Is Your Data Decaying?

Particularly in the wake of Covid, the answer is yes, says data expert Sky Cassidy. Here’s what you can do about it.

Keeping company and contact data for B2B sales and marketing accurate has always been a tough job. Even for skilled professionals and companies that do this for a living it’s a challenge. During an economic downturn, pandemic or any other massive event it can be particularly difficult. The data management job is all about maintenance, so the larger the amount of change, the more difficult the job is.

Pre-Covid, the average U.S. job turnover was around 4% per month. On top of that, to keep data clean you also need to update information when people change their phone number, title or email. Then you have company-level changes that need to be managed: businesses moving, mergers, acquisitions, companies going out of business and rebranding. When something like Covid happens, the difficult work of maintaining your target audience is suddenly multiplied and every one of these potential data changes jump into double digits. Typically, this data turnover is mostly seen in lower-level positions, but with Covid many people are reevaluating their careers and experts are predicting as much as a 20% turnover at the executive level.1 All of this adds up to a monumental task for those whose job it is to keep the sales and marketing campaigns reaching the intended audience.

So how do you know if your data is decaying and what can you do about it?  The first question is simple: your data is always decaying. It’s not a question of if it’s decaying but of how bad the decay is. If you have some practices in place already, like flagging records with emails that bounce, you can look at the number of records flagged over time and get a quick idea of the increase of data decay due to Covid.

It’s also a good idea to have someone grab a random chunk of contact data (50- 100 records) from both the sales and marketing databases and manually verify each important field keeping track of changes. This will give you a good idea of the state of your data and which fields are an issue. The most important things to look at are whether the company is still in business, has the same name and domain and whether the contact is still at the company. Do they have the same title, email, phone, address? Also, look at the size of the company, industry and any other company level information that indicates if a company is a good target for your sales/marketing or not. I recommend doing this quarterly.

Once you do a data evaluation you’ll likely be freaked out about the size of the problem. Not to worry, it’s even worse than you think. You see, this data is a foundational element of your sales and marketing, and when the foundation crumbles everything else comes down. Budget invested in everything else in the company relies on the accuracy of your sales and marketing data. Phone numbers being outdated may be a small thing, but when your whole sales team is calling on these numbers, you’re now simultaneously wasting the sales budget and reducing the revenue. Not to mention driving the people that should be closing deals crazy.  This sort of waste can be seen in every part of a company that fails to maintain accurate sales/marketing data. There is good news: your company has been functioning at current levels with this foundational rot and it’s not that difficult to fix, resulting in a positive ripple effect.

So, what to do about it?  The simplest thing you can do is the flagging and removal of records that have emails bounce. You can also create some filters that identify key words in email auto responses indicating a company is out of business, has undergone a name change, merger or other major company change that would require someone to go in and update information. If your database is small, this combined with begging the sales team to keep key field in your CRM accurate should serve you well. 

For most companies I also recommend having a data company clean and update your data on an annual basis. I’ve seen companies that were paying more to keep inaccurate records in Salesforce than it would have cost to have them identified and removed. A company that specializes in this type of B2B data can not only identify inaccurate records but will also be able to add information that you are missing and update information that has changed. This adds great value to your sales and marketing foundation. 

When evaluating a data company for this type of project you should be able to talk to several companies and get a quote and sample of what they will do from each.  They will need to know the full size of your database and the fields of importance and they should request a small representative sample so they can see all available fields and show you what they can do. It’s important any sample you provide is randomly pulled from your data. Having a company evaluate only the worst or best data you have will result in either you overpaying for the project due to a perceived difficulty or the vendor not understanding the real issues in the project. 

What happens when companies get it wrong? Their products and services don’t sell, and they go out of business creating many more records that now need to be updated. 


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