When to Flush Those Bad Leads: 8 Steps to Improve Data Quality

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Deletedollarphotoclub_64852310-200wDeleting data and cleansing your database is like peeling an onion. Once you think you have it figured out, some other layer of complexity arises.

At first thought, deleting data is an easy decision, right? You have a group of leads in your system with bad or unsubscribed email addresses. Delete them, right? From a strategy perspective, this will boost performance numbers, reduce your database size to lower CRM costs and improve your mailability—after all, those dead leads aren’t doing a thing.

Only if data deletion was so simple.

Why NOT to Delete Right Away

Every organization is different but here are some of the issues to consider when developing your data retention policy:


1) Insight and analysis. By deleting leads, you lose the ability to analyze the lead quality of past marketing programs. For example, if your latest LinkedIn Ads are producing leads like joe@ilovemymama.com, you might want to reconsider shifting your marketing spend. Maybe Joe likes his mom but you don’t want spend money acquiring leads like Joe.

2) Troubleshooting. Delete the leads outright and you lose the ability to see where the bad leads came from. You should first find out where the problem lies. For example, most companies get hit with spambot attacks at one point or another. When an attack happens, knowing which forms the spambot targeted can help your organization address the problem quickly.

3) Maybe they aren’t bad. An invalid lead may not be mailable but it could be a GREAT lead. Bill Smith may have an invalid email but in most cases, Bill may have just switched jobs. Rather than toss Bill, a better alternative would be to find Bill’s new company and reach out to him there—it’s possible Bill got a promotion and is in a better position to purchase your product.

Oh yeah, what about Bill’s replacement? He now needs to make the decisions Bill used to make at his old job and might be receptive to a “Congrats on the new position” call.

Steve Moody over at Beachhead Marketing did an awesome job of presenting this scenario at the 2014 Marketo Summit with his How to Turn Every Bounced Lead into Two Warm Leads session. Check out his session here.

4) Contacts. Oh, the Contacts—if your company is using Salesforce.com, this situation can get tricky very quickly. For example, what if that Contact has an Opportunity tied to it, can it/should it be deleted?

5) Unsub does not equal a bad lead. Someone who unsubscribes can still be a valid lead—the person just might not want to receive email from you. The person may even be a customer.

6) Duplicates. People use different email addresses and varying names. How do you know which one should take precedence when deleting?

So What Should We Do? Steps to Improve Data Quality

At a high level, develop a retention policy that factors in the below. Obviously, every company is different but here are a few things to consider:


1) Disqualify. Rather than delete right away, set the lead to some status that Sales never sees or Marketing never engages. Keep this master list suppressed from all of your company’s email, scoring, workflow and other campaigns. This status should also be used to suppress the leads from the Sales team to reduce the “Why is joe@ilovemymama.com hitting my queue?” questions.

By doing above, your organization can still measure the effectiveness of campaigns and troubleshoot where problem leads are coming from.

2) Cleanse with a service. Services such as Netprospex, InsideView, ReachForce and others offer solutions to analyze your data and provide updates. These services go way beyond the cleansing to include enrichment. If budget permits, your organization may want to check one out. Most offer some type of no-cost data assessment.

3) Develop a strategy around bounces. Trash or not to trash? Understand the implications and make a conscious decision on the pros/cons. See point #3 Maybe they aren’t bad above.

4) Send a Last Chance email. Once you’ve done all of above, send a “last chance to stay on our list” email. This email is more appropriate for aging leads with good emails but it’s worth mentioning here. Obviously, don’t mail your unsubs.

5) Dedup. Use a service like RingLead or DupeBlocker to dedup your database and to make decisions about which data takes precedence. Craig Smith from ABC may actually be a duplicate of Craig Smith at ABC, Inc. In most cases, you can merge the records so the program analysis and history is maintained.

6) Devise a history policy-A good rule of thumb is one year. If you’ve gone through the above steps, keeping the bad data alive for a year should be sufficient for reporting and analysis. Another good option is five quarters to offer quarterly comparisons from one year to the next.

7) Export the delete candidates. Push the Export to CSV button and save the data offline. In most cases, that file will go to file heaven and never get accessed again.

8) Push the delete button. Now your organization is ready to delete those bad leads.

This article only scratches the surface of things to consider for cleansing your database. If you have any great tips for what works for your organization, please comment below.





Josh Verrill

Services: Strategy, Assessment, Ongoing Services

“RevEngine Marketing has helped Dyn reach amazing results. Within 60 days, REM helped Dyn establish repeatable best practices to improve marketing efficiencies over 50%. That enabled our business owners to focus on the business, not on our system.
With REM as our long term partner, we’ve seen marketing’s contribution revenue double over the past year. REM has helped us achieve success with everything from managing the lead lifecycle to gaining visibility into marketing effectiveness.”


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