Spring Cleaning: Understanding Data Hygiene

Today, marketers are bringing their research and analytics efforts to new measures. But the sheer amount of data available can be both promising and overwhelming. What’s important to note is that data, just like the people behind it, changes over time. And if your marketing efforts are led by old, repetitive, ”dirty-data,” you could potentially be wasting money.

What is data hygiene?

In simple terms, data hygiene is the practice of making sure your data resources are error free. The more data you have, the more room there is for error. Mistakes cost time and money, so it’s best to avoid them when possible.

Common signs of poor data hygiene:

  1. Duplicate entries
  2. Outdated information
  3. Missing information/misspellings

Why is maintaining a "clean" database so important? Because refusing to clean data will always cost more than cleaning it.

According to Sys-Con, bad data wastes nearly 3.1 trillion marketing dollars every year. You read that correctly. Think about how many variations of data are at our disposal today. Purchase data, location-based data, app data, user-experience data and more. And all of this is in addition to traditional contact information that's gathered.

When you’ve got such large pools of data, cleaning it up can seem like a daunting task. But as a marketer today, it’s flat-out unacceptable to allow your business database to remain inaccurate or incomplete.

In this article, Sys-Con's Hollis Tibbetts details personal examples of wasted marketing efforts rooted in poor database maintenance or hygiene, including:

  1. Marketers thinking he’s married to the previous homeowner.
  2. Marketers asking him to open an account at a bank he already has an account with.
  3. Marketers contacting him 3/4 times using different variations of his first name.

A cable company recently came under scrutiny when a disgruntled employee replaced a customers contact name with a profanity. That profanity ended up on the customer's contact record in the company's database, and ultimately onto the customer’s next bill. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with the customer. (Shameless plug—this unfortunate situation could have been avoided had the cable company passed their mail data through a hygiene filter, flagging any records that contained a profanity. This is a standard processing step we have in place here at Wilen.)

A not-so-easily forgiven mistake

Data is always changing, and so are the parameters that define spam. A lack of data hygiene can hurt your business in ways that aren’t so easily fixable. There’s nothing worse than spending time and money putting together an email campaign, only to have a high rate of undeliverable emails trigger a spam filter. Not only was that campaign a huge waste, but future email deliverability can suffer as a result of this flag being raised. Data hygiene steps help prevent these types of mistakes before they happen.

A clean effort all around

When you take the right steps to ensure your data is accurate, you’re not only avoiding wasted campaign dollars, you’re creating the opportunity for better and stronger connections to be developed. Correct data helps you illustrate that you know your audience— whether they're current customers or potential ones. Knowing your audience can help build trust, and hopefully affinity to your brand. When you’re more accurate, you're more effective.

Published on May 12, 2015