Why data hygiene is the key to successful marketing

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When I studied martial arts, my instructors always emphasized the importance of good footwork, saying a fighter is only as good as his/her footwork. Your feet are your foundation, and if your feet are not in proper position, you’ll be off balance, rendering your best punches useless. The same thing applies with marketing. A marketer is only as good as his/her list and a list full of errors and bad entries makes for an ineffective marketer. Here’s why data hygiene is the key to successful marketing and four ways you can keep your data clean.


Clean lists have good data and good data ensures your messages are delivered properly to the right person as intended. “Dirty” data… well, bad things happen when you have dirty data as OfficeMax found out to its immense chagrin back in January when it inadvertently included a family tragedy in the address of one of its mailings. (The second line of the letter said “Daughter Killed In Car Crash.”) A major marketing fail, the mailing mishap went viral and gave OfficeMax a big black eye.


On the humorous side, I’ve already talked here on the blog about the time AARP extended a membership invitation to my twenty-something associate. Oops.


Personally, I had something similar happen to me when my MINI Car dealer sent me a birthday card that asked how I was enjoying my MINI Cooper. That’s a nice thing for the dealer to do, except that I had traded the car in three years before! Sloppy records on the part of the dealer completely ruined the effect of the mailing.


All of these mailings failed to build rapport with customers, wasted marketing dollars, and made laughingstocks of good brands. Here are 4 tips on how you can avoid the fate of these brands:


1. Do it right the first time. If a task is worth doing, it’s worth doing right and the data entry involved in list building is not just worth doing—it’s crucial! Yet despite how important data entry is, it’s frequently handed off to the least trained and least respected employees in an organization. Temps and interns are great, but when they are underpaid, under trained, and underappreciated, why are you expecting great things from them?


Make sure to explain the great importance of data entry and how it has a direct influence on your organization’s sales. Give your data entry workers training on your data entry practices and since data entry is a brutally boring job, try to make sure your workers at least feel appreciated and respected. You’d be surprised how something as simple as bringing in lunch for your data entry clerks may improve the quality of the data entry. Happy workers do great work.


2. Combine existing lists. If you have multiple lists, it’s a good idea to combine them into one, that way you only have one list to maintain. Also, it will reduce the likelihood of entries that are updated in one list and not in another.


3. Standardize data entry. Do you put names in one field or separate them into a first name field and last name field? Little things like this can have a big impact on data hygiene. Standardize your data entry practices and educate your employees about them.


4. A living list is a clean list. A marketing list is the perfect example of entropy at work. Make a list. Give it five minutes and already your list may be out of date. Make sure to keep it updated every chance you get. Obviously returned mailings should be noted. A great way to keep your lists updated is to allow and encourage customer-facing personnel to update the data.

Data hygiene isn’t sexy, but it is really important. Don’t let dirty data ruin your marketing efforts!

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