Imagine this: a sales rep logs into your customer relationship management (CRM) database and types a new client’s information in manually. In a rush, the rep makes a few typos, no worries, they can fix it later (spoiler: they won’t).
Continuing on this thread, your marketing team set up an email campaign using CRM data, but why are half of the emails bouncing? We only audited our data a few years ago…
We’re sorry for this truly chilling imagery - we know unmanaged databases can be upsetting for many revenue operations professionals.
But if you logged into your CRM database right now, what would you be met with? The likely answer for most companies is a mess of unstructured, outdated, and duplicated data.
Don’t worry - we’re here to guide you through the process of cleaning your CRM data, and implementing strategies to mitigate some common mistakes.
This article answers these questions:
- What is data cleansing?
- How does data become unclean?
- What are the effects of poor data hygiene?
- How do you clean your CRM database?
- How do you maintain a clean database?
What is data cleansing?
Data cleansing (or data cleaning) is the process of identifying and removing incomplete, messy, inaccurate, outdated, or duplicated data from your database. In other words, the process of cleaning dirty data sets.
Anything from incorrect formatting on a phone number to an outdated job title is considered dirty data. This unhelpful data can mean your sales reps miss an opportunity or can’t contact a new lead. Dirty data can also lead to uninformed decision-making.
How does data become unclean?
There are many ways data can become dirty from human error when inputting a contact to simply a customer changing company. Here are some common types of dirty data and how they arise.
A large amount of data becomes outdated every year. People get promotions, change companies, move house to another area, or simply change phone numbers. Without proper upkeep of these details, your contact info is going to deteriorate in quality fast.
Duplicate data can occur when a sales rep inputs a contact without realizing that they’re already in your CRM. This can also happen if a customer fills in a form with different information than what you already have on file.
This can lead to multiple versions of the same contact in your CRM - and no way to tell which info is correct!
If you’ve ever filled in a form but left a field blank then you’ve contributed to missing data.
Missing data is simply information you don’t have about a customer - this may occur if they miss a field in a form, or if you have multiple forms that ask for different information.
Whether it’s a phone number containing letters or a birth date in 3023 - there’s something not quite right about this data… 🤔
Invalid data is incorrect in one way or another and was likely just a mistake or typo not caught by your CRM system.
Incorrectly formatted data
There are lots of ways to write the same information - but your CRM doesn’t always understand that. So data that’s been inputted by different sales reps, in different ways may become difficult to use over time.
Incorrect formatting is a problem of its own, but can also cause other problems like duplicate data if your system doesn’t recognize data as being the same because of those format differences.
What are the effects of poor data hygiene?
There are many reasons why poor data hygiene is bad for your revenue streams, here are a few:
- You can’t contact leads if you have the wrong information.
- Emails could be sent to spam if you use the wrong name or pronouns.
- Less successful campaigns due to high bounce rates or poor targeting and personalization.
- Gain a negative brand perception if you get important details such as a customer's name wrong.
- Ineffective optimization of segments. For example, if a customer no longer lives in the targeted area.
- Time wasted on campaigns set up to fail.
- Uninformed decision-making based on problematic data.
How do you clean your CRM database?
So, cleaning your data is pretty important - but it may seem like a daunting task, especially if it’s been a while since your CRM has been maintained.
We’ve broken the process down into seven key steps to help you get started cleaning your CRM data.
1. Organize contact records
The first step in cleansing your CRM data is to organize your records. It’s useful to group multiple contacts from the same company and ensure their job titles are correct. You can also categorize data by any factors that may be useful to your revenue teams, such as lead status, location, or job title.
Then you should ensure any email addresses that bounce or haven’t interacted in many years are removed from your database. This may feel like a loss - but really you’re just creating a more engaged database!
2. Standardize fields
The key step in cleaning your CRM database is to standardize the fields used with drop-down menus as much as possible.
This step mitigates a ton of human error in data input, making your data more reliable. Plus has the bonus of saving your sales reps time as they can quickly select the right input instead of manually typing the information in.
No more spelling mistakes, no more formatting errors - hello clean data! 😍
3. Remove duplicates and fill in the gaps
Next, it’s time to start removing duplicate information and identifying any missing data that needs to be filled.
To remove duplicate data, you must identify which information is correct. This may involve validating email addresses to see which ones bounce or calling numbers to see which one is answered.
While this can be time-consuming, it means having more accurate data in your CRM that can be used for outreach.
Once duplicates have been removed, you can assess which contacts have missing information and attempt to fill this. Research on LinkedIn or company websites may help fill in these details.
