Guest post by Amanda Nelson, director of marketing at RingLead

Even if you’re the best marketer in the world using stellar practices, over time, your contact data will simply decay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker changes jobs about every 4.5 years. They get promoted, or terminated, or they simply get a better offer elsewhere. That translates to about 1.85% monthly change at each company.

The data in your CRM that’s likely to change over time for each prospect may include:

  • Change in title/promotion
  • Change in working location
  • Change of phone number
  • Add mobile phone number
  • Change of department
  • Change of area code
  • Change of email format
  • Change in email domain
  • Change in company name
  • Change in company website
  • Merger or acquisition

Overall, about 12% of your data, on average, will change each year. As just one example, 75 phone numbers change every 30 minutes.

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to maintain a purring database. Here are three helpful steps.

1. Continuously generate new Leads

Ensure that you’re always collecting a fresh cache of goods. Leads are the oxygen in your database. While generating leads is easier said than done, remember these three tips.a.

a. Identify your target: Identifying your target enables you to reach them with messaging relevant to their needs, which will more likely generate interest, resulting in a conversion. To identify your market, consider their key locations, industries, titles, company size, etc. Then, uncover the personas of the individuals you want as customers, such as their values, beliefs, hobbies, interests, dislikes, deal breakers, etc. Only then can you define your real target; and knowing your target enables you to understand their biggest challenges. It’s very hard to sell something just because you want to sell it. It’s much easier to solve a problem. Therefore, understand the urgent need you’re solving for your client.

b. Create helpful content: It’s important to build trust over time by continuously offering value. You cannot push too hard, but instead, offer helpful information and content to assist your prospect in making a decision. 90% of your target market isn’t ready to buy right now, and that’s OK. Don’t ask for marriage on the first date. Your audience is in an early research phase, so understanding this concept and providing valuable content will help them make a decision.

c. Implement a lead generation plan: Understand where your target market looks for your offering, such as Facebook versus trade shows. What do they read? Don’t worry about getting it 100% right. Instead, brainstorm and develop a list. Choose three core strategies to start. These can range from networking, to direct outreach, to marketing campaigns, or anything else. Do things that you’re psyched about doing and you’ll have better results.

2. Use an application to remove and prevent duplicate Leads

Once you’re collecting Leads, you want to make sure they’re not duplicates of Leads already living in your database. Duplicate Leads don’t just cause confusion and inefficiency; they also derail reporting by associating data with the wrong Leads, Contacts and Opportunities. Use an application for duplicate removal, which finds your existing duplicates and merges them together. Duplicate removal merges the duplicates and cleans up the database quickly. For every minute that goes by, there will be fewer duplicates until finally, no duplicates will remain.

To make sure the duplicate is merged with the right contact, you’ll need to set master rule settings in your CRM, such as Salesforce. This way, all new data matching the original record, or master record, will automatically match and merge. If you have five records in Salesforce, you likely only want to keep the lead source from the first/master record, but use all of the current title and phone number fields from the most recent entries.

Marketing Automation and Duplicate Leads

Dirty data enters your marketing automation platform even more often than your CRM. For instance, if you have a web form built in Marketo, leads will enter their information into that form. Let’s say a contact completes a Marketo form one month ago. Today, that same contact submits another web form with a different email address. This creates a duplicate in Marketo.

With these two email addresses for one person, Marketo is going to send two records into Salesforce. A duplicate prevention platform will not only check Marketo, but it will check Salesforce and find that month-old record. Instead of creating a duplicate, it will merge it with the record in Salesforce and the record in Marketo.

Using a Marketo Webhook,  you can connect your duplicate prevention tool to Marketo via a basic workflow step. With Marketo, you can create a custom field to be used in a flow that
will tell Marketo it’s OK for you to create a new lead in Salesforce. From there, you can simply create the new lead as part of your normal processes. This enables you to continue to use your lead validation, lead scoring, etc. with duplicate prevention. Once the lead is determined to not be a duplicate and it’s qualified, Marketo will send it over to Salesforce.

The process is similar for other marketing automation platforms as well. At the end of the day, it’s important to note that with this process in place, you’re preventing the duplicates in marketing automation as well as your CRM.

3. Update existing Leads

Duplicate prevention stops the bleeding, and ensures you’re not simply putting a cap on that leak. Dirty data lives within your existing database, and will continue to infiltrate your system as your contact
data changes. However, with knowledge, planning and technology, you can clean your existing data, and ensure the new data coming in is clean as well.

Data cleanup applications can be directed at segments of your database to bring Leads up to date with new job titles, phone numbers and other vital data. These tools make it possible for your team to reconnect with Leads that might otherwise be lost.

When you update existing leads, make sure you complete as many fields as possible in your CRM. That way, your data quality platforms can do a better job of removing duplicates or bad data.  In other words, the more fields and information, the better.

While there’s no silver bullet for clean data, the best approach is having strong knowledge of data quality, as well as a reputable data quality advocate, such as Heinz Marketing and RingLead, to properly data cleanse and get your prevention products in place. Get started with these three steps, and you’ll be on your way to clean data and high-performance marketing.

Amanda Nelson is Director of Marketing at RingLead where she leads the content marketing strategy and execution. She has spent the last three years in content marketing and community management at and Radian6, and has a background in account management for interactive and full service advertising agencies. Follow her on Twitter at @amandalnelson.