When good data goes bad

Data hygiene ensures a data warehouse is populated with accurate and complete data.

By Jessie Rudd, BI consultant at PBT Group
Johannesburg, 2 Oct 2015

Dirty data might sound like something that belongs in a Clint Eastwood movie made for the 21st century. However, it is actually the umbrella definition used to describe data that contains errors. This could be misleading, duplicate, inaccurate or non-integrated data, but also data that violates business rules – such as data without a generalised formatting, or data that is incorrectly punctuated or misspelt; not for one moment forgetting fake data.

In the world of data, warehousing, big data, social media, etc, any company worth its salt will have many procedures and practices in place to try and limit the amount of dirty data being stored and potentially consumed. However, there is some data that is scrubbed and vetted, stored and consumed, but can go bad over time. And no matter how thorough the process, the occasional Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or Luke Skywalker will make an appearance on most B2B customer profiles.

Netprospex’s “The State of Marketing Data 2015” [1] found that overall e-mail deliverability rates continue to introduce unnecessary risk into e-mail marketing programmes, with the average company database deliverability having a less than optimal health scale rating of 3.2 out of 5 – just barely above questionable.

Ever more disturbing, the study found record completeness only garners a measly 2.9 out of 5. Lead scoring, lead routing, effective content personalisation and Web customisation are all highly dependent on having actionable information about each prospect or customer. Most companies with limited budget and skill simply don’t have the time necessary to wait for progressive profiling to kick in, and many can’t afford to compete against fake form data. At a point in time, the information provided by a customer is probably correct, barring human error. However, what happens when domain changes, or position, or company?

Physical and e-mail addresses going bad over time, cell numbers changing, fake and or incomplete profile information – these are all very real issues facing many marketing departments across the globe today. A marketing campaign is only as robust and successful as the number of customers it reaches and converts. So what is the solution?

Coming clean

Data hygiene refers to the procedures put in place to ensure at any given moment, a data warehouse is populated with the most accurate and complete data. This is done by laying the proper foundation, and then building on that foundation a process of accountability. This can be done by actioning the following:

Groundwork: Any marketing campaign is only as good as the leads it generates. A full, thorough and complete understanding of the target market is the only way to convert ideas to leads, to offers, to business, to profit. A comprehensive data warehouse, as well as an intrinsic understanding of the customer that resides in that warehouse, should form the backbone of any company’s business intelligence department. If a company understands the story its data is telling, then marketing to the correct customer should be a given. Data quality is all about teamwork.

Cleanse and append: All inactive, duplicate, and junk contacts should be purged from the data warehouse. Once bad data is removed, the company might find itself with fewer contacts than expected, but it will also have a more valuable insight into the business.

“The occasional Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or Luke Skywalker will make an appearance on most B2B customer profiles.”

Also, if the company is unable to continually replenish its database with fresh leads to make up for the loss, it might be worth considering working with a vendor that can enrich the database and fill in missing contact information from its own database of records. Another solution is to put a procedure in place whereby existing customer information is augmented by freely available social media content.

While this may be a more complicated method of enriching customer data, it is fast becoming a must-have for any B2B company. Social media profiling is well on its way to becoming an integral part of most marketing campaigns.

Make it a routine: Fundamental to any good database is the understanding that it is almost impossible to keep bad data from entering it. That is one of the most important reasons why companies need to make data management a priority. The routine checking, cleaning and appending of data to ensure information is always complete and up to date is one of the most important steps in preventing dirty data and data decay.

Maintaining complete and accurate business contacts is critical to an organisation’s overall success. Data is at the heart of almost every marketing and sales strategy.

The half-life of data, in essence, the viability of a bit of information before it goes bad, is probably nowhere near as long as people would like to think it is. If companies don’t act now – and fast – their customer-centric data may soon be at the point where it is next to useless.

[1] Netprospex Benchmark Report 2015

Credit : IT Web


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