In the real estate world, the mantra is “Location, location, location!” Where a property physically exists has more to do with both the value and the salability of the property than virtually anything else. In the B2B marketing world, that mantra might be adapted as “List, list, list!” Regardless of whether you’re launching an email campaign, planning a direct mail drop or simply “smiling and dialing,” and regardless of whether your reaching out to an existing customer base or marketing to an audience of potential prospects, the reliability of the contact data you are working with often makes the difference between a successful campaign and one that falls flat.
What Condition Is Your Data in?
Often, businesses don’t pay enough attention to the state of their contact databases until the time comes to run a campaign. It’s then that the mad scramble happens to gather up data from half a dozen different locations, each having been originally created for different reason and therefore having assorted bits of information that do not line up with one another. Some lists are relatively new and you feel confident they contain accurate contact data, but you also have that prospect list that has been floating around the office in some form since as long as anyone can remember. Chances are it badly needs updating.
Thankfully there are tools at your disposal to help you make sense of that pile of data. With a spreadsheet program such as Excel and the help of a data-mining site such as LeadFerret.com and an email service such as Listrak or MailChimp, you can quickly and inexpensively do more to clean up your contact data than you may think, and therefore can save a bit of money when it comes to having a list house append missing data.
Standardize, Normalize and Prioritize
Determine first which information fields you will need for your final database. A good rule of thumb is to have fields for first and last name, title, company name, physical address, email address and phone. Add two or three fields beyond those that you decide are necessary, which will be used to segment and categorize your data.
Now, compile all of those assorted scraps of data into this spreadsheet under the proper field headings. Doing this standardizes the data and allows you to see where you have gaps to fill in. It’s also good practice at this time to normalize your data, making sure every type of information is presented in the same way. Many folks like to see text data in all caps, states all using two-letter abbreviations, and phone numbers all following the same format (dashes or dots as separators, no parentheses around area codes).
Using the two or three extra fields you added, begin to prioritize your data. You may want to segment by prospects vs. customers, by high-dollar clients vs. those who traditionally spend less with you, or by any definition you choose. Determine which are the most important segments, and sort your data so that they bubble to the top.
Cut the Dead Weight
Once you have your data priority sorted, look at the records that have fallen to the bottom of the list. Are there any segments you no longer wish to market to? Prospects who never respond? “Customers” who haven’t bought from you in years? You may not like the idea of letting go of them, but consider: wouldn’t your time and money be better spent on those prospects who are most likely to convert into sales?
Fill in the Gaps
You should now have a pretty strong list of the companies and contacts you want to go after. You’ll also probably notice that almost every data column has blank spaces. One list you pulled in didn’t have email addresses; another had no titles. You could send your list off to any number of data houses who would be happy to append the missing data, for a price. There is a wonderful online service called LeadFerret.com, however, that can go a long way toward helping you fill in those blanks, and the cost is considerably less. How does free sound to you?
Well, okay, it’s not completely free (nothing is). If you want to download emails in bulk, you need to purchase points. But every other piece of information for each contact they provide is free for the asking – and in fact, you can pull up to one hundred emails a day before they ask you to join. Using their simple criteria-based search fields, you can look up individual people or companies, or search by industry or geography to compile new lists to supplement what you already have. You’ll be surprised at how much information you can find, and while it is done manually, you’ll have fewer records to send to that data house for appending.
Have a Blast
Finally, you need to find out how reliable your data is. The easiest way to do this is to send out an informational email or direct mail blast to your list, and find out which addresses are not valid. Then, you can make the decision whether or not to research those records for updates. When you’re done, you will have a clean, reliable database to use for your marketing efforts.
Synapse can help you with the entire database clean-up process, as well as your marketing campaigns. Why not start a conversation with us today?