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Five Data Quality Nightmares That Haunt Marketers and How Avoid Them


In this spooky season of vampires, witches and scary clowns, we’d like to add one more to the mix – data quality nightmares – which can be more frightful than a marathon of Freddy Kreuger movies to some of us.

We need data about our clients and prospects in order to create strategic programs that can lead to new business and increased visibility, but maintaining that data on an ongoing basis can quickly turn into a nightmare without the right resources.

Having good quality data is important for success in so many areas of your organization, including:

  • Communicating effectively with core constituencies
  • Successfully planning and executing events
  • Segmenting your target markets, clients or customers
  • Providing superior customer service
  • Understanding the needs of clients or customers
  • Effectively developing new business
  • Improving delivery and reducing costs of postal mailings

The reality is that your data will never be perfect, but there are ways you can address and improve it. The longer you wait to improve your data management, the scarier it will become. Here are some of the most common data quality nightmares we see and how to avoid them:

Data Quality Nightmare 1: Duplicate data

Is your CRM a graveyard for thousands of duplicate company and individual contacts? Data comes from all directions, so it’s important to ensure that data isn’t being duplicated. Dupes make it difficult to coordinate efforts and activities. Duplicate data occurs when customer information appears more than once in the database, or multiple variations of the same individual appear.

Secondly, duplicate data can damage your brand image. It is unlikely that a contact who receives the same information twice will be happy about it. This is an easy way to frustrate customers and prospects and can make your business appear disorganized.

Data Quality Nightmare 2: Missing or incomplete data

Are your contact details ‘ghosting you’? Without good data you can’t target or segment, and your communications and invitations won’t reach the right audiences.

Similar to inaccurate data, incomplete data can also have a negative impact on your business performance.

One way that organizations can help control this data quality nightmare, is by making certain form fields a required entry. That way, data entries will be more consistent and complete.

Data Quality Nightmare 3: Incorrect or inconsistent data

Does incorrect or inconsistent data give you nightmares? Bad CRM data leads to missed opportunities for new customers, and it could create issues for your sales cycle. There is almost no point in engaging with contacts in your database if the information is incorrect.

There are multiple ways to encourage good data habits, depending on your system and method of contact entry. If your firm relies on manual data entry, implement a firmwide Data Standards Guide to inform users how data should be entered (e.g., does your firm spell out or abbreviate job titles?). It can also be helpful to use system validation rules wherever possible to require certain information in new records such as last name, city and email address to ensure your contacts are relevant.

Data Quality Nightmare 4: Too much data

Are you in the ‘zombie zone’ trying blindly to figure out what to do with too much data and/or disparate data from disconnected systems?

Having too much data can be overwhelming – and unnecessary. It’s important to set parameters on what information you truly need about your clients and prospects, and then maintain only that information going forward. This will streamline the process and make everyone’s jobs easier by avoiding data quality nightmares.

Data Quality Nightmare 5: Lack of data quality resources

Does your team run screaming from data quality projects leaving you with a data disaster?

To encourage ongoing system adoption and utilization, data quality and maintenance must be top priorities. Resources must be dedicated – including time, money and people. Processes and procedures need to be put in place to maintain ongoing quality. Most importantly, training and communication are essential to ensure that end users don’t create unnecessary duplicates or introduce more bad data into the system.

Data Quality Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

While it’s easy to become scared by nightmare data, it’s important to put it in perspective. Focus on discreet data and projects that yield real ROI such as:

  • Start with your most relevant records like current clients. Begin cleaning your top 100 to 500 along with associated key contacts.
  • Review frequently used lists to ensure your communications and invitations are reaching the right recipients.
  • Vet bounced emails after each campaign, or better yet, regularly run lists through an automated data process to identify bad emails before a campaign to ensure that information actually reaches your targets in a timely manner.
  • Tackle time-sensitive one-off projects. For instance, an upcoming event often provides a good opportunity to get users engaged in cleanup efforts, particularly if the event is important to them.

It’s also important to remember that because data degrades so rapidly, data cleaning can’t be a one-time initiative. Once your team begins regularly maintaining your data, the cleanup will get easier over time. And remember, because data cleaning never really ends, the good news is that this means you have forever to get better at it.

If your data is frightful, CLIENTSFirst can help! Our team can ensure your data is clean, correct, consistent and complete. Our TrueDQ process combines automated data cleaning and manual data stewarding to meet your needs and budget.

For more than a decade, the team at CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been helping professional services firms and other organizations successfully select and implement CRM and eMarketing systems and improve Data Quality to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help achieving CRM Success, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or

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