Plenty of businesses acknowledge the importance of data hygiene, including data enhancement, but far fewer of them give it the attention it merits. Estimates of B2B business mailing lists suggest that as many as 80 percent of them are marginally functional or worse, missing key pieces of information companies need to connect with their audiences reliably and relatably. What’s more, these incomplete lists can degrade further over time, losing as much as 3 percent of their validity per month in some industries.
If your data’s dodgy, here’s what you can do today to improve it. If your information is already in good shape, these tips will transform it into a revenue engine.
Reduce Data Entry Errors
It may not seem important at the time to type in “Mr. J. Smith” instead of “Ms. J. Smith,” but when Joan starts getting mail meant for John and deletes it instantly as irrelevant, it matters to her. It also matters to John, who has suddenly stopped receiving his email newsletter because his account was incorrectly identified as hers. Some data entry mistakes get introduced by leads themselves when they transpose numbers or type in non-standard entries to form blanks. You can instantly cut data entry error rates by replacing self-entry forms with radio buttons or pull-down menus whenever possible.
Let’s take a look at our two J. Smiths, for instance. If your form supplies titles in a check-box instead of asking for self-entry, you’re going to get uniform, standardized responses. Whether you hire data entry personnel or invite leads to fill in their own information, it’s vital to get the correct information into the system in the first place.
Use Data Enhancement
From de-duplication and merge/purge operations to data append processes that complete missing fields in existing records, data enhancement is an essential part of proper digital hygiene. The U.S. Postal Service provides access to their National Change of Address (NCOA) registry to companies that provide data enhancement services. Other record sources are also verified and vetted to provide the most up-to-date information for your database, including proprietary databases from marketing firms that provide data enrichment.
Give Customers Power over Their Own Records
Customer preference centers that let your leads manage and update their own data are a win for you and your prospects. They benefit from having more control over the timing and volume of their correspondence with you, and you gain access to the most up-to-date information possible directly from the source. As with other data entry forms, simplify and reduce the chances for errors by including clickable boxes and radio buttons or drop-down forms whenever possible.
Another way to improve direct data collection is through progressive forms. The first form a lead sees might have only three or four lines of essential information – name, firm name, and email address, for example. On subsequent visits, your prospect then gets new forms that ask for another small number of demographic or firmographic details. To increase compliance with forms, you might also consider premiums or incentives to fill them out.
Go to the Source
Your top accounts are too valuable to lose to insufficient or invalid data. Connect with your best customers via direct contact to confirm their information. An annual call to verify and update records is a small investment on your part that pays big dividends as enterprise-level account records stay current and relevant. Another bonus: Outbound confirmation campaigns improve your customer care and show your contacts that you’re meticulous about getting every element right, not just about making sales calls and moving on.
Make Data Cleansing Easier
Data hygiene isn’t a one-step process. Like doing the dishes or washing your car, it’s something you’ll do again and again, so set up a protocol for data enhancement and hygiene. Designating a data governance officer or database manager who can act as a liaison for your data and marketing teams is also useful. Working with a trusted marketing database management partner is an excellent way to improve data hygiene painlessly.
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