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There are few greater privileges than being allowed into a customer’s or prospect’s inbox. Marketing guru Neil Patel equates it to being a guest in someone’s home. You must mind your manners. No hogging the conversation. No telling the same story over and over again. And you must leave when asked. Being a good guest in your customers’ inbox is made possible in part by maintaining a clean CRM. So, what is a clean CRM, why does it matter, and how do you keep it tidy?

Why a clean CRM is important

A clean CRM database consists of up-to-date, active and engaged contacts. Without regular housekeeping, CRM databases get a bit dusty. In fact, Salesforce reports that about 70% of CRM becomes obsolete every year. Several factors contribute to this, including:

  • 40% of email users update their address every two years
  • 18% of phone numbers change each year
  • 60% of people change positions within their companies annually

New job titles, email addresses and phone numbers decrease email delivery rates and the overall effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Ignoring the dusty contact records in your CRM leads to bounced messages, skewed reports and wasted time as your sales and marketing teams reach out to unreachable leads. A study by DiscoverOrg found that sales and marketing departments lose about 550 hours from bad data — and that a whopping 40% of lead records have bad data.

In addition to wasting everyone’s time, dusty contacts cloud your campaign performance data, causing open and click-through rates to become unreliable. What’s more, sending emails to invalid addresses increases your organization’s rejection rates, which lowers your sender reputation.

Before you execute any large email marketing campaign, send a test blast (a re-engagement message would make a good test, see #2 below)  to uncover your rejection rate — the percentage of emails that “bounced” and were undeliverable for some reason. While bounce rates can vary based on numerous factors, 2% or less is generally accepted as a good email bounce rate benchmark. A higher bounce rate is an indicator that your CRM needs a good cleaning. 

How to clean it up and keep it that way

StructuredWeb suggests performing quarterly CRM clean ups to keep your data tidy. Here’s a list of tasks to get you started.

1.  Purge/merge duplicates

Duplicate contact records are a common CRM challenge. Different individuals may have entered the same data, a potential lead could opt-in more than once, or imported lists might fail to take existing records into account. Most CRM applications have deduplication utilities, making identifying and correcting offending records simpler.

2. Run re-engagement campaigns

Remember, a clean CRM is one filled with engaged contacts. Consider running periodic re-engagement campaigns targeting contacts that haven’t recently interacted with your teams or with your marketing materials. A simple, “Are you still with us?” allows contacts to re-engage or opt-out.

3. Track — but don’t delete — unsubscribes

It may sound counterintuitive to keep contact records for those who have unsubscribed, but we think it’s a smart idea. If you delete them, there’s the chance they’ll be re-added when you import a new list and you’ll inadvertently restart marketing to them. Likely your CRM will allow you to categorize contacts as “non-marketing” or some such designation to keep the system from automatically including them in campaigns.

4. Know when it’s time to dump them

When a contact has long overstayed its welcome in your CRM database, it could be time to remove it entirely. Dormant contacts that haven’t engaged with your organization in some predetermined amount of time (two years is a good working number) should be removed entirely.

5. Standardize your data

Ever get an email that the sender tried to personalize, but your name is all lower or upper case — or some combination thereof? Don’t be that sender. Instead, clean up the bad records and establish firm data entry standards for each field in your CRM database.

6.  Fill in the missing pieces

In addition to standardizing fields, part of keeping a clean CRM is keeping a complete CRM. For a variety of reasons, you may end up with incomplete contact records, such as those with no phone number, missing or inconsistent company names and those lacking a job role. Fixing these records will require some time and sleuthing, but if you stay on top of the task, it need not be onerous.

Considering the average worker receives an average of 121 emails every day, if your messages are getting through, it’s either because the recipient likes your message or they just haven’t yet bothered to unsubscribe. By keeping a clean CRM, you’re better able to weed out the unengaged and focus your attention on those contacts who are happy you’ve come to visit.

Join me next time when we’ll share some best practices for fostering and nurturing leads. Until then #HappyMarketing!