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Garbage in Garbage Out

Last updated February 4, 2014

In one of my master classes we look at the value of your business and how you can maximise it. Nearly everybody is surprised to see ‘customer database’ almost at the top of this list. I find that so surprising as, in general, it's the first thing a liquidator looks to sell.

Once they get over the initial surprise I ask the delegates how often they review, cleanse, updates or de-dupe your database and your lists. Sadly I'm not surprised to hear that many businesses don't. They just keep adding to the database and their lists and hope for the best.

But the result is that your database starts to devalue quickly. It ends up being a pile of garbage; outdated names and addresses, non-purchasers, lost, even dead, clients you name it and soon this garbage starts to clog up your database.

More often than not we use databases to e-mail rather than direct mail. We have lost sight of the cost not just the postage but the cost of preparation in print. It’s so much cheaper to send a quick email, we just keep sending them out. If you had to send snail mail I’m sure that you would have a different mind-set.

I learned a valuable lesson recently about putting garbage into my database. I ran a seminar and suggested that if any delegate wanted to sign up to my newsletter if they left me their business card (everyone likes giving out business cards) I would arrange to have them added to my list. Unfortunately my VA must've been having an off day as 10% of the e-mail addresses collected that day were incorrectly input. Worst still the cards have been ditched. This was all discovered when the non-delivered e-mail report came to me.

Not only had we put garbage in, we had garbage coming out of the system as well. And there are 10% of my delegate class feeling that I could not be bothered. I am bothered so it's double the work now to get a list from the master class organisers and correct the mistake. The lesson learned is, if you put garbage in you will only get garbage out. So if you are going to get maximum value from your customer base you need to:

  1. Make sure you don't put garbage in
  2. Set up processes to capture your leads, prospects and customers all of the time
  3. Check the e-mail reports, especially the bounced ones and deal with them
  4. Include some seed names on the list to check that the content of your email is not garbage either
  5. Regularly de-dupe and cleanse your lists
  6. Use an automated system for e-mails to cover opt –outs and unsubscribes
  7. Set the standards for your database and e-mail list capture. Set the mandatory fields and formats too. For example is South Yorkshire, S.Yorks, S.Yorkshire, South Yorks,Yorkshire S etc?
  8. Make sure that if you are importing data you check it has been successfully imported in the right fields. Consider how to deal with info@, sales@, admin@ email accounts.

If your database or email list hasn’t had much attention lately now is the time to review it – it could be the golden egg (perhaps that’s golden goose…?) of your business. Getting this right and instilling the habit could mean a big difference in the value that you get when you sell your business.

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Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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