Get Dirty Data Off Your Mind

Nothing ruins your investment in faster than dirty data. You know, it’s unusable because of incomplete records, duplicates, misspellings and out-of-date information. To be honest, there’s no point in investing in a CRM system, if you don’t have a way of keeping the data clean. It’s not good for the business. It’s like buying a Ferrari without ever planning for maintenance – and folks, even a Ferrari needs maintenance.

How data gets dirty.

Whether it’s bought or inputted, your data will get downright filthy without a data cleanse routine. Why? Two reasons, people and businesses.

Keystroke errors.

People make mistakes. Not every salesperson is a great typist, especially when data is being entered from a Smartphone or when in a rush. There’s no system for double checking data entry, so keystroke errors flood in over time.

Businesses go under.

It’s hard out there for a business. The good news is that there our hundreds of thousands of businesses that start up each year. The bad news is that business failure rates just as high. In theU.S., 44% of small businesses survive beyond their first 4 years. InCanada, 50% survive beyond the first 3 years.* This high open and close rate scenario spells out high churn. If your data isn’t updated on a regular basis, then Sales and Marketing end up wasting time on closed business leads.

The problems created by dirty data.

Salesperson: When you’re making your living off selling with data you can’t trust, how can you not be expected to take matters into your own hands? You need to sell, the company needs you to sell, and your family needs you to sell. So, you stop using the “junk” in the system, and find your own leads. If you use only use the leads that you input in, you don’t have to deal with calling businesses that no longer exist or numbers that are out of service.

Sales Manager: Your sales reps have found a work-around, but now they’re taking more time to find leads – time that wasn’t factored into the business plan. Paperwork may start to get sloppy as reps look for shortcuts in order to get the same amount of business closed with less time. Also, forecasting and prospecting reports become useless as they’re clogged with junk leads.

Marketing: You try to do a marketing campaign and get a ton of returned mail, no-longer-at-this address or out-of-business notices – costing you printing and postage. Telemarketing productivity is getting worse as they call numbers that don’t work, or try to figure out which of the duplicate prospects is the “real McCoy”. Chunks of your precious budget are being devoured by junk leads.

Let’s not even discuss upper management who does not understand why you’re not using a system in which they invested thousands, if not millions. And telling them the forecasts are wrong and you can’t get them right? Good luck. Relationships become strained. Finger pointing doesn’t solve anything. Trust between departments becomes an issue. Luckily, there’s hope…

How to clean up the data mess.

The first thing you need to do is to create a data administrator for your system. This will not be cheap. The job is technical. They may need help, depending on the size of your database and this help with cost you. The administrator should be the one who sets and enforces data standards, but works closely with all the teams affected, to make sure everyone’s needs are considered.

You’ll want to implement some data best practices including:

  • Define basic required fields for data input for sales – to get rid of incomplete records.
  • Create a regular data clean-up schedule – to add, update and purge records.
  • Invest in data clean-up tools.
  • Establish an acceptable level of data dirt. If data falls below tolerance, then clean-up is needed. This step will help to establish when that regularly scheduled maintenance should be done.

Data clean-up tools will get your duplicate problem under control. Basically, these tools look at duplicates and compare each field. Does name match name. Does address match address, and so on. You decide what constitutes a “match”, which will result in the merging of the duplicate records. This clean up can be scheduled. There is a manual review that needs to be done once it’s completed, as there will be exceptions that don’t meet the match criteria. There are many data clean-up tools available, like DupeCatcher, DupeBlocker and Ring Lead. Investigate your choices on the Salesforce AppExchange, keyword: duplicates.

Other things you may want to do.

After initial input, there is still an opportunity to collect more data about a prospect as it becomes an account. Decide what data you want collected upfront by sales and what data can be collected at a later date.

Also, identify which groups are responsible for collecting which data points. For example, a telemarketing campaign once a year can collect birthdays, and verify titles. You also may want to consider data purchasing to add, append and update records. You’ll have more complete records, and more data points off which to market or do analyses right off the bat.

Decide which groups have access to view and/or modify specific fields. Some of the data Marketing uses may not be necessary for Sales. You can “hide” these marketing fields so that records viewed by Sales remain streamlined to help them get at necessary data faster when selling.


Authored by Yvette Montague, Marketing Director at SalesForce Training.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a training and Salesforce Management consulting firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales teams get the most out of