So, you're going through your day as a B2B marketing executive, and someone comes into your office, utters the word 'database' and ruins your afternoon. We know the database conversation isn't always the most uplifting one. We get it.
Database upkeep can get complicated, tedious and too code-heavy fast. But have no fear—it's not as bad as you think. This blog post will cover a few basic concepts to help you build the perfect database.
It’s time to get organized
At its core, a database is simple. It can be a home for customer contact information, sales history and other strategic data. Essentially, it can house any information needed to contact customers.
When it comes to data storage, the days of collecting data in an excel sheet are long gone. For the most efficient and organized database, we recommend using a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system. A CRM can ensure you have the clearest, concise, accurate and usable data, free of error.
Emphasis on the ‘free of error’ part. When it comes to data analysis, knowing the proper data is key, and collecting data via spreadsheet tends to get messy.
It’s crucial you know exactly what's in your database—and more importantly, what's not in your database.
Here are some quick tasks to help you get started:
1. Do a quick review
Create a dataset with all your contacts in a city, state or region. It doesn't matter what the segment is, as long as it contains all the customers' records in that segment and is small enough to fit onto a spreadsheet. Take a few minutes and flip through the data. What do you see? Is the first name field correctly populated with first names only? How many entries do not have email addresses, phone numbers or street addresses? What other information do you not see? What do you see that shouldn't be there?
2. Improve your data
There are a lot of resources available to help you append missing data like phone numbers and email addresses or verify and standardize existing data such as mailing addresses. Be sure to look for spelling errors, inappropriate data, junk records, duplicates and the dreaded abbreviation. You'll want to set aside ample time for this as it takes time and constant diligence to maintain a highly accurate, deliverable dataset. Moving too fast can leave room for errors and leave you disorganized.
Once your existing data is organized, you'll want to ensure you're collecting the appropriate data moving forward so you won't miss any opportunities to connect with your customers.
Are you taking every opportunity to learn about your customers? Are you limiting customer contact information to just an email address? It's easy to rely on an email address as the single point of contact with a customer; however, this doesn't make for a strong database.
Data collection goes beyond emails
When we launched an email capture program with one of our clients, the decision was made to only require a customer name, postal code and email address. We didn't want to ask for too much information and drive the customer away. We included a field for the customer's street address and phone number, but that information wasn't required. Within six months, we ran three separate campaigns and captured a respectable number of registrations for the newsletter. Once we looked at the registrations, we noticed something pretty astonishing. 66% of our registrations included a physical mailing address, and 51% of our registrants included a phone number.
A few weeks into the program, we decided to add a quick interest survey at the end of the registration process. Using a simple lead message such as 'Tell us about products and services you're interested in' prompted customers to check a box to select one or more products and services. To our surprise, 90% of registrants answered the product interest survey.
While you may not be interested in more than a simple email address, consider the fact that many email programs use an email address as a customer ID. In a basic sense, an email address is not a unique customer ID but a customer demographic. Now, think about how many active email addresses you have between work, school and home? For that matter, how many old email addresses do you have—like your first AOL address or a company address from a previous job? On average, each person has about three active email addresses. And remember, a relinquished email address is available for someone else to acquire.
Another reason to capture as much customer information as possible is when you go beyond your own data collection and attempt to append information from other sources. What if you were offered a second list from a partner company or a purchased data list? You know the new list contains qualified, interested and engaged prospects, and your challenge is to see how many of them are current customers and how many are prospective customers. You may not be able to achieve the maximum value from your efforts if an email address is all you have to identify a customer.
Ultimately, the more data points available, the higher rate of matches and more accurate matching occur. Don't be afraid to ask for information from your customers. Customers genuinely interested in your products and services will offer accurate information because they want to hear from you.
Data deserves regular housekeeping
Now that you've set up your database and collected data, it's time to go through your database to weed out unnecessary entries.
It might be great to know you have 78 trillion customers in your database, but what if only 56 of those entries are engaged customers? That 78 trillion number isn't quite as impressive anymore, is it? It's better to have 56 engaged customers than 78 trillion empty entries.
As your database grows, it becomes increasingly more important (and difficult) to ensure your database is a highly accurate picture of your customer base. At this stage, it becomes critical to spend your time and budget updating engaged customers only.
You can do several things to ensure your database has value, such as hiring someone designated for data entry, appending data from other sources or setting up a landing page to collect additional information.
But before that, you'll want to set a unique ID for each customer in your database. A unique ID can be used to identify purchasing information and will also help lower the incidence of duplication within the database. It's critical to eliminate this information for obvious reasons. Keep your data in an orderly format for the most accurate counts and processes.
Next, check every field for complete information. The more complete the data, the better. Do you need to append or correct zip codes or other address information such as city or state? Once every field is complete, browse through your data again. Are there any customers that fall outside of your market? Eliminate or redirect any customer entries that belong elsewhere.
It's essential to identify an individual or team within your organization to take responsibility to ensure data is entered correctly. This doesn't have to mean that data is entered manually, but you should have consistent control over your data to maintain a quality database.
While data organization can be tedious, the reward is invaluable.
Have questions about data collection and best practices? Contact us today and let us know how we can help.