It’s not ‘ Big Data’ you should be wor­ried about, says Dave Mans­field. It’s ‘ Bad Data’.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Data clean­li­ness is next to god­li­ness, says Dave Mans­field.

THE IDEA OF ALL the juicy data you’ve col­lected on your cus­tomers ac­tu­ally ‘go­ing off’ is an odd con­cept. But un­like real life, no one’s go­ing to shuf­fle side­ways along the park bench or swiftly change seats on the bus to give you a hint that your data­base, that most pre­cious of busi­ness as­sets, is start­ing to whiff.

You’ll per­haps only no­tice the rot when sales start to weaken, re­sponse rates to those fab­u­lous new e-mar­ket­ing cam­paigns don’t fire up like they used to or un­de­liv­er­able emails clut­ter up your sys­tem. Th­ese are the tell-tale signs your data hy­giene isn’t quite keep­ing things fresh.

It’s a weird phrase, data hy­giene, even for the jar­gon-clut­tered dig­i­tal world. Put sim­ply, it means keep­ing your data­base rel­e­vant, up to date and only hold­ing cor­rect de­tails.

The prob­lem with data is peo­ple. They’re crea­tures of change. They move house, switch jobs, get mar­ried, change names, their in­ter­ests morph ( golf one year, yoga the next) and, ul­ti­mately, they die. Very in­con­ve­nient. So keep­ing track of where your cus­tomers are at—phys­i­cally as well as at­ti­tu­di­nally—is hard graft.

Data hy­giene cer­tainly isn’t the sexy end of e-mar­ket­ing. Build­ing up a data­base is far more in­ter­est­ing—the thrill of ac­qui­si­tion, the eureka mo­ments of find­ing amaz­ing in­sights from drilling into what you’ve gath­ered, the tri­umph of see­ing all that put into ac­tion with a timely, rel­e­vant and clever sales cam­paign.

Yep, wor­ry­ing about wash­ing your data is right up there with clean­ing out the back of the fridge. You know you ought to do it, and sure, there are some odd whiffs from time to time, but un­til the mould starts ap­pear­ing (or worse), it’s easy to ig­nore.

Main­tain­ing a data­base in good

Much of what makes up good data hy­giene should be daily ac­tiv­ity by who­ever’s work­ing your data­base. At Affin­ity, we weave best­prac­tice data hy­giene into ev­ery­thing we do— from tra­di­tional meth­ods such as de-dup­ing, ad­dress re­for­mat­ting, in­ves­tiga­tive track­ing of bounced emails through to the grow­ing as­pects of trans­ac­tional over­lays, model map­ping, un­struc­tured data over­lay, in­ter­ac­tion track­ing (are th­ese peo­ple email open­ers or web­site visi­tors) and, of course, util­is­ing un­struc­tured data as­sets (e.g. sen­ti­ment anal­y­sis).



or­der is nine times more ef­fort than build­ing one in the first place. Smart com­pa­nies know this stuff. It’s not un­com­mon for our clients to spend $100,000 p.a just con­tin­u­ally check­ing and re-check­ing to keep their data clean. If e-mar­ket­ing is im­por­tant to your busi­ness, then in­vest­ment in your data­base is worth ev­ery penny.

The other fun­da­men­tal change is in see­ing data hy­giene as a con­tin­u­ous process, some­what like self-clean­ing win­dow glass. The old mind­set of spring clean­ing lists by run­ning them against postal ad­dress records or in­deed other ref­er­ence sources has been re­placed by con­tin­u­ous pro­grammes of data cap­ture and data en­hance­ment, which are of­ten sec­ondary ben­e­fits of planned com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­grammes. The eas­i­est ex­am­ple is man­age­ment of bounced email ad­dresses, which may then prompt a cus­tomer con­tact to up­date their email ad­dress via a web­site no­ti­fi­ca­tion or in­deed text alert.

Fre­quently, by com­par­ing dis­parate data sources, we’ll find the same cus­tomer cap­tured sev­eral times, of­ten with dif­fer­ent ad­dresses on each record. So which one is right? You’ll need time-sav­ing pro­cesses to ef­fi­ciently chase down those elu­sive folk who can’t seem to stay in one place for long.

As more and more data streams be­come avail­able to busi­ness, their prom­ise of bet­ter cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion and more in­sights into how cus­tomers be­have, buy and in­ter­act with brands won’t be de­liv­ered un­less the data is rig­or­ously cleaned and kept rel­e­vant.

Like all com­mu­ni­ca­tion, even the most im­pres­sive ‘Big Data’ moun­tain comes down to a sin­gle, timely, rel­e­vant and care­fully thought through mes­sage. We’d ar­gue that busi­nesses should worry less about ‘Big Data’ and all it might en­tail, and fo­cus more on ‘Bad Data’, be­cause the stench of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing data will ul­ti­mately be smelt all the way to the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s of­fice.

Writ­ten by DAVE MANS­FIELD Mans­field is gen­eral man­ager of Affin­ity ID davem@affin­i­tyid.

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