You’ve heard of spring cleaning, that time when homeowners everywhere tackle the accumulated grit and grime of wintertime to make their homes spring-fresh. We’d like to suggest a fall database cleaning that scrubs your data shiny and fresh, too.

It’s a smart idea to choose a time each year to review your CRM database and clean it up so that you can start the new year with a sparkling, fresh data set. Some companies schedule data scrubs for the end of the calendar year, while others prefer the end of their fiscal year. Regardless of when you choose to clean your data, you should review and clean it regularly. A CRM system is only as good as the data contained within it. If your data contains errors and duplicates, poor customer relationships and excess costs can result.

If this is your first time cleaning your database, take heart. You don’t need a pail and a scrub brush. Instead, you need time and smarts to review your data, and some external tools and/or vendors, too.

Let’s get started.

Cleaning a Database: Make It a Habit

First thing’s first: make cleaning your database a routine task. Schedule it on your annual tasks for the same time each year. Choose a time when you won’t be conducting any campaigns, or many campaigns, so that you have a block of time to work on the data while it’s relatively stable and not in flux from information flowing in and out. By scheduling it on your calendar as an annual occurrence, you’re less likely to forget it. The more frequently you clean your data, the easier it is to clean it again next year. Just like cleaning your house is harder when the house is dirtier, routine data cleaning reduces errors and makes the tasks faster each time you do it.

Check for Duplicate Records

Duplicate records take up valuable space in your database. They can lead to confusion among your personnel accessing the data, and information can be entered into the wrong places. It’s also annoying for customers to receive duplicate communications from you.

Exact matches are easy to spot, but what may not be as easy to spot are more subtle duplicates. “Joseph Smith,” “Joseph L. Smith,” and “Joe Smith” may all be the same person, or they may be three different people. Such records may need to be personally verified by phone calls or other methods to ensure you don’t accidently delete a viable customer record when you’re cleaning your database.

Confirm Preferences

Confirming customer communication preferences is another way to clean up your database. Many companies send an automated message to customers annually, double-checking to ensure they still wish to remain on their database and asking them to confirm their communication preferences. It’s a good task to include in your annual clean-up.

Cleaning Zip Codes and Addresses

Lastly, you may wish to confirm zip codes and addresses, and to update customer records for people who have moved. Many data companies specialize in list cleaning. For a nominal fee, they will run your list against known records of deceased persons, moving/mail forwarded lists, and “Do Not Mail” lists from the Direct Marketing Association. The resulting list will be cleared of any customers who are deceased, and addresses will be updated with new data if the customer has moved. Perhaps even more importantly, flags will be appended to your list to note which customers requested not to be on any mailing lists.

Smart Data Management Saves Money

It takes time to clean your list, and it takes a little investment to send it to an external list service to clean it up and suppress or edit bad addresses. So why invest time and resources to do so?

If you regularly mail catalogs or other direct marketing pieces, cleaning up your list of bad or useless addresses can save you anywhere from .50 cents to over $1.00 per address, depending on what you are mailing. Postage, printing, and mail house costs can quickly add up. Every address you fix saves you considerable money.

You’ll also provide better customer service when your list is clean. Keeping only one customer file by removing two duplicates ensures that “Joe Smith” not only gets contacted when he wishes to be contacted, but that his record is accurate and not accidentally spread among three different files in the database.

So even though it will take you some time and investment to clean up that list, rub-a-dub-dub, scrub and scrub! A clean list makes for a happier marketing campaign and better customer service.


If you’re new to CRM systems, download our free CRM Success Kit to learn more about selecting and implementing a CRM system for your company.

At CRMPlus, we look for ways in which your new CRM system can help the people in your organization do a better job. It’s all about the people, not the software. Let’s talk about how we can help.  Call us at 813-343-2173 or contact us today.