How to manage your new business data

matrix-434035_1280Anybody who’s ever studied computing at any level will be familiar with GIGO, one of the oldest principles of data management. For those who don’t know it, it means Garbage In, Garbage Out.

To some of you, managing data properly will seem like an obvious thing to do, but I’ve lost count of the number of clients I meet whose data is in a mess. Messy data is costly – it wastes time, slows sales people down and results in missed opportunities. With a little time and forethought, most data problems can be avoided.

So, if you can ever be inspired by data, I’ve been inspired (told) to write this post! Some tips:

1) Get a CRM system. Excel might be simpler and quicker, but within 3 months you will speak to contacts more than once, share the data and report it, at which point excel isn’t adequate. Save yourself a headache down the line and get a good CRM system at the start. Then, put your data in it!

2) Make a data plan. Think about what you will use your data for and decide what is essential to capture and store and what is a nice to have. Try not to get bogged down in making everything essential, but make sure you capture the basics – the key things are company name, contact name, job title (you need this for targeting and qualification), email address and telephone number. Some data is far more valuable than other data depending on what you want to do so highlight the crucial stuff (e.g. direct lines and emails). Decide on conventions – e.g. company names or brand names – and enforce it.

3) Segmenting – at some point you are going to want to filter your data into smaller lists, so think about this from the start. You’ll probably want to segment your target companies by several different factors – certainly the industry they operate in and the status of the lead, and probably other factors such as size. Without getting too complicated, set up tags or fields to use for segmentation and make sure all of your data is coded and it will make your life far easier in the long run (a tip: code data in excel before you upload, it’s much quicker).

4) Publish the policy. Write up the plan and give it to everybody who will use the data so that everybody understands what’s going on.

5) Train and enforce. Your new business data will inevitably degrade over time, but you can slow degradation down by training your staff and fellow Directors (!) on the conventions. Then enforce it. Check from time to time that people are doing what they should – if they’re not, remind them.

6) Maintenance. A little maintenance every now and again will slow down degradation too. If it’s a cloud based database, do it when you have some down time – e.g. when you’re travelling. Remove some duplicates, clean things up a bit.

7) Remember GIGO! Don’t upload anything that hasn’t been properly coded. “How do I find that data I just uploaded” is much more common than you think.

Data seems like a detail. It’s dull and boring and people often don’t want to waste time on doing it properly, but bad data will kill a new business campaign and demotivate your new business people overnight, so it pays to do it properly.

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