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Why data auditing is a necessity

Data cleansing

By David Battson 3 min read

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Carrying out regular audits of company financials is standard practice; auditing your business processes for Quality Management is also key – imperative if you are maintaining an ISO qualification.

Did you know that auditing your data is equally important, as it is crucial to ensure that your marketing campaigns remain effective, that your pipeline remains full, and that you remain lawful in terms of data protection?

This blog examines why regular data auditing is a necessity in this world of changing data regulation and the constant need for marketers to improve their campaign ROI. It also looks at the internal and external processes relating to data audit.

Benefits of Data Auditing

Data accuracy is vital because data decay is inevitable.

Auditing your data is essential to ensure better-targeted and less wasteful marketing. Statistics show frequent changes in data can lead to decay of up to 40% per annum.

Carrying out an audit of your marketing database will provide a clear vision of the current situation. The benefits include:

  • Identifying out-of-date information for removal
  • Highlighting available enhancements for your current database
  • Saving budget and improve customer service
  • Avoiding contacting customers who are no longer appropriate
  • Improving response rates and ROI

Internal Management and Review

A vital first step to maintaining data quality is ensuring that your data entry systems are effective and are used efficiently by those working with them every day, such as:

- Sales team entering client and sales details;

- Marketing department monitoring response rates;

- Accounts team entering financials;

- Customer service personnel compiling feedback;

- Engineers reporting on equipment or faults;

- Store staff monitoring promotion uptakes.

There may be more or less people and business functions involved, depending on the nature of your business. Whichever teams and individuals are tasked with gathering and entering data on your customers, prospects and business – the importance of carefully checking and accurately adding details must be stressed.

Once you are confident of the data entry processes, there are a few internal checks you can do on your own data. These checks can be achieved by using your systems front end interface, exporting to programs such as Excel or, if applicable, visually inspecting the raw data. Your systems should include tools to achieve the following tasks:

  • Checking for common spelling mistakes
  • Identifying and removing any placeholder text such as ‘unknown’ or ‘don’t call’ in the name or other fields
  • De-duplicating records by sorting by a unique identifier (such as email address) and removing any records where the details are the same
  • Profanity checking to ensure inappropriate language has not been entered

External Independent Audits

Internal maintenance on an on-going basis is vital. Also, using the expertise of a Data Marketing company prior to any large campaign, mailing or analysis activity is recommended.

A professional external audit offers a more in-depth and thorough review of your data quality and will highlight any accuracy issues, which may be caused where data has become out of date, or result from errors during data entry. Additionally, external audits can highlight any missing information such as address or phone number details; also where information may be available for company size, sector and more.

Following data audits

Subsequent to your own audit and an external audit you may decide to undertake a cleansing process to improve your files’ data quality, or you may have discovered your data is well-maintained internally and does not require updating.

The most obvious benefit from cleansing the file, if required, is the money that can be saved by not mailing to inaccurate customer or prospect details, as well as protecting and improving your brand perception by generating more accurate communications.

In instances where cleansing is ultimately required, the areas where issues are highlighted may also help you to determine how and where they are arising during data entry. For example, if name spellings were an issue this may be tied back to the sales team; if this was present only in a particular geographic area it may identify a training requirement for one particular Regional Sales person.

Further reading: Data HQ's complete guide to data quality

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