There is always data cleansing for fixing a database which is plagued with bad data although anyone who has been through the process knows how tedious and time consuming it could be and would instantly look for ways to prevent having to carry out a large cleansing operation again. Cleansing old and redundant data is a necessay evil but allowing bad data to flow freely into your database is a cardinal sin of marketing database management.

Craig Rosenberg’s The Funnelholic blog posted a great interview with Matthew Quinlan, VP of Field Operations at LoopFuse and in answering one of the Craig’s questions, Matthew brings out a really useful tip in curbing inflow of bad data. Here’s a part of that interview:

4.  What are the top oversights marketers are making regarding lead generation?

A lot of marketers still cling to the notion that by making online form fields required, they will get more data. While it may result in more data, it most certainly results in lower quality data. Is a database full of “” email addresses and titles of “Oh Captain my Captain” providing more value than blanks? Even if you require a validation link to be sent via email it’s really only marginally better results because everyone in 2009 has at least one spam account that they only use for registrations. Resist the temptation to make your Web form fields required. Your data will be more accurate and valuable as a result.

The source of these leads is often where problems with bad data and inconsistancies come up. The larger the number of different sources and the volumes of leads that get generated and move onto the database, the larger the problem with bad data. The landing page leads, the purchased business contacts lists, the webinar registrations, the event attendees, the business cards collected at tradeshows may all be leads but they are from different sources. Therefore, they have different formats and different data points. Some will have garbage values entered and others may have blanks. The worse thing anyone can possibly do is say “well let them go into our database, we’ll deal with them later.” Later is always too late! They need to be fixed before they get into the database.

  1. Examine each lead source whether its a list provider, a landing page form, website registration forms etc and look closely at what can be done to ensure data is normalized and bad data can be filtered out before you get them. Can you remove “required fields” on your landing pages as Matthew mentioned? Can you work with your list provider to deliver the data in the format you need and do those quality checks for you? Could you have marketing enter the business card details and other sources in the format you need?
  2. Once you have received the leads, centralize the data and run your own quality check process. Delete any leads which have garbage values filled in everywhere to avoid redundancy, do a data append effort to fill in missing email addresses and other blank fields wherever possible, normalize the data to make them appear like they came from a single source and then upload them to your database.

If you see bad data entering the database, turn off the taps, work backwards and fix the problem at the source. Good data = efficiency = good results.

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