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Maintaining the accuracy of your database

Maintaining the accuracy of your databaseDatabase accuracy has a direct return on investment (ROI) on your campaign success. So who is keeping your database in superb shape and why is your database your single most valuable business possession?

Your database is the single most important asset you have in your business. It is your very own personal intellectual property and should be protected as a priority.  After all, if your business goes belly up—heeding a few privacy laws—you can open up tomorrow and transact with all those who already know and love you.

I learned through hard-earned experience and building my own business that accurate knowledge is, indeed, power.  Yet in the daily course of business, it amazes me how few companies focus on maintaining the accuracy of their database. At Taurus, we make maintaining the database an accountable and KPI’d function—something we even celebrate as a business objective—when we hit new numerical and quality milestones.

Communicating is key
When times are tough it’s more timely than ever to focus on communicating (with those who are likely to buy from you). It makes a big difference if you know for sure you are talking to the right person and that they will actually receive your message.

In the old days, my boss filed his collection of business cards in a Rollerdex; thank goodness technology has moved on and that’s not the case anymore! Twenty years ago, as an in-house marketing rookie, I used to collect business cards as a ‘nice to have’ in a card box situated on my desk. I remember even recording details by hand onto index cards. My boss did the same, carefully filing them away in his Rollerdex.

These days there are no such labours. Software packages—simple, sophisticated, complex or straightforward—are big business and can help you maintain your database. It is pretty straightforward; an investment like everything else but not one that needs to cost the earth. The payback of making your database life easy is multi-fold, believe me. It quite simply can change your corporate life.

Database software makes it easy
Using modern database software means you can communicate with thousands of warm contacts at the touch of a button. Specialised software allows you to see who opened your e-campaigns and, of those, who clicked through to your website: priceless information. But none of this is possible if the database itself is a mess and inaccurate.

As far as I’m concerned, marketing has always, and will always, be about ‘touch points’. The tools may change and evolve (thank goodness, that’s what keeps our life as marketeers interesting) but marketing is still about touching those you want to target. The more you touch your audience—metaphorically speaking of course—the more likely it will be they will recognise you, refer you and ultimately buy from you.

Relevant, timely and opted-in
It is vital that these touch points are relevant, timely, and you’ve sought opt-in to communicate. But my point is that no relevant and timely campaigns are successful if they aren’t going to an accurate name and address, and who at your company is tasked with ensuring the database is accurate? I don’t believe it should be left to the sales team—KPI everyone!

Personally, I am ruthless. I throw away an envelope that is incorrectly addressed. I can’t understand any organisation that doesn’t put a KPI around growing the database and maintaining it accurately.

In 1995, when I set up my own company, we made it a KPI to add to our database on a monthly basis. Our database became the foundation of the company. Everything we do is built on it, feeds from it and is fed back into it. We are so stringent we have created a system whereby data entry is double checked for accuracy. We double check that names are spelt correctly, titles are up to date and location details right.

Everyone’s responsibility

Keeping our database up to date is the responsibility of everyone at our company, and I mean everyone. So make quality database maintenance and growth an accountable process. I get weekly contact stats and reports on who has updated how many contacts, what records have been added, modified and deleted. We use them to celebrate as we hit our next numerical milestone. Our database administrator holds it all together, but everyone, from our graduate trainees, my PA to myself, is responsible for inputting new contacts and staying on top of movements or changes to those contacts.

We invest hours and dollars every week keeping our database up to date. Whether you buy a card scanner or pay a part-timer to perform data entry, the only thing between you and effective communication with your customers is making database accuracy part of your organisational structure.

The database should serve you as a business owner and marketeer, it needs to be easy to communicate with your target audiences

Last year I was invited to appear on Channel 7 as the in-house marketing expert for Kochie’s Business Builders. It happened quickly and we had to move fast to promote the opportunity. We ran some campaigns of our own to alert our current and past customers, suppliers, past and present staff, influencers, media friends, and hot, warm and cold prospects. We spent a few hours designing and refining a humorous PDF for our own self-promotion. It was good, damn good. This great creative however would have fallen flat on its face if we couldn’t be sure it would reach our target audience.

Keep your database clean
When the team hit the ‘send’ button, we knew that a high percentage of the thousands of people we were sending it to were going to receive it. We only had 40 bounce backs. A great result along with the thrill of instant communication! Within minutes we were receiving congratulatory responses. There is something very satisfying about pressing a button and knowing that thousands of people are going to receive a message from your brand all at the same time! This just can’t happen if you’re not investing in keeping your database clean.

My other bug bear is spending time to ensure your database is segmented or divided up into different types of people. This way you can use it for direct marketing pieces to re-ignite past customers, make relevant newsletter offers, email, send targeted event invitations or EDM (electronic direct mail). Further segmentation can break contacts into suppliers, influencers, clients, employees (past, present, potential), media and past customers (need to track where they’ve gone). And more than that, break it down by spend, geographical placement and description.

Get smart, get marketing
When the times gets tough, the smart get marketing, so clean up that database and start engaging it! My advice to all businesses is to take a moment to focus on your database. When were you last in touch with x? Is that person a potential sales opportunity? What about y? They might have just the skill set you were looking for. And z? Maybe it’s about time to reinvigorate that good contact.

So I re-state my case : your database is arguably the most vital piece of intellectual property you have. It’s a critical tool in the everyday running of your business and it is an insurance policy for the future. Whatever you might decide to do in the future, keep your database of clients, prospects and suppliers with you. You can start afresh next week if you want to, and inform those who you know, trust and would refer you so that you are off and running again. That message should be as easy as pressing ‘send’.

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Sharon Williams

Sharon Williams

Sharon Williams is the founder and CEO of Taurus Marketing. She has founded a number of businesses and organisations and has more than 25 years experience in marketing and PR from the UK and Europe to Asia, and now Australia.

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