5 Tips to Spring Clean Your Data

Spring is that time of year when thoughts turn to cleaning up, clearing out, and starting fresh. It also happens to be the sweet spot in the education marketing calendar between finalizing one year’s sales results and preparing for the new school season. With four to six weeks needed for a data cleanse project, there is no better time to evaluate and update the condition of your customer data.

As with any spring cleaning project, the best interval is every year. Where in the past doing a data cleanse every two years was considered sufficient, the pace of change and turnover in the education market now demands data that is as close to current as you can manage.

Here are some tips on what to prioritize in a springtime data review:

 1. Strategize and Set Your Scope

Any database update project should begin at the end: determining what you hope to accomplish with your database, then structuring and populating it accordingly. Work with IT or your database administrator to determine how many years of data to cleanse. Many companies do a rolling three or five years, depending on the size of the file and time since the last cleanse.

Evaluate which fields to include, with a mind toward your goals. If you are planning to do any profiling of your customers, you should consider adding fields like revenue or job title, criteria that you might depend upon for the profile.

Also, be thorough in thinking about your data’s utility. It may not just be marketing that depends on your customer database; sales territories and outreach can also be impacted. And once a sales force loses confidence in your data, it can be hard to get it back. Better to start clean…and stay clean.

2. Out with the Old

One of the first tasks is to remove bad data and normalize the data you keep, making your efforts more efficient for the coming school year. Due to input inconsistencies, you may have multiple records for the same school that don’t align. Or you may have incomplete data in important fields. Matching up your data to a verified industry database like MDR’s allows you to sync up mismatched records and fill in gaps via append or overlay.

If you do find instances of data gaps or inconsistencies, this may be a red flag that your data capture and input process needs some review. Preventing and addressing bad data hygiene before it happens is a smart ROI move that saves you money in the long run.

3. Align to the Truth

In the 2015-2016 school year, MDR added 1.3 million educator names and removed 1.1 million. Keeping your contact names up to date prevents you from mailing or emailing to teachers not teaching that grade, not teaching at that school anymore, or not even teaching in a district. In a world where relevance of marketing messaging is critical, knowing the facts about your customers is a must. In some cases when a teacher has moved jobs, you may be able to identify where they went so that customer is not lost to you.

Matching your data to a verified source like MDR not only allows you to confirm your contact names are correct, but it also helps you keep up with the broader institutional changes that can impact your marketing efforts. Keep in mind, in the last year 8,809 public schools shifted their grade range, 826 public schools and districts closed or merged into other schools or districts, and 397 new schools opened due to enrollment growth or special populations. Especially if you are doing direct mail, not having accurate mailing information is just throwing money out the window, with 1% to 2% of mailed pieces going directly in to the dead letter bucket.

4. Get to Know Your Best Customers

Once your data is clean and has been matched to a database like MDR’s, you can conduct customer profiling to look at where penetration or revenue is going up or down. Customers who have purchased from you in the past are likely to purchase again, so it only makes sense to gather as much information as possible about this important segment of your customer file.

With each database match project, MDR provides an eCPR, an interactive Customer Pattern Recognition profile. This free profile often reveals untapped information about customers: like the most active part of the country for sales, the school types and enrollments that performed best, etc. Having a firm grasp on the profile of your best customers is a smart way to identify likely prospects for more targeted and cost-effective campaigns.

5. Add-on for Growth

While you have the database in the shop, why not take the opportunity to enhance it by appending or overlaying fields that can amplify your existing efforts? For example, no data cleanse is complete without a thorough review of email addresses, a keystone of any multi-channel marketing effort. Check to be sure that the email addresses are valid and complete, and add new email addresses where missing or incorrect. Remember, your customers want to hear from you.

Appending job functions, if that is not a field you currently have, will allow you to know who is a principal and who is a teacher. With over 1 million educators a year experiencing a job change, it is all too easy to send the wrong catalog or use an email subject line that will trigger the delete button.

Never a Bad Time for Data Cleansing

While we have focused on the benefits of undertaking a data cleanse project in the spring, the truth is that there is never a bad time to do it. Follow your own marketing cycles. If you have a big push in the spring or fall, plan your cleanse in advance of those efforts so every campaign is cost-effective. Anytime you have a large influx of customers, you should plan on a cleanse and match to ensure the quality of the new data you are integrating into your existing file.

Download MDR’s free report on the Risks of Dirty Data to get more actionable tips for how to clean up your education data and keep it clean!

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