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3 simple steps to effective data cleaning

by Julie Knight 14 Mar, 2016

Your B2B database is one of the most valuable assets you have as a company. The records it contains allow you to make connections with the right people, thereby powering your marketing efforts and growing your business. 

However, if you don’t take the right steps to maintain and nurture your database, it could become an albatross around your neck.

Therefore, it’s important to clean your marketing data. Data cleaning – also known as data cleansing or data scrubbing – is the process of reviewing your database and making sure it is of the highest possible quality. Here’s the definition from Business Dictionary: "[Data cleaning is the] correction or removal of erroneous (dirty) data caused by contradictions, disparities, keying mistakes, missing bits, etc. It also includes validation of the changes made, and may require normalisation."

Regularly carrying out this procedure will avoid a scenario where you are encountering low response rates and your marketing campaigns are not proving cost-effective. After all, when you've carefully perfected your campaigns this is an incredibly frustrating situation to find yourself in.

Download our guide to data cleansing and discover the best ways of cleaning  your B2B data and improve the ROI of your next marketing campaign

Let’s detail three simple steps you can take to achieve a squeaky clean B2B database.

1. Remove duplicates and amend inaccuracies

This is a fairly straightforward process – but it may take some time, depending on how large your database is and how many changes you need to make. 

It’s crucial to remove duplicates because sending a message to the same individual or company more than once creates a number of problems. For one, it costs more money and uses up your resources – particularly if you are sending mail or making telephone calls. Furthermore, it makes you look unprofessional and sloppy – even if your campaign itself is brilliant.

Once you’ve ascertained that you only have one of each data record, it’s worth going through them with a fine-toothed comb and correcting any errors. For example, are there any spelling mistakes, or missing details? Filling in the gaps will increase the value of your data. Also, ask yourself whether your records are consistent. Do you use the same categories for each record? Are they formatted in the same way?

Making all of these changes will ensure that your data works as hard as possible for your organisation.

2. Get rid of dead leads

B2B data decays at a scarily fast pace - and this starts to happen as soon as it is collected. In fact, B2B data decays at a rate of around 35 per cent per year.

There are various reasons why data records are no longer relevant. Individuals change roles at work or leave their company altogether; organisations close down or move to new premises. These are all normal occurrences, so you just need to do your best to keep on top of them.   

Sending messages to "dead" leads not only wastes your time and resources, but it also means you will achieve a lower ROI. For instance, with email campaigns, there are likely to be more hard bounces, lower open rates and lower click-through rates.

You can use suppression files to identify any leads that are no longer viable. These enable you to cross-reference your own records with a database of national records that are updated on a continuous basis. In this way, you can easily pinpoint any entries that need to be deleted or amended in some way.

3. Check legal compliance

In the UK, there are a number of rules in place to protect individuals and businesses against unsolicited marketing messages. These are outlined in The Privacy and Electronics Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR). They are derived from European law and sit alongside the Data Protection Act.

The PECR cover direct marketing, including marketing by phone, fax, email, text or any other type of "electronic mail". However, it is worth noting that there are slightly different rules for B2C and B2B marketing. As the ICO states: "In general, the rules on marketing to companies are not as strict."

Essentially, it comes down to ensuring you are using the right data. For example, when carrying out telemarketing campaigns, you should not contact anyone whose number is listed on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or Corporate TPS (CTPS) – unless they have stipulated differently. Breaching these rules could land you with a fine of up to £500,000 from the ICO.

To recap, data cleaning will deliver a number of benefits to your organisation. This process will:

  • Eliminate duplication and improve accuracy
  • Increase response rates
  • Reduce mailing costs
  • Ensure legal compliance
  • Power your marketing efforts

Regularly cleansing your B2B database will ensure that it remains the precious asset to your business that it truly is. 

Data Cleansing 

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