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Exploring the true value of auditing your data for quality

Rachel Wheeler Archive

There's a great deal of commotion about data across the business world these days. Seemingly everyone is excited about the possibilities that come with a greater focus on analytics - if you have more information about your customers and your overall market than everyone else, you'll be better equipped to make smart decisions in marketing, sales and more. This is a hot topic in every industry in 2014.

But while there's a lot of buzz about data, there's not enough conversation about another topic that logically should go with it hand in hand - data quality. It's fairly simple, really - if you're collecting a large volume of knowledge about past, present and future customers, you need it to be accurate. What's the use of proceeding with troves of data that are misspelled, outdated or just plain wrong?

According to Business 2 Community, having a growing database of contacts should be an important component of every company's strategy moving forward. Julie Knight, a founding director of Marketscan with a specialty in direct marketing, notes that according to her company's research, 80 percent of all businesses use marketing campaigns to generate sales leads, and two-thirds of them are also looking to build up stronger customer databases.

"A healthy contacts database is a growing database," Knight explained. "If new subscribers, leads and prospects are not being added to your mailing list, something is wrong. It is very important to check that 'new' contacts being added to the system really are new - otherwise you could be creating a whole new data management headache. Which is where a routine data quality audit will help."

Good data has a way of snowballing - if you develop one strong industry contact, it may soon snowball into two of them, or three, or many more. Bad data, on the other hand, is a serious risk. It's worth taking a closer look at how and why to ensure quality with customer and industry data.

What's wrong with dirty data?
If you have inaccuracies in your company's data, it can lead to all kinds of negative side effects. A variety of minor mistakes have a way of adding up - one incomplete record here, one typo there, a couple of records that are outdated or duplicated. If you have too many of these errors, it can lead you to waste time and money on marketing efforts that aren't going anywhere.

Knight estimated that having dirty data costs companies up to 15 percent of their renewable revenue every year. That's a significant chunk of change, and it's clear that something needs to be done.

Constant cleaning makes the difference
If you're trying to build a deeper marketing database that will help you reach new leads and potentially turn them into paying customers, it's important to begin with accurate data. Quality data should be a constant pursuit, not merely a one-time thing - perhaps with your house, you adhere to a schedule of "spring cleaning," but when it comes to your company's database, you should be doing your due diligence around the clock and around the calendar. That might seem like a hassle, but it's far more costly not to ensure data quality than to do so.

Managing time and resources wisely
Of course, you need to do everything you can to ensure data quality without overextending yourself, spending time and money that you don't have. This might require bringing in a third-party auditor to ensure data quality, according to Business 2 Community. This way, you can remove any personal involvement from the process and simply focus on efficiency, accuracy and ultimately progress.