35+ Experts Weigh In on Data Hygiene Best Practices

Long before cloud-based CRM systems, companies largely relied on manual data entry and cleanup processes— leaving their contact and company data fraught with errors and inconsistencies.  Although most companies have now adopted some version of a data hygiene strategy, dirty data is still very much alive and well. 

How can it be that technology has come so far, and yet data quality issues still plague sales and marketing professionals? Although there’s not a simple answer to this question, today’s blog post covers the many different facets of data hygiene— the role it plays in business, the consequences of low data quality, how to make data cleansing a priority, and so much more.

Before we get into it, some background information: The following expert opinions about data cleanliness were taken from ZoomInfo’s last Twitter Chat about— you guessed it— data hygiene. If you missed out on this particular Twitter Chat, be sure to join next month! For a detailed schedule of all upcoming chats, click here

Now, without further ado, here’s what the experts have to say about data hygiene!

Question One: What role does contact and account data play in your daily life as a sales or marketing professional?

Contact and account data fuels everything I do as a marketer— from buyer persona creation to targeted advertising to co-marketing partnerships. None of it would be possible without data. Marketing lives and dies in the data.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Our goal is to provide value to customers and identify buyers where we can solve their business problems.  We count on the data in our CRM to be right so we can support these groups. This data influences who we market to and when; it influences who we call and when.  It needs to be clean or it impacts business revenue.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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As a sales organization and go-to-market engine, contact and account data is priority number one for our team. Every minute spent hunting for missing info is time not spent on revenue-generating activities like hitting the phones.

DiscoverOrg

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If you are hunting for missing data, or worse yet, using incorrect data, you are reducing the impact of your revenue-generating activities.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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It’s no secret: Modern marketing is harder than ever. Spray-and-pray tactics of yesteryear just don’t cut it in 2019. Instead, marketers must deliver more personalized experiences. And in my experience, this cannot be done without contact and account data.

Krysta Williams, Social Media Manager
ZoomInfo

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Any part of the organization that interacts with, or who’s actions impact a customer or prospect, needs that data to be right. 

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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Question Two: What are some of the negative consequences you’ve experienced as a direct result of dirty data?

Good data transforms struggling companies into successful companies and successful companies into powerhouses.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Dirty data can cause issues with compliance as it can mean you don’t have proper opt-ins or sloppy targeting.

2B Advice

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The immediate results of dirty data are wasted time and lost opportunities. Longer-term consequences of bad data include email deliverability problems, domain blacklisting, burnout and high sales turnover, inaccurate forecasts, and lost revenue.

DiscoverOrg

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Dirty data can absolutely cripple a marketing strategy. It hinders a marketer’s ability to create accurate buyer personas and reach their intended audience.

Sam Holzman, Content Marketing Manager
ZoomInfo

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When customers transition companies, or names and email addresses change, it can mean missed opportunities to support and engage. For example, when a new release is available, if we have dirty data we are missing customers who should be updated.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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If you’re working with dirty data, your sales and marketing activities aren’t as successful as they could be. Dirty data affects different companies to varying degrees, but no matter how successful you are, you can never underestimate how much dirty data can cost you.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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B2B sales are complex and the buying groups can be 8-12 people.  Dirty data makes it harder to identify those members and harder to close the sale.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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Dirty data causes low engagement and ineffective marketing campaigns!

Caitlin Coen, Customer Marketing Manager
ZoomInfo

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I do a lot of top of funnel writing, and I need data to know who my audience is…not to mention measuring the impact.

Charity Heller, Content Strategy Manager
DiscoverOrg

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Data may be the foundation of personalization, but not all data is created equal. Success relies on high-quality data. In my experience, personalized efforts based on dirty-data has not only resulted in poor performance but an irritated audience, too!

Krysta Williams, Social Media Manager
ZoomInfo

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Marketing campaigns count on clean data, sending to the wrong email address, using the wrong name, or targeting someone based upon an old job title is embarrassing and ineffective. 

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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Accurate data allows sales professionals to identify and connect decision makers and buying committees faster!

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Question Three: Who’s responsibility is it, in a B2B organization, to maintain clean data?

If data isn’t a priority in your organization, it has to come from the top down. Maintaining an accurate database is complex and requires input and attention from many different parties— this doesn’t happen without orchestration and support from leadership.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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You need to link it to the strategic intentions of the enterprise. There isn’t a CEO out there who wants to hear you complain about dirty data. They want to understand how it is going to drive their business.

