As the COVID-19 situation is rapidly unfolding, it has never been more important to be able to effectively communicate and maintain relationships with your core constituencies – but this can be challenging. We are hearing from firms across the country that are working frantically to issue relevant guidance to clients and key contacts, but many are struggling due to the quality of their data. Having correct, current and complete contact data is essential to all businesses. But times of crisis such as these, where conditions are constantly evolving, necessitate sending time-sensitive and sustained communications as well as focused outreach to provide essential information for clients and contacts.
Underpinning the success of effective communication is a realization that correct contact data is critical. Dated, incomplete or inaccurate contact data can undermine the process, increasing the time it takes to disseminate critical information. Additionally, without accurate contact information, the time and effort spent researching, writing and producing important information for your clients or contacts will be wasted if it doesn’t reach the intended recipients.
The scope of the problem is significant. Some statistics show that, without regular attention and maintenance, up to 30 percent of data degrades each year. So, if you haven’t been diligent in regularly maintaining your contacts, lists and other data, you may find yourself unable to get your message out to your key audiences.
Right Message, Right Audience
Complicating the communication situation, recent reports indicate that organizations are currently seeing more than a 100 percent increase in email traffic during this crisis. Understandably, many are trying to provide ongoing access to relevant information for their clients and other contacts as the crisis continues. However, it is vital to be sure to communicate the right messages to your clients and other key audiences.
Specific individuals may have different concerns, and certain industries or areas may be experiencing different impacts from the pandemic, so it’s important to tailor your information to the needs of each audience and to differentiate your message to ensure that it will be impactful during the email deluge.
Firms that have maintained a consistent and sustained commitment to regularly cleaning and enhancing their data are better able to successfully target their contact lists by location and/or job title and segment their company lists by industry and/or geography to ensure that their messages are appropriate to the unique needs of each individual or company.
What to Do Now
If you are finding that poor data quality is hindering your ability to communicate effectively, there are a number of steps you can take to enhance the deliverability and impact of your eMarketing:
- Test your lists. Email and event marketing lists can quickly and easily be put through an automated validation process before attempting to send communications. Rather than trying to manage a large number of bounced communications that did not reach recipients, this process will allow you to update contact information in advance of sending your email campaign to ensure that most of your messages get delivered.
- Regularly research or remove bounces. After each campaign or send, if you still have emails that bounce, try to identify those contacts’ current information and update it so that future communications will reach them. If you don’t have the time or resources for this research, the bounced contacts should be removed from all mailing lists to avoid resending additional emails to them. Repeatedly mailing to bad email addresses can cause your your firm’s online email sending reputation to be tarnished and your communications could be blacklisted by organizations that track and report on email spam.
- Clean your data. There is no substitute for a regular routine of automated data cleaning and manual data stewarding by trained professionals to keep your most important contact lists up to date. If you don’t have the internal staff to tackle this job, full- or part-time outsourced data quality professionals can be hired quickly and inexpensively for limited or ongoing data quality projects.
- Leverage Technology. Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM) systems can be used to regularly update contacts using presumptively current and valid information captured from the signature blocks of emails. Regular review by a trained data steward is essential to update this information across firm systems. Additionally, statistics show that today only about 25% of a professional’s contacts are added to their address books. An ERM system will help you to capture and deliver the remaining relevant new contacts into your CRM so they can be added to communication lists. These systems can also help identify the professionals in your organization with the strongest relationships with those contacts, and certain eMarketing systems will even allow you to send emails on your professionals’ behalf, thus increasing open rates.
- Reach out for assistance. Don’t go it alone or try to reinvent the wheel. There are a number of places you can go to research data quality, and there are numerous trained experts you can reach out to for help. The Data Quality team at CLIENTSFirst is always happy to share information, ideas and best practices for data quality success. Please contact us if we may be of service.
Another Important Message
The need for timely communication during a crisis clearly underscores the importance of reliable data. Hopefully, organizations will remember the lessons learned and commit to making sure their data quality is maintained long after this crisis has passed.
Perhaps even more important to remember is that the current demand for accurate and timely information is married to the stronger than ever desire to stay connected as individuals. With social distancing continuing, the need for a personal connection becomes more important than ever – and your communications and messages should take that into account. Take the opportunity to deliver important information and make a personal connection – and you will be remembered.
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 to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help with CRM or Data Quality or require extra staff to assist with a higher volume of data or communications, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or Info@ClientsFirstConsulting.com.