The world is now powered by big data, and businesses are dependent on detailed insights to keep moving forward.

But data only adds value if you can trust it. Data hygiene means keeping data ‘clean’ and reliable, and maintaining consistences in its management so you can compare apples with apples.

Data only adds value if you can trust it. Click To Tweet

It can feel like a minefield, so to help demystify things, we’ve pulled together some of the common issues we see around data maintenance and the risks they pose for businesses and marketers if not addressed.

1. Seeing double

If you’re making contact with customers and prospects across multiple touch points over time, it’s likely you’ll end up with duplicate entries.

Salespeople may manually create new leads or contacts without checking to see if they already exist. Lists are being uploaded and with a different unique identifier, API’s and integrations are creating new entries. Tools upgrade and evolve, and the problem compounds further.

This means crucial information may be logged against one lead/contact record, but not another, which creates serious challenges when it comes to marketing, lead allocation, personalisation and customer experience.

Solution: Set up duplicate detection rules, figure out how duplicate records are being created (manually or through integrations or list uploads) and put processes in place to prevent this happening in the future.

2. Infinite variations

Form fields often use ‘free-text’ fields to capture information. This greatly increases the variation on the responses captured. Take ‘Job Title’ – if I’m a General Manager of Finance’ I might write ‘GMF’, I might write ‘GM of Finance’, or ‘Finance’ or ‘GM’.

So too with company name: ‘CBA, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, CommBank’. “How many contacts do we have at ‘Commonwealth Bank of Australia’? Good luck giving a clear answer to that question!

Many companies have too many fields in their CRM and Marketing Automation systems. One business Green Hat helped had the following on each of their contact records: ‘Billing State, Mailing State, Physical State and State’.

Solution: While it’s tempting to go with the flow, use drop downs or check-boxes where possible. Using ‘Job Role’ instead of ‘Job Title’ means you can use broader categories. If you’re trying to capture profiling questions, use a selection of options instead of free-text fields. For example, opportunity timeframe might be ‘0-3 months’, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, ‘More than 1 year’.

For duplicate fields, make sure you’re not creating new fields for each small need – try to use the fields you have. It’s excessive to manage, confusing to analyse and impossible to maintain.

3. Scoring off target

Lead scoring is critical for behavioural marketing activities and customer profiling. If your products and services only appeal to large companies, you shouldn’t score those with 50 employees as high as you score those with 5000 employees.

If your data hygiene is poor (too many variables, too many duplicates, key information missing) you won’t be scoring accurately, and the effort you’re pouring into lead generation and nurturing is effectively wasted.

You need accuracy to create personas based on different buying types, paint points, triggers, channels and content to serve them.

If your data hygiene is poor, the effort you're pouring into lead gen & nurturing is wasted. Click To Tweet

Solution: Cover off the above points on duplicates and field variations. Make sure you’re capturing what you actually need in a consistent and repeatable way. Audit regularly for water-tightness.

4. Wasted costs & poor campaign performance

Few organisations have mastered the art of free-flowing opt-ins. In a savvy attention economy, people don’t give up their personal information without a compelling reason.

Yet many businesses still blast communications to an outdated and dirty database to avoid investing in contact acquisition campaigns.

If you’re using dirty data, there’s a high chance you’ll experience bad campaign performance (high bounce rates, low click-through, low conversions).

Why waste your time and money by targeting the wrong audience only to be disappointed at the completion of your campaign? Ever called a lead only to find out they left the company two years previously?

Solution: Invest in robust contact acquisition and ensure you are keeping track of the number of contacts being lost (left company, unsubscribed) versus the number of contacts being acquired. While they may be initial costs, the money you’ll save and the ROI you’ll generate makes the investment well worth it.

Remeber: it’s always more costly to clean up a mistake than to prevent one!

5. Impaired ownership & accountability

Bad data hygiene can widen the gap between Sales and Marketing, creating muddy accountability and attribution.

Let’s say you generated 50 great leads from a marketing campaign. What happened after you passed them along to Sales? Surely that hot lead is now a prosperous opportunity. Wrong. The Sales member who received that lead left the company 18 months ago and now your lead is busy being successfully engaged by your competitor…

Sales teams have a high turnover at most companies and it’s unlikely account owners are updated regularly. Marketing efforts are wasted because leads generated are never followed up, or Sales don’t get all the information they need to close the deal and celebrate the victory.

Solution: Frequent audits of your sales allocation process will help make sure leads aren’t falling through the cracks. If you can’t trust your data, don’t use auto-allocation sales methods.

6. Storage costs

We all know how expensive MAP (Marketing Automation Platforms) and CRM’s can be. Some can cost upward of $30,000 a year without considering the number of users and number of contacts being hosted.

Usually, pricing is dictated by how many contacts you have in your database. But how many ‘marketable’ contacts do you really have? Are you paying huge sums to host outdated, unsubscribed and invalid contacts?

Solution: Clean out your invalid and unsubscribed contacts from your database and CRM. Study the fine print of your systems and make sure you’ve optimised the right system for the number of people you’re talking to, accounting for growth ambitions.

7. Brand damage

It’s every marketer’s worst nightmare –  “Hey ‘Greg’ – wait… my name is John. Huh?”

Modern marketing relies on our ability to personalise content and experience at scale. Dear [name here] leaves a bad taste in the mouth. At best, they’ll think you’re embarrassingly careless. At worst, they’ll take it as a sign you’re untrustworthy and unreliable.

Modern marketing relies on our ability to personalise content & experience at scale Click To Tweet

Trust is core to countless B2B offerings and once broken, it’s challenging to repair. And if that customer tells their network, it isn’t long before your reputation is tattered.

Solution: Make sure you always set a default value when using merge/variable tags. Invest in testing and data analysis – make sure that you look at your data before sending. Eyeballing the data can make all the difference.

Now that you’ve got solid data, learn how to visualise it for your business.

Seven risks of poor data hygiene

Tom Baker
Tom has been a part of Green Hat’s automation team for more than three years as a Digital Marketing & Automation Specialist. His focus has been primarily on Marketo, driving forward numerous implementations and continuing on the journey with his clients to produce personalised experiences through automation. Tom also has a deep level of expertise in Green Hat’s preferred Business Intelligence platform, Domo, possessing strong skills in data transformation and dashboard visualisation.