Scott Taylor, Data Whisperer and Principal Consultant
MetaMeta Consulting

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The ability to strategically leverage your data is a game-changer. Those that do this well will win.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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At one point, I may have argued that data maintenance was a company-wide initiative requiring input from sales, marketing, operations, and more. But as the amount of data we rely on continues to grow, and subsequently decay, I think a better alternative is to employ a specialized team of Data Scientists tasked with cleansing, appending, and enriching data.

Krysta Williams, Social Media Manager
ZoomInfo

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It’s important to catch bad data at the point of entry, before it goes into your CRM. So marketing is better positioned to maintain clean data. Operations— even better. (People who work on commission probably shouldn’t be doing data entry!)

DiscoverOrg

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At smaller companies, I say the CEO is responsible for clean data. Larger enterprise companies, a CIO or chief data officer. I think data hygiene has to fall on C-level shoulders.

Scott Wallask, Director of Content
ZoomInfo

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There are loads of arguments over (the ownership of data hygiene) in my experience. I’ve even seen companies set up Data Science teams to manage it.

Kathleen Glass, Founder and CEO
Oinkodomeo

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Data hygiene starts at the top. B2B business leaders need to make clean data a top priority and equip their sales and marketing teams with the data-driven tools they need to succeed.

Sam Holzman, Content Marketing Manager
ZoomInfo

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The ability to strategically leverage data is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have for any company that wants to compete!

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Question Four: What steps must a business take to prioritize data hygiene?

Once you have executive buy-in, start at the beginning— your data sources. Implement controls and reduce manual processes. Work with a data provider to clean your existing data and most importantly, come up with a plan to implement ongoing maintenance.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Prioritizing data hygiene is usually a top-down initiative. It’s hard to do without executive buy-in. Make the case for good data by putting a number on it. How much time or money does your sales team waste responding to errors and gaps?

DiscoverOrg

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In talking to companies, I think a strong argument for improved data quality is to show the numbers. “What did we gain this quarter because our data was cleaner?” Explain it in terms of time, money, won deals, etc., things that employees can understand.

Scott Wallask, Director of Content
ZoomInfo

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All data must reside in one place. CRM adoption rates are terrible so you must make it easy for all customer-facing staff to keep the data up-to-date and clean. This is a great place for sales and marketing technology to help.  Provide teams with the tools they need to keep data clean without having to live in the CRM.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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We always talk about how critical it is to use technology that integrates and shares data— otherwise, data hygiene is a nightmare.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Step 1. Don’t call it hygiene. All respect but these words are tactical, project-oriented, campaign-focused. They are not the vocabulary of business leadership.

Scott Taylor, Data Whisperer and Principal Consultant
MetaMeta Consulting

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Modern data is dynamic, therefore your maintenance processes must be too!

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Data hygiene should be instant and automatic, so businesses should work with a data provider and replace manual processes with consistent, ongoing data hygiene.

Sam Holzman, Content Marketing Manager
ZoomInfo

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When you keep your data in silos you don’t have a complete picture of your prospects and customers!

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Question Five: How do you see data hygiene changing in the future?

Modern data is dynamic and constantly changing, the second you clean up your data it starts to decay again. The future of data hygiene is making the switch from one-time database audits to ongoing, automated, real-time data maintenance.

Molly Clarke, Director of Digital Marketing
ZoomInfo

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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will help a lot.  Those technologies will help identify data issues but you need known sources of truth to correct the issues.  Technologies are a ways away from meeting this need in my opinion.

John Moore, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Alliances, and Integrations
Bigtincan

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Automation and AI will continue to transform data hygiene for the better. We’re seeing more companies recognize that data cleaning must be automatic, consistent, and performed in real-time.

Sam Holzman, Content Marketing Manager
ZoomInfo

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I think we can expect the importance of Data Hygiene to grow significantly in the next few years. And thanks to continued advancements in technology like AI & ML, it’ll probably become less of a headache! 

Krysta Williams, Social Media Manager
ZoomInfo

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Working at a data company, I’d say data hygiene is only going to get more sophisticated as the volume (and type) of data collected increases exponentially. 

Charity Heller, Content Strategy Manager
DiscoverOrg

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Key Considerations and Final Thoughts

The world of data hygiene is complex and ever-evolving but one thing we can all agree on is this: Companies who don’t prioritize data upkeep will not be able to keep up with their competitors. Without a data cleaning strategy, you’re not reaching your full potential in terms of revenue, productivity, and more. 

For a more in-depth look at the importance of accurate, up-to-date contact information, check out one of the following articles:

Or, if you’re in the market for a data partner to keep your B2B contact database in top shape, contact our sales team today. ZoomInfo has just the tools you need to make data cleansing easy.