How to maintain the quality of your CRM data

If you’re still using excel sheets to store contact data, you might want to consider using a CRM to simplify your everyday operations. Conversely, if you’re already using a CRM but don’t spend any time maintaining it, you might as well revert to excel sheets. Those who don’t audit their CRM regularly have no advantage over those who still use well-maintained excel sheets.

The point I’m trying to make here is that a CRM is just a tool; you need to know how to use a tool to get the most out of it. In this article, I will outline some best practices that you can use to make your CRM work for you as efficiently as possible.

Why should you audit your CRM regularly?

In a perfect world, your CRM would solve most of your problems without any effort on your side. But, it’s simply not enough to set up your account and forget about it. Just like your business is susceptible to change, so is your CRM — the latter should be dynamic and reflect the needs of your business. This means that you should be performing CRM audits regularly. This could be every quarter, every year, or even more frequently, depending on your situation. The state of your CRM can make a difference between smooth operation and frustration. Remember that your CRM is one of the most powerful tools, as it contains information about your leads, current, and future customers.

Delete unsubscribed and invalid records

People leave and join new companies every day, and unfortunately, some of these people could be your key contacts. Chances are that you already have many useless records that are either invalid or have unsubscribed from all communication. You should delete them because there’s not much else you can do with these records — and you can’t reach them. Bad data of any sort can’t help you make good business decisions. As the saying goes, no data is better than bad data because the lack of data can’t mislead you into thinking you’re doing great.

For example, let’s say you have been emailing users about a platform migration that requires them to take some action on their end. Eventually, you proceed with the migration, and some users suddenly start angrily asking you why their systems are not working and why they had never been notified of such critical change. But as it turns out, you had emailed key contacts that had already left the company, and their emails were no longer valid at the time. A Nightmare to deal with, but I’ve seen it happen more than once.

How to know a record is invalid?

Most CRMs (with email marketing capabilities) will show you whether or not a record is valid after you’ve tried sending a marketing email at least once. If your CRM doesn’t have that feature, you can always use third-party software like Neverbounce, Clearout, and other alternatives.

Dealing with duplicate records

In the same way, it’s unnecessary to keep multiple records for the same contact. If you have duplicates, merge your contact records, or delete one of the duplicate records. Only store the data that is necessary to your operations. Storing more data than you need increases the likelihood of producing inconsistencies across your CRM.

Smaller databases are also much easier to maintain, both in terms of time and effort. For example, if you only communicate with your customers via email, don’t store their phone numbers. Every data field that you add to the database will require time to maintain in the future, and that’s why less is sometimes more.

Audit duplicate properties

Contact records aren’t the only thing that you should keep clean. CRM properties should also be audited regularly. This is especially important if you have an integration with another system. You don’t want to be syncing bad properties, and, in turn, populating your other databases with bad data.

It’s also a good idea to standardize your properties where possible. In other words, you might want to use predefined values instead of open text in some cases. This makes it less prone to error but will also save you time when you’re searching for a specific value, as you will be able to pick from the dropdown without having to remember what to type exactly to fetch your data.

Only CRM admins should be able to create properties. Giving everyone access to creating custom properties is a recipe for disaster. Users often create properties that already exist but are unaware of, either due to a lack of due diligence or pure laziness. I’ve stumbled upon 20 properties that were used by a single user and were populated on 0.5% of all CRM records. To make it worse, similar properties already existed and were all automated!

Data standardization and validation

Determine how you want your data to appear in the database. For example, establish whether you want your customer names to be stored in UPPER CASE, Capitalized Case, or lowercase. Make sure that all your records are stored in the same fashion. Don’t store one customer’s name in capitals, and the others’ in lowercase. While this may not necessarily be detrimental, it’s simply not a good idea.

To achieve data standardization, you will need to put some data validation in place. This can be as simple as not allowing information in a format that doesn’t comply with your standards. If, for example, you decide to store the names of your customers in UPPER CASE, but one of your employees tries to enter them in lowercase, you can throw an error and force the data to be entered in the predetermined format, ensuring consistency. You can also create an automated workflow that handles all data formatting.

Other advantages of clean data

Storing unnecessary contacts can become expensive very quickly. Many marketing CRMs charge based on the number of contacts stored in the database. That means you’ll pay for every contact, even if the contact is no longer usable.

But the price of bad data extends beyond your database, depending on your business model. It can lead to undelivered packages, bounced payments, missed critical information regarding your product, and so on.

Effects on automation

Your marketing automation could also suffer because of data inconsistencies. Marketing automation for the most part heavily relies on specific triggers and conditions, whose operation, in turn, relies on the quality of data. If the data is inconsistent, it may prevent your automated processes from being triggered correctly, or produce a critical error.

Keeping your data clean is important to your business and will simplify your day-to-day work. It’s a good practice to perform a database audit every couple of months. The longer you wait, the more painful the cleanup process might become. Keep your data clean and you will thank yourself in the long term.