Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, your data decays over time. Inaccurate information and inactive contacts can impact your sales and marketing efforts. 

Dirty data can lead to engagement and deliverability issues for your email list, returned mail, and unanswered phone calls. Don’t waste valuable time and resources by ignoring the need for clean data. 

IBM found that US businesses lose $3.1 trillion due to poor data quality each year. 

What is Data Cleanliness?

Data cleanliness is the difference between dirty data and clean data. Dirty data, sometimes referred to as rogue data, is inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent data in your contact list. 

There are several types of dirty data:

  1. Duplicate Data. The contact is listed in your contact list multiple times. This may be under different email addresses, phone numbers, companies, or some other data point. 
  2. Outdated Data. From the point of data collection onward, your contact list slowly gets less and less accurate. Neil Patel found that 40% of email users change their email address every two years (at least), 20% of all postal addresses change every year, 18% of all phone numbers change every year, and 60% of people change job functions within their organization every year. 
  3. Incomplete Data. Data that is considered incomplete is missing key fields on the contact record. There may be no email address or phone number attached. In B2B settings, a company or job title may be missing. 
  4. Inaccurate Data. To be facetious, inaccurate data is data that is inaccurate. In reality, that means that the information may be incorrect. Whether the contact input the information incorrectly on purpose (i.e. listing their phone number as (888) 888-8888) or by accident (misspellings or missing digits). 

Beyond the cleanliness of your actual data, is list cleanliness, which is just as important in marketing. Inactive or disengaged contacts can impact the email deliverability just as much as bounces can. Your open rates, unsubscribe rates, and spam markings will all play a part. 

Data cleanliness is more than just removing contacts

Contrary to popular belief, cleaning up your contact list means more than simply removing contacts that are no longer active. Utilizing proper naming conventions for fields and contact information, fixing structural errors, inputting missing data, re-engaging disengaged contacts, and standardizing data collection and input are all part of the data cleaning process. 

Why Is Clean Data Important?

Dirty data and unengaged lists can lead to ineffective campaigns, slower sales cycles, email deliverability issues, lower open rates, increased spam complaints, increased unsubscribes, and lower engagement. Dirty lists can also lead to poor customer experiences (CX). 

CX is the differentiator for many companies. In fact, nearly three in four (74%) customers are more likely to buy from a company with an excellent customer experience regardless of product or price. CX doesn’t just bring customers in, it drives customer loyalty

A poor customer experience is more than a lost customer. Access to social media sites has increased the power of word-of-mouth. If a consumer has a bad experience with your brand, they are highly likely to tell others about it. One bad experience can go viral and do irreparable damage to your brand’s reputation. 

For marketing professionals, email marketing is an important marketing channel. With a potential 4200% ROI, it is a main focus for many campaigns. Dirty data can impact deliverability and response rates. 

Outdated or incorrect data and ineffective contact lists can damage customer relationships and waste time and resources. 

Many organizations focus on the size of their list when they should be focusing on the data cleanliness. A large list that prioritizes quantity over quality will negatively impact business outcomes. 

Keeping Sales and Marketing Data Clean

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to data cleanliness. The process will vary from company to company and department to department. It is very dependent on certain variables like size of list, number of new contacts, frequency of sends, etc. That said, there are certain steps that should be taken. 

