Time and again, research has proven that almost every database in business contains duplicate data. These mistakes are introduced via a wide range of sources. Data could be entered incorrectly, spelled incorrectly, added with abbreviations or somehow altered phonetically. Often, matches are not easy to spot with the ‘naked eye’.
Messy data sounds trivial, but in marketing, these kinds of mistakes have a very real consequence. In an era of reduced budgets, the need to be frugal is increased. Poor quality data can wreak havoc with the return form even the most well executed marketing campaign.
The Importance of Reliable Data
In marketing, the data you hold about customers is your biggest asset, but can quickly become the weakest link in your campaigns. Deterioration of data quality is a proven fact, and it’s applicable to practically all industries and market sectors.
Just look at the facts. Some of them are alarming.
- Data decay in business and consumer data is estimated at around 32 per cent per year.
- As an example of the scale of the problem, consider that telecoms company BT registers more than 50,000 changes of telephone number per day in the UK.
Data quality problems arise because of a number of factors. People move house, change jobs, pass away, get married and get divorced. The onus is on marketers to keep data quality high enough to avoid the risks of bad quality data:
- Revenue and profitability are compromised
- Quality customer service becomes more difficult to control (for example: it becomes more difficult to remove duplicate details if there are several copies)
- Productivity is hindered across the organisation
- The image of the brand is tarnished
- Operating costs are higher overall
Data in Direct Mail Marketing
When looking specifically at the quality of data in a database, direct mail is perhaps the most vulnerable type of marketing activity. The effects of poor quality data are so much more pronounced when the data is the key link between marketer and consumer.
- According to the Mailing Preference Service (MPS), UK customers are worth £25 billion annually in postal sales alone.
- Contrast this with the effects of data quality decay.
- According to Marketing Direct magazine, direct marketers are thought to waste £195 million annually in postage costs by sending misdirected or duplicate mail.
- Up to £33 million of this is thought to be wasted sending mail to people who have passed away.
- Another £100 million is spent on mailing people who have changed address.
- More than two thirds of the mail sent from business to business in the UK is thought to contain an error in the recipient’s address.
- Where data is out of date and not properly maintained, businesses can be fined up to £5,000 for violating data protection law.
How to Clean Data
If poor data quality is affecting a business’ marketing department, it’s probably impacting on the entire organisation.
- Together with management, marketers should:
- Look at the way they capture and handle data to stop poor quality records from being captured
- Implement better processes for dealing with removal requests
- Use a data quality tool to clean up the existing data, including de-duplication where necessary
- Maintain good practice to avoid data quality and data protection concerns
Only then can the marketing department achieve that crucial single customer view.