Make Your Contact Database Work for You

Many factors contribute to your business' success or failure. Do you offer an innovative product? Is it priced right? Is it differentiated from the competition? And the list goes on.

Of course, there's also the role your marketing and sales teams play. The marketing gurus focus on creatively showcasing your best news and securing exposure for your brand in the right channels. Your sales guys are concentrating on generating business leads. And that's in addition to continuous communication with current and prospective customers to foster engagement, land accounts, and basically ensure that everyone remains happy. But there's another player involved in the mix, too, waiting to wreak havoc on your business if you're not paying close enough attention. That player is your contact database.

In today's big data world, it's not enough to have valid, accurate data. Your marketing team, salespeople, and data analysts require verified data that is genuine, authentic, and up to date. Why?

A solid contact database is essential for implementing a successful direct mail program, new business outreach effort, or customer e-newsletter. Without genuine, accurate, and up-to-date contact data, all of the time and financial resources put toward a campaign become moot.

What can you do to ensure that this silent player is performing up to par? It boils down to three key qualities that must be kept top of mind when creating, building, and maintaining your contact database.

1. Accurate: You can't be successful with a database full of spelling or grammatical errors. Whether it's an extra "S" in a last name or the reversal of two numbers in a zip code, such mistakes render this piece of data inaccurate. A seemingly minor typo will directly impact the delivery of an intended mail or email. Accuracy issues with email addresses mean the intended recipient never sees your communication. Mailing address errors create an exorbitant amount of wasted time and money in postage, printing, and human resources. And who wants to waste time or money? Not me!

2. Authentic: Yes, there is a difference between accurate and authentic. As detailed above, accurate means just that—accurate. Authentic data is more about the legitimacy of the information. For example, an address linked to a parking lot or an email IP address based in another country are both accurate; after all the parking lot does exist and, sure, the email gets delivered to a computer in Turkey. But is this authentic information? Not a chance.

3. Genuine: This is very similar to the last term. It's an important one, though, as now more than ever, genuine data is critical in the effort to eliminate fraud. In fact, accurate data may be opening a door into fraud if it goes into your CRM system or database. Just because a contact record or online form includes a correctly spelled name and a real email address does not mean it's genuine information. For instance, if the email address is disposable or a spam trap, or they use a false name, such as Bill Cosby or Mickey Mouse (accurate, but not genuine names, unless, in the case of the former, you actually are Bill Cosby), you're opening your doors to fraud. When people use bogus, vulgar, or someone else's information in lieu of their own, they have no place in your contact database.

Time to Get Cleaning

Now, if you've designed your database with these three qualities in mind, you're in great shape! But, if you think your database might need a bit of assistance, have no fear—there are plenty of address and email verification vendors out there that can correct, standardize, clean, and score your contact records to help your database get and stay accurate, authentic, and genuine. This is a wise investment, as a good contact database will help your company reduce wasted shipping costs, paper, and resources, as well as help prevent fraudulent data and orders from entering your systems. With a clean database, you'll likely see increased success in your direct mailings, lead generation activities, and marketing programs, all of which lead to increased ROI. So ignore the month on the top of your calendar—there's no time like now to begin spring-cleaning your database! Your business will thank you.

Wendy Breakstone is the director of marketing for Service Objects, a contact and data validation company specializing in data quality and verification. She oversees all marketing operations, brand management, and product positioning for the company’s suite of real-time Web services.

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