    1. Identify inactive or unengaged contacts. The first step many will take is identifying their invalid or unengaged contacts. These are contacts that are not responding to marketing or sales efforts. Inactive contacts do not engage with your brand at all. Unengaged contacts may interact with certain aspects but do not respond or actively engage. 
    2. Identify duplicate records. Most CRMs will automate the deduping process. This is performed based on duplicate email addresses, first names, or some combination of contact fields. This will not automatically identify all duplicate contacts. Some contacts will be entered twice but have different email addresses. They may be listed under two different companies or have multiple phone numbers. For these situations, third-party tools exist that can have advanced matching and deduping algorithms to help keep your databases clean.. 
    3. Identify structural errors and incomplete data. Not all of your inactive or unengaged contacts will be purposefully ignoring your efforts. Their data may be incorrect. Structural errors are spelling errors, missing digits, incorrect capitalizations, or other typos. Incomplete data may be missing key information, like their first name. These types of structural issues and incomplete data points can however be easily fixed. Leverage contact databases like RocketReach to enrich your customer data platforms through APIs and Zapier integrations. 
    4. Investigate bounces. There are two different types of bounces: hard and soft. Hard bounces are emails that cannot be delivered. This may be because of inaccurate information or structural errors, or the email address may simply be outdated. Soft bounces are not permanent. These are often caused by full inboxes. Don’t immediately write off soft bounces, but do keep an eye on them. Hard bounces, on the other hand, should be updated or cleared out immediately. They can impact email deliverability scores. 
    5. Re-engage inactive contacts. Don’t simply clean out inactive contacts. Attempt to re-engage the contacts through re-engagement campaigns. These are typically email campaigns, but they can be completed via phone. You will want to segment your re-engagement lists to ensure you are doing as much as possible to reach these contacts. 
    6. Segment contact lists. Segmentation can increase revenue as much as 760%. To segment lists, you will want to break up your contact lists into smaller, more targeted lists. Segments can be based on geographic location, demographics, and behavioral factors. The goal is to segment lists in a way that allows you to speak to specific pain points. 
    7. Remove inactive or inaccurate contacts. If after all of your efforts you still have inactive or inaccurate contacts, you will want to cleanse your list. 

Things to note

  • Business marketing can be more difficult as B2B data decays at an increased rate.
  • Data cleanliness is critical for GDPR and CCPA compliance. 
  • Lead generation suffers from low-quality data as well. 

Maintaining Good List Hygiene

To maintain clean data and good list hygiene, you should be performing data cleansing every 6 months. There are several ongoing maintenance tasks you should be completing on a regular basis as well in order to keep data clean. 

Maintenance starts with the data collection process. You want to optimize data collection by standardizing your processes. Standardize the way information is collected—use the same fields on intake forms and ensure that customer service and sales reps are inputting information into the correct fields. You also want to standardize contact fields with a set naming convention to eliminate confusion and simplify the lookup process. 

Once you standardize data collection, you need to create a schedule. Set certain items to be completed weekly, monthly, and quarterly in addition to the full data cleanse every 6 months. 

Bounce rates should be checked regularly. The impact hard bounces can have on email deliverability is too high to neglect this step. Make sure that the information doesn’t contain structural errors and eliminate any contacts that should be stricken from the lists. 

In business marketing, contacts should be audited regularly. Frequent position changes result in outdated information. An inactive B2B contact that was once quite active can be resolved by updating the contact information. You may have the right information, but the wrong person.

Don’t let structural errors and incomplete information slow you down

RocketReach makes it simple to update information in your contact lists. Sales teams can use phone number lookup to identify the correct contact information for prospects. Marketing teams can use email lookup to update structural errors or missing information. 

Try RocketReach free today.

Try RocketReach for FREE


What is data cleanliness?

Data cleanliness refers to the hygiene of your contact list. Dirty, or rogue, is inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent data in your contact list. Clean data is ideal. 

Why do I need to worry about dirty data?

Dirty data can have a significant impact on sales and marketing efforts. Slower sales cycles and email deliverability issues are just two of the problems dirty data can cause. Customer experience (CX) can also be negatively affected by dirty data. 

How can I keep my data clean?

To keep data clean, you need to complete a data cleansing every 6 months. The following steps are recommended:

  1. Identify inactive or unengaged contacts. 
  2. Identify duplicate records. 
  3. Identify structural errors and incomplete data. 
  4. Investigate bounces. 
  5. Re-engage inactive contacts. 
  6. Segment contact lists. 
  7. Remove inactive or inaccurate contacts.