4. Data audit
After these steps have been completed you can start to reap the rewards of having a clean CRM. Now is a great time to audit your data to identify your most likely customers based on your data and identify or adjust your customer segments.
This can make email workflows easier to build and allow your teams to better understand what your ideal customers look like based on accurate insights.
5. Automate, automate, automate
56% of revenue operations professionals say manual data cleansing is the biggest time waster in their role, so we think it’s time to implement automation into your routine data hygiene tasks.
Tools can be used to automatically detect duplicate records or remove internal contacts from your CRM. Some automations can even reassign or flag contacts who are assigned to inactive sales rep accounts - so that prospects can be followed up with.
These automations can help save your team time while also helping to keep your CRM cleaner.
6. Use an integrated platform
Your CRM is looking great! But there’s a good chance there’s some stray data on a spreadsheet or other platform that hasn’t been moved over yet…
It’s best to use an integrated platform to ensure all your data is kept in one place - but this may take some persuasion. Some sales reps may see uploading info straight to the CRM to be extra work - especially when they have their own makeshift system.
Use change management strategies to ensure a smooth transition and gain access to all of your company's data.
7. Hygiene management
You’ve finally completed your data cleansing! Or maybe not…
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Data hygiene is a continuous process as data is added (and becomes outdated) every day. So, it’s time to set up a process for maintaining your database long-term.
This may mean reviewing your data every six months or so to clean up and remove outdated data. Hopefully, with updated processes data cleansing will become an easier maintenance task with time.
How do you maintain a clean database?
Your data may be clean for now - but it likely won’t stay that way!
Here are our top tips for maintaining clean CRM data in the long term, and some insights from experts in our community.
Ensuring there are standardized processes for adding data to your CRM can help mitigate errors in data entry or updates. We spoke about drop-down menus earlier but these are especially helpful in removing errors.
Another way to standardize your CRM process is to outline when a contact should be removed from your database, this could be a length of time since they last engaged, or a set time after they churn or the deal is lost.
Chances are if they haven’t interacted in years, churned, or were lost as a lead over a year ago, they aren’t likely to be a useful contact in your database.
Standardizing this process provides clearer guidelines for removing contacts, and can be helpful in cases where your rep says, “This contact might be helpful one day”.
“Most disagreements between revenue leaders in growing organizations can be curbed by having a single source of truth for data and documented standard operating procedures.”
-Greg Larsen, VP of Revenue Operations at Eltropy
Another way to help your data maintenance is to simplify and standardize your forms. By only asking for the details you actually need from leads, they’re more likely to fill in the form correctly.
“This may seem obvious, but the best way to get the worst data is to add extra steps and clicks to your users’ day.
“Bake the data entry into existing processes, leverage tool integration to meet them where they work, and critically, review each data point to ensure relevancy. This will minimize disruption for the end user and eliminate extra steps, resulting in real, valuable data.”
-Alysson Pehoski, Director of Revenue Operations at Field Nation
Restrict admin access
Restricting who has admin access to your CRM can help avoid accidental changes or deletions within your system. A sales rep may accidentally deactivate a duplicate checker or another automation if they don’t understand what it does.
To avoid this, ensure only those who need admin access have it - this may mean reducing this access to the revenue operations team and a few CRM admins.
Maintain a single source of truth
Maintaining your CRM as the single source of truth in your organization can help avoid incorrect data by stopping other software from editing or overriding information in your database.
“One thing you'll see a lot when you're looking into the Salesforce ecosystem is the idea of having a system that’s a single source of truth. (This could be Salesforce or another CRM.)
“In that, if anything disagrees with that system or branches off of that system, then your single source of truth is what takes priority.
“And it's more of a kind of a philosophical approach to how you integrate, your different teams. Your silos, your external systems are what is the one thing that everything talks to and everything goes through.”
-Marin Page, Senior Salesforce Business Analyst at Soliant Consulting
Archive old data
If there’s information in your system that you don’t currently need but may in the future you can archive this data.
Archiving data is similar to packing up your seasonal wear and putting it in a cupboard. It’s still available when you need it but it takes up less space to store and will allow you to search the data without relying on backups or regathering the information.
Frequent data cleaning
Lastly, the key to maintaining a clean database is to clean your data regularly. Every six months you should reevaluate your processes and check for duplicated or outdated data to remove.
Data hygiene is crucial to maintaining a useful CRM database and should be a priority for revenue operations teams. Your CRM can’t run itself - the help of specialized admins is recommended for smooth running.
Want to discuss specific CRM problems with people who've been there and done that? Join our Slack community to talk shop with 2000+ likeminded revenue pros! 👇