CRM Data Cleansing: 9 Simple Ways to Clean Your Database


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Monday, March 13, 2023

Bad data can have a negative impact on your marketing campaigns and overall brand perception, so what measures should you take to clean your CRM data?

Article 8 Minutes
CRM Data Cleansing: 9 Simple Ways to Clean Your Database

Just like all areas of your working life, your customer relationship management (CRM) software can become cluttered and inefficient. It can result in a lack of organization and can lead to everything from a drop in productivity to an inability to operate with agility, all of which can affect your bottom line.

Studies suggest that 30% of data becomes outdated each year, so it’s paramount you keep on top of changes. After all, if a contact has a new email address or changes their job title, you’ll want to be confident your database is reflecting these changes.

Functioning with a clean CRM is vital to ensure the marketing department is performing at its best and helping to reach business goals. A standard process should be put in place for regular data cleansing so that simple steps can be taken to keep on top of the issue.

What is data cleaning? 

Hygiene is an important aspect of life and ignoring it can have terrible consequences. In the same way, good data hygiene is crucial to a successful business. It’s important and a good practice to keep on top of your company data, but cleaning it is just as vital. Where errors occur, any results involving the data will be problematic and, when you’re relying on that information to influence important business decisions, it’s safe to say there could be severe consequences. 

Cleaning is also known as cleansing or wrangling. Essentially, it refers to validating the data you’ve already collected. However, it’s not just a case of removing inconsistencies or errors, but actually involves identifying ‘rogue data’. This includes anything that’s formatted incorrectly, incomplete, irrelevant, inaccurate or corrupted. 

The purpose of data cleaning, as mentioned above, is to avoid making uninformed decisions later on. To help keep the reliability of your analytics and insights consistent, an overarching aim of data cleaning is to keep as much of the dataset intact as possible. 

How does data become bad?

In today’s marketing landscape, it’s inevitable that there will be an accumulation of errors in your data over time, due to a number of inherent factors. These include:

  • Innacurate information inserted by leads on your web forms
  • Contact data uploaded based on the best information sales reps can find at the time
  • Data gets appended as leads are nurtured
  • Multiple calls with leads mean sales reps make duplicate entries

Not inputting data in the right format or in the correct place within the CRM after each interaction can lead to bigger problems. This can make optimizing marketing campaigns impossible and limit the success of your operations.

Why do you need to clean up your CRM data? 

As much as 70% of data in a CRM ‘goes bad’ each year, according to research by Salesforce. Due to the ramifications of obsolete, inconsistent and irrelevant data for a business, it’s crucial for any successful organization to undergo a CRM data cleanup. Here are three compelling reasons why you should implement this in your business. 

1. Duplicate data

A very common issue with CRM databases, HubSpot forecasted data duplication rates to be as high as 30% for businesses in need of a CRM data cleanup. This can occur for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, a particular lead might sign up using different emails or postal addresses, therefore creating two or more separate records in the CRM. Alternatively, an individual could enter the same data in different formats. This is really common with phone numbers and your CRM system won’t realize it’s the same person without data cleaning. 

2. Missing data

Many of us will have been the causeing of missing data, although probably not on purpose. Imagine you’re filling out a contact form and forget to input a specific field, such as your name. That business now has your details, but no idea what to call you. When this type of incident occurs irregularly, it’s not a big problem. However, if a pattern occurs on a larger scale, the time and resources needed to address the issue make missing data an incredibly painful task to resolve. 

3. Outdated information

Like many things in life, the older your data is, the more likely it is to have become irrelevant or obsolete. Your CRM could show you that you have 5,000 leads in the Chicago region, but what it can’t tell you is that 2,000 of those leads no longer live in that area. Without conducting a CRM data cleanup, your information is simply incorrect and any business decisions you make using it are likely to be unsuccessful, or at least less impactful than when you have a clear picture of your data. 

What are the effects of bad CRM data?

Customer interactions based on bad data will always be intrinsically flawed, whether they're carried out by the marketing department or sales reps. The issues can range from incorrect email addresses meaning you can’t reach your leads, right through to communications being marked as spam because you’ve addressed the recipient by the wrong pronoun after they made an error on a form.

Research from IBM suggests bad data costs the US economy $3.1 trillion annually, while Experian found it impacts the bottom line of 88% of American companies. The latter study put the average loss of total revenue down to bad data at 12%, making a significant impact on company profits.

Incorrect data can lead to:

  • Less successful marketing campaigns
  • Negative perceptions of your brand
  • Ineffective optimization or personalization of marketing materials
  • Inefficient use of employees’ time

How do you clean up your CRM database?

CRM data cleansing is an ongoing process that should be carried out regularly to ensure the task doesn’t become too unwieldy and time consuming. Breaking it down into simple steps and keeping on top of CRM cleaning will mean your database is valuable and relevant to your business goals.

1. Consolidate contact records

Organize your contact records so all interactions with the same company can be found together within your CRM. Then use filters to categorize each individual based on their job title and their status as a lead. Consider also removing any contacts that don’t respond to your emails and remember that while this may feel counterintuitive, it’s actually enriching your valuable data.

2. Implement a standard process

Utilizing your CRM on a daily basis should be combined with cycling through your contacts and seeing if emails are successfully delivered. Putting a standard process in place to verify the data, generate lists and delete contacts when they’re no longer viable will ensure you’re constantly cleansing your CRM of bad data.

3. Create clear segmentation

Segmenting your data is vital in making it as usable as possible and you can implement workflows and standard fields within your files to avoid too many variations of the same answer.  For example, drop-down menus are a great way to group individuals with similar job titles together under one searchable term.

4. Audit your data

Once you’ve brought a certain amount of order to your data, you can start to look at it to see what you have and any noticeable trends that could inform your marketing decisions. This is a good point to create new personas, as a data audit will offer greater insights into who you should be targeting with your campaigns.

5. Remove duplicates

Duplicate contacts is a common form of bad data and a deduplication tool can help you to identify similar contacts with slight anomalies. To merge the two records together, you’ll need to test which information is correct, by sending an email and seeing if it bounces, for example, and update the contact to reflect the most relevant entries.

6. Restrict the number of administrative users

A problem that can easily be avoided is that of an employee inadvertently disabling an important duplicate checker. There’s no need for a large group of people to be granted administrative permissions. In fact, CIO suggests that six administrators is enough. Obviously, this will depend on the scale of your business, but controlling the number of admins goes a long way to help maintain processes. 

7. Archive old data

If you’ve identified outdated information in your CRM, but might need it at a later date, it’s best to archive it. There are multiple reasons this might be the case, especially for compliance laws, but will offer you several benefits including: 

  • Easier to look up information 
  • Less time spent on backups or restoring files 
  • Processing times reduced 
  • Less disk space required for storage 

8. Outsource CRM data cleansing

Outsourcing CRM data cleansing is one of the most efficient ways to remove erroneous data without investing a huge amount of time and resources from your employees. Data cleansing businesses are often more effective than in-house staff and even offer additional services such as data enrichment, which can be used to provide even more information about your company data. 

9. Use an integrated platform

Your CRM isn’t the only source of data in your business. Other information will likely exist across spreadsheets and employee notes. To make the most of your data, you need to store it all in one place. With an integrated platform, any data received from a customer communicating with your business is immediately stored in a single space. 

Further reading:

Marketing Insights for Professionals

The latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals



Join the conversation...