
The effectiveness of any segmentation and, therefore, an overall marketing campaign, is almost completely dependent on data quality. Some of the most common outcomes of inadequate data hygiene include:
- Missed sales: Incorrect contact information means that the intended recipients aren’t being reached, leading to low brand awareness. If potential customers aren’t aware of products or services on offer, they can’t purchase them.
- Low return on investment: Lost revenue automatically means that there’s a decreased pay-off when considering how many resources have been put into marketing campaigns that have yielded unsatisfactory results.
- Decreased productivity: If a sales team is aware that their data is dirty, they’ll have to invest time and energy into cleaning it up. This effort could be directed toward other worthy activities that could generate profits.
- Tarnished reputation: If customers receive the wrong messaging or, perhaps even worse, none at all, they’re likely to perceive an organization as incompetent or uninterested, neither of which are desirable outcomes.
- Lowered online traffic: Poor data hygiene also leaves an organization’s online domain at risk of being cautioned against by web browsers, which means fewer site visitors. Internet service providers (ISPs) might also block the domain entirely, resulting in bounced emails or emails flagged as spam that leave intended audiences uncontacted
So, good data hygiene is critical to creating sales and satisfied customers. With that in mind, it’s worth understanding the numerous causes of poor CRM hygiene to prevent it.
Leading Causes of Dirty Data
While there are several reasons why data becomes dirty, the two major ones are manual entry and time.
- Manual entry: As one might imagine, the most common culprit is human error due to manually entered data. People are prone to making mistakes, and inputting information by hand leads to a host of problems like typos, incorrectly formatting or forgetting to format data, putting information in the wrong column or row, and duplicating entries.
- Time: Another leading contributor to inaccurate or “dirty” data is, quite simply, time. Old records can become outdated very quickly as people change their email addresses, employers, job roles and purchasing habits, and preferences. Companies can quickly lose out on sales if they aren’t proactive in making sure their database is up to date.
Thus, keeping your data error-free is crucial to CRM and marketing success. How can organizations prevent bad data?
Best Data Hygiene Tools and Practices
Fortunately, there are a myriad ways to make sure you have clean data. These include (but aren’t limited to):
Fixing Formatting Problems
More often than not, the way data is entered into a spreadsheet or database platform causes issues further down the line. For example, characters like hash symbols or exclamation marks can interfere with a program’s ability to perform certain functions.
Incorrect formatting means any contacts that aren’t formatted correctly are lost when computing tasks (such as grouping email addresses together) are carried out. Correcting entries by removing unnecessary blank spaces and special characters can help organizations ensure they get the most out of their database.
It’s crucial to systematize data according to specific tags to make marketing efforts more targeted and, therefore, more effective. Put contacts into lists based on categories such as job title, place of work, age, and any other demographics or characteristics that serve a distinct purpose.
It’s a good idea to check each entry’s details during this process, as that will help make certain the contacts are accurate and useful. There’s no point in carefully segmenting a database if the individual entries are riddled with errors.
Deleting Incorrect Data
While correcting typos and fixing formatting works wonders for cleaning up data, the unfortunate reality is that a handful of entries will be worthless. People often enter their details incorrectly, or sometimes software glitches and doesn’t record information properly.
In such instances, erroneous entries must be removed altogether. It could be worth reaching out to contacts to verify their details if they look incorrect, but this is a time-consuming endeavor that might have little to no returns. Deleting null contacts will mean fewer resources are spent trying to chase down dead-end leads.
Removing Duplicate Records
Similar to eliminating erroneous entries, deleting repeated contacts will give organizations a clearer view into how many people they’re getting in contact with and how many of them are responding to marketing efforts. This provides teams with a clearer image of their marketing efficacy.
Identifying Problem Areas
Sometimes, it’s possible to see exactly where and how data becomes soiled. For example, a computer program might automatically turn phone numbers into numerical figures, which can create formatting problems. Pinpointing these digital plague spots can allow personnel to correct the issue or design and implement protocols to prevent it from recurring.
Automating Data Entry
As a whole, computers are a lot more accurate than people. Consequently, it’s imperative to set up systems that enable teams to capture data digitally, rather than entering it by hand. Hundreds of IT applications exist to facilitate automatic data entry, and, if need be, programmers or software developers can create dedicated code to meet specific needs.
Scheduling Data Maintenance
Even with the best data hygiene practices, some mistakes are inevitable. So, it’s vital to set aside time dedicated to going through and cleaning up databases. This needs to be worked into the responsible staff members’ schedules so that they can give this task the care and attention it deserves. Regular audits save everyone a lot of stress and time in the long run.
Archiving Old Data
As Insights for Professionals explains, any given piece of information might not be relevant right now, but it could be useful in the future. In such instances, rather than deleting the entry, shelve it for later use. Grouping together old (but not necessarily outdated) data away from the entries currently being used can prevent mix ups, save data storage space, and make locating information easier.
Setting Access Permissions
While it’s necessary to educate everyone about the importance of good CRM data hygiene, database access should be limited to only the people who absolutely need it. This way, there are fewer proverbial cooks in the kitchen, which effectively reduces the chances of spoiling the broth. Make sure the people who do work with the data have had the requisite data handling training.
Utilizing Data Cleansing and Management Tools
Although the above tips and processes might seem relatively easy in isolation, practicing good data hygiene can quickly become overwhelming when all those practices are combined. Luckily, there are almost countless tools and service providers to do the dirty work so that the marketing team can focus their efforts elsewhere.
Working with the Professionals
With so many aspects to consider and so many tools to choose from, the prospect of CRM data cleansing and data management can seem incredibly daunting. Thankfully, organizations can outsource their CRM data cleanup and upkeep to companies that specialize in this field. One of the greatest advantages of entrusting your data to a reputable third-party service provider is the assurance that they’ll give you only the best, most accurate data, enabling you to put it to use for maximum return on investment.
Agile Education Marketing has the experience, skill, and knowledge required to supplement your data hygiene efforts by offering reliable, up-to-date, and precise education marketing data whenever your organization needs it.
Learn more about Agile’s marketing data services, and contact us to get started on a partnership that will help you achieve your marketing objectives.
Keen to learn more about keeping your data clean? Download our FREE Ebook for an in-depth guide to data hygiene best practices.