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How To Prepare Your Data For A New CRM

Steve Surdez

Signing an agreement for a new customer relationship management system (CRM) is a big decision for any company. The search process can be daunting. Identifying the right system and securing a favorable price, however, is not the end of the CRM on boarding process. An often overlooked yet absolutely critical part of integrating a new CRM is preparing your data for input into the new system.

If your data is a mess all the shiny features and seemingly limitless potential to help your business will take far longer to fully realize. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Your CRM is really only as good as the data you feed it.

Service Objects, a data validation company located in California, said this about “dirty” data: “Bad data, whether it’s a wrong address, misspelled name, duplicate or redundant, or flat-out fraudulent, is costly — and chances are, you have a lot of it. In fact, an analysis by DataBluePrint, The cost of bad data by the numbers, estimates that anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of data is inaccurate.”

So, what can you do in advance of an actual data migration to make sure the cleanest information is fed into your new CRM? Here are some tips that can help you reap the rewards of your investment in new tools to help your business:

Make Data Cleansing a Regular, Ongoing Task

Many companies only realize they have a data integrity issue during the CRM onboarding process. You might be in that situation right now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Data cleaning needs to become an ongoing process that has regular execution dates, clear processes and enterprise-wide, enforced policies.

The hard fact is that it takes dedicated work to clean dirty data and then keep it clean over the long term. This is an ongoing, never-ending task. And yes, even after you follow these steps to purify your data and integrate it into your new CRM, data will still get dirtier and dirtier over time if data cleansing is not a part of your internal operations protocols.

Dedupe, Dedupe

One of the most common data pollutants is duplicate records. If data cleansing is not regularly executed, duplicate data can pile up over time. You might be proud that your email list is 15,000 strong, but if 5-10% or more of these are duplicates, maybe it’s not as solid as you think.

Depending on the size of your company and its budget, the deduplication process can be performed manually or it can be outsourced to a company that automates deletions. Many data cleaning companies offer reasonable rates for the service, but some smaller companies might have to conduct the dedupe process manually. Smaller company contacts in excel or another database can be sorted and these duplicate records can be removed, though manual cleaning is not advisable due to the time it takes and the tendency for human error. Companies with larger, more complex databases should seek an outside company for de-duplication, as this investment will be faster, more efficient and accurate than manual searches and purges.

Standardize Data Fields

Cleaning data doesn’t just apply to words and numbers input into each data record. It also applies to how your data is categorized, namely how effectively you use fields to segment your information.

This could include items such as having names in one field versus separating them into first and last names, for example, or other standardization issues that can arise. This becomes an even greater challenge if you are combining contact lists from a variety of different source files in an effort to create one database for the migration to your new CRM.

Pre-migration you want to eliminate as many dupes as possible, standardize your data fields and make sure to coordinate the fields you’ve selected with the CRM itself and the migration team you’re engaged with.

Identify and Append Incomplete Data

In addition to reconciling duplicate records, you’ll need to locate and remedy incomplete fields within those records. Missing last names, addresses, titles and phone numbers are just a few record fields that might be missing or incomplete. Important these files into your new CRM-especially in large quantities-can seriously limit its ability to help your team succeed.

A data append is an automated service that can fill in some missing information to clean up your data records. Data append services from companies like InfoUSA and Experian, among others, offer reasonable rates for data append services.

Standardizing your fields must be done in coordination and in tight communication with the CRM team so that your work cleaning up the data fields isn’t at odds with the data map of the new CRM information structure.

Map Your Data

An overarching part of the data preparation process is data mapping. There might be some preliminary work you can do with your data to save time, but in the end, your existing data needs to be aligned with the data map of your new CRM.

The CRM team and your team will collaborate to create a document that maps the data structure of your existing database in an attempt to match it to how data is organized within the new CRM. This process helps ensure your key business data has a home in the new CRM and that important data is not lost in the process. In other words, your team and the CRM team need to be sure the data you’re importing has a place to live within the CRM’s data map. Cleaning up your data and streamlining your fields pre-migration will make mapping easier and less time-consuming.

The key thing to remember here is it’s your business. You and your team know what fields and data points are most important to the success of your business. Before the migration, or even perhaps before selecting and contracting with a new CRM, getting your data fields in order is highly advisable in that it will help you better understand what’s essential and what’s not while getting your house in order.

According to Oracle, “Accurate data is the raw material that maximizes the value of enterprise applications. However, when existing data is migrated to a new target application, it can become apparent that it contains inaccuracies, unknowns, and redundant and duplicate material. And although the data in the source system may be perfectly adequate for its current use, it may be wholly inadequate, in terms of content and structure, for the objectives of the target system. Without a sufficient understanding of both source and target, transferring data into a more sophisticated application will amplify the negative impact of any incorrect or irrelevant data, perpetuate any hidden legacy problems, and increase exposure to risk.”

Finding the right CRM partners can be a daunting and stressful task. Ensuring the migration to your new CRM is effective, efficient and quickly productive is the critical second phase of this challenging process.

In many cases, companies focus too much on the tech, wholly missing the importance of investing time and money into cleaning data pre, during, and post-migration. Data integrity management needs to be an ongoing, perpetual process. Without a commitment to keeping data clean, even the best, most advanced and robust CRM technology will be like a Ferrari fed bad oil and fuel-shiny and pretty but not performing at optimal levels.

Illumine8 Marketing & PR can help. We’ve successfully migrated scores of businesses into a new CRM system, empowering their sales and marketing efforts to produce stronger results more efficiently. Reach out to us. We’d love to learn more about your business.

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