We update our blog with regular posts to keep you up to speed on the world of B2B data.
Posted on 05/11/2019 at 16:15By Corpdata
Corporate transactions such as mergers and acquisitions recognise the importance of the databases of customers and enquirers as part of the ‘Goodwill’. This value resides in the future business that can be derived from the data when it is marketed to. But the value of the ‘data’ is not fixed.
As time passes, the ‘facts’ change. Business details change, because they move, or go bust. Contacts within organisations change because of promotion and retirement, for example. The problem is that while the ‘data’ remains static, the ‘facts’ change with time. These inaccuracies clutter the minds of sales people and distract from sales operations.
As the distance between ‘data’ and ‘facts’ grows, marketing effectiveness drops. This means that without other action, the reward from using the data decreases over time.
As datasets are developed by any organisation, duplicates tend to creep in. Historically duplication has been little more than a costly and slightly embarrassing feature of data. GDPR changes the complexion of duplication into something rather more important.
Additionally, requirements of the data may evolve, not least because of legal changes. We now need to be able to demonstrate our work, such as consent, if that is required.
The latest changes to our data protection laws, including GDPR, have introduced additional considerations. There are also now significant risks in using inaccurate data, especially as the law states ‘data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date’. However, if unaddressed, the passage of time magnifies the distance between ‘data’ and ‘facts’, so the risks involved in using the data increases over time.
Duplicated records also now pose a risk. GDPR says data subjects have an absolute right to object to direct marketing. All duplicates need to be marked as objectors to avoid potential risks. Clearly, most people will understand your duplication issues if you explain, but some may complain, which may lead to the ICO taking an interest in you.
Many people wonder about the real scale of the problem.
Government figures consistently show approximately 1 in every 8 companies dissolve each year, and many more re-locate, though no one knows exactly how many.
There is no Government information about changes to decision maker details, but at Corpdata we have been updating our data by telephone for well over 25 years. From our research we know that on average organisational decision makers change every 20 months.
In broad terms this means the contact details for one in 5 organisations and well over half of decision makers change each year. These figures may seem large, but they are echoed by the results of our telephone research.
If you want to check your data set, do a simple test. Take a random sample of the data and contact them, to see who is still there, you will then have a much better understanding of the degree to which your information has decayed. The information you use to generate your new business is usefully considered as a risk versus reward matter. Unless you act the passage of time causes risks to rise and rewards to fall.
But compiling a list of customers and enquirers is very expensive and takes a long time. So it makes sense to take action to preserve it’s value. Taking action to preserve the value makes business sense. This is where maintenance and data cleansing may help.
Data cleansing is the process of minimising the distance between ‘data’ and ‘facts’.
Sometimes people can be encouraged to keep their data up to date, perhaps through an online tool, but this is quite unusual in a B2B context. Maintaining the data in-house is quite easy if you are in frequent contact with people, and you have good procedures in place. Without robust procedures, updating the data is likely to be haphazard, meaning you still cannot rely upon it’s accuracy. Many companies find this a laborious task, and one that is often hard to prioritise.
Basic duplication can be identified by sorting your data by various items, such as telephone number, email address, postcode and company name. This will help you see groups of similar records and reduce the more obvious challenges.
Data standardisation sounds very dry, and a matter exclusively for larger enterprises, but your operations can be greatly simplified by having standard data formats. For example, it doesn't matter how you record phone numbers, but you should do the same every time. 01626777400 is the same as (01626) 777400 or +44 (1626) 777 400, or many other layouts, but managing your data, especially identifying duplication, is much more difficult where no standards are applied.
You may choose to standardise existing data, but beware of damaging the data quality. For example, replacing every occurrence of "St." with "Street" will leave you with some odd data, such as "Street Michael's Street".
There are ways others can help you cleanse your business database; it’s quite straight forward to employ someone to call people and check their details, though this may prove to be expensive. Another approach is to match and update your database to one that you know to be accurate and up to date.
The ‘match and update’ process can be a quick and cost effective solution. If you have a high value portion of the data that you need to get spot on, a hybrid featuring some telephone checking is often a sensible approach when matching doesn't help.
Bear in mind though, cost should only be one of the factors in selecting your supplier.
Here are four important considerations to help you choose a suitable third party for data cleansing, (under GDPR, they are a classed as a ‘data processor’):
You will be passing this very precious resource to a third party. Ask yourself how valuable that would be to your greatest competitor, or how damaging it would be for data subjects if their data were released. You need to ensure your data will be secure and not passed to anyone else, or used for other purposes than cleaning. Our ‘Due Diligence Questions to Ask Data Suppliers’ are an excellent place to start.
If your database contains personal data, it is important to conduct suitable due diligence on your prospective data cleans partner. The key issues are about their undertakings as a data processor, to you as data controller. This is covered by article 28 of GDPR. Once again our ‘Due Diligence Questions to Ask Data Suppliers’ are a great start.
Many suppliers boast massive numbers of records in their data set, and that they are always up-to-date. These two things are almost impossible to achieve. If you match your data to something which is only as up-to-date as your data (or heaven forbid - older), your data will not be improved.
Matching is an ‘artistic science’. It is far from simple to create a good matching tool, and a great tool is one which is tuned to return (almost) no ‘false positives’ (see ‘About Corpdata Matching Systems’ below). Suppliers claiming high match rates typically have a significant proportion of false positives in the results.
We suggest you shouldn’t take too much for granted. You should understand, in broad terms, what is being done and why. Any good service provider will talk you through what they are going to do. You should always undertake a test of the data cleansing process on a subset of your data.
If you have any questions or feel you need a bit more guidance, please feel free to call us on (01626) 777400, we are always happy to help. You have nothing to lose.
So, data cleansing isn't voodoo at all. If you need to do this for yourself, follow these steps: