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The Dirty Data Domino Effect: Gaining the Upper Hand – Part 4


Here are a few more top tips to help you gain the upper hand with dirty data and prevent future contact collapses. To see the rest of the list, read The Dirty Data Domino Effect: Mastering the Game – Part 3.

  1. People and Processes: To prevent bad data in the future, take the time to talk to the individuals who are the contributors to and custodians of existing data sources. Of course, this includes your system users. Communicate with them about the importance of good data quality and train them to help prevent future problems. Also be sure to assess existing processes and procedures to determine how the current data domino situation occurred and stop the cycle from repeating.
  2. Data Sources: Identify any other sources of bad data that are compounding your contact problems. For instance, if there are existing integrations that are creating duplicates or overriding good data with bad, you may need to determine how valuable that data may be. If it’s critical, find a way to work with other departments to find a solution.
  3. Styles and Standards: To standardize data entry, create data style guidelines and a data entry manual to keep data consistent and prevent new duplicates from being created. Not only will this documentation help to make your data stewarding more efficient, when accompanied with the right training and communication, it can also help system users understand how important their role is in the process.
  4. Technology: Use software to make data quality more efficient and effective. One tool that can be particularly effective is an Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM) system. This software is important not only because it can create current contacts from the signature blocks of emails, which is critical because a lot of busy professionals no longer take the time to add contacts records to address books, but it can also be used to validate and fill in missing information on existing records, which means less time spent researching records.

Slow and Steady

While it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the domino effect of dirty data, what’s important is to put the problems in perspective. Don’t try to focus on the whole puzzle at once. Instead, work on data and projects that can yield real return on investments of time and technology. Based on our experience working together with hundreds of top professional services firms, we recommend:

  • Consider starting with your most relevant records such as cleaning the contacts for current Clients. Begin with a manageable project such as the top 100 to 500. If you are rolling out or trying to encourage adoption for a particular group of users, focus on their key contacts before training.
  • Research bounced emails. These are key contacts you want to reach but who may have changed roles or locations. Instead of simply removing them from lists, vet bounces after each campaign.  Better yet, regularly run your lists through an automated data process to identify and update bad emails before sending a campaign to ensure that information actually reaches your targets in a timely manner.
  • Review frequently used lists to ensure your communications and invitations are reaching the right recipients. Too often lists become out-of-date or incomplete, leading to missed opportunities. Make list hygiene a regular practice and enlist assistance from the assistants if possible.
  • Add key company information or industry data to relevant contacts such as prospects. That way you can segment and target them for relevant communications and invitations to events they may be interested in.
  • Finally, focus on one-off projects that are time-sensitive. 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.

A Winning Strategy

It’s also important to understand that because data does degrade so rapidly, data cleaning can’t be a one-time project or an initiative. Every day that you decide to take a data quality break, the bad data starts piling up again… one piece at a time. Then, before you know it, you’ll be losing that data domino game again.


– At CLIENTSFirst, our team of almost 100 consultants and data quality professionals has spent more than a decade helping hundreds of professional services firms assess and address their data quality challenges. If you need help with strategies for winning the data quality domino game, feel free to contact us at 404-249-9914 or We are always happy to share information, ideas and best practices for success.

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