I’m going to say this straight out – managing contact databases is hard, tedious work. Personally I’d rather paint my house with a toothbrush.
However, like most things that are hard work, the pay off is worth it. It’s a job that’s just got to be done. The cost of planning, creating and executing marketing campaigns to databases that are in a bad state of repair is too high to ignore. It’s not just the cost of running a campaign, it’s the opportunity cost of failing to reach the people who could or should be interested in what you have to tell them.
If, right now, your foot is kicking a box of ‘return-to-sender’ direct mail pieces that lives under your desk – then you know what I’m talking about.
If you look into any database you’d find at least one ‘enquiry@’ email address linked to a reasonably important prospect company. How long have email campaigns being going to this perfectly valid and entirely useless email address? Is this the only contact for that company? You can see the problem.
The fact is data ages to the point of being useless at a rate of up to 30 per cent per year (based in our and many of our client’s experience).
You know that economic crisis we had not all that long ago? How many people can you think of that you personally know – your colleagues, friends, family – changed workplaces, roles, responsibilities?
Now think about how many companies are in your database. If you applied the same logic – how much of your database is probably out of date?
What if you only have one contact for an entire company in your database? If that person is now just a ‘return to sender’ or ‘failed email’ record then you have basically lost all possible traction with that firm. (TIP: do a gap analysis and see how many of the relevant job titles you have per company).
There’s no need to panic just yet. There are many ways to audit and update your database. Here’s a just a couple of the more common ones we recommend.
One is to send out a direct mail piece or an email to your database using registration forms with mandatory fields. Good mailers that address the ‘what’s in it for me?’ issue will get surprisingly good results. Competitions and events are excellent, as they often grow your database when prospects send the invitation on to colleagues or peers. We get this every time we send out invitations for our fortnightly Social media orientation for B2B marketers and managers event.
For big email databases, an innocuous, one-off email to everyone will give you starting point for a data clean (just don’t make it something that’s going to result in mass unsubscribes).
The hard work comes when you sit down to read all of the bounce, fail and out-of-office emails you get back. Yes, you need to read every single one.
Painful, yes, but many companies make it standard procedure to tell you that employees have left the company, or to provide alternative contacts while on leave, through out of offices. Target smaller batches, either by importance, company or lead potential, which can make keeping on top of responses easier. Automated responses are a rich source of new valid email addresses – just make sure you continue to comply with relevant Anti-Spam legislation.
Telemarketing is a good option for data cleaning and validation once you’ve tested your existing database. Telemarketing will let you achieve things that email alone can’t. First, you speak to real people, so you can often add in multiple contacts on the one call. Second, you clean your existing records more accurately by finding out that “Bob hasn’t been here for three years. Mary runs that department now.” Last, if you speak to the person who’s record you’re cleaning, you may be able to include a lead generation or marketing qualification conversation as well and get an immediate return on your investment. Why not? They’re on the phone anyway.
What should you do if your database appears to be in very shabby shape, like most key contacts are no longer valid?
It might be that the best course of action is purchasing a new list and starting again. Keep the records are still active and send the rest to the glue factory. It will probably cost you more to remedy old data than to buy a sparkling new list.
Most list companies are constantly calling, updating and validating their data, so you can be assured of the quality. The good data firms will offer a 99% accuracy rate and credit your account if you strike bad data.
These are just a couple of common approaches as I said. There are some blended activities you can get into which are multi-step and involve a mixture of processes – but it’s a bit too technical to go into here.
Overall, my advice when it comes to marketing data management is to be objective in your assessment. If you are getting bounce rates for email campaigns that seem high – then draw a line in the sand to make a start to clean them up. Even if you just do it in batches each month it will instantly improve your campaign return on investment and give your more confidence in your campaign planning.
If you would like further insights on how to maintain your database(s), or think you might need some strategic guidance or help, our team is always more than happy to help.