By Wayne Parslow, Executive Vice President for International, Validity

Over recent years, businesses have been battling with increased competition, choice and changes in consumer habits which has resulted in plummeting profits for some.

Maintaining successful communications with customers and prospects has proved trickier than ever for countless companies and the current disruption to business and personal life is only set to make the situation more challenging.

In a time where many businesses are forecasting an unsuccessful second quarter, how can sales and marketing teams continue their vital role and navigate successful customer communications? One crucial answer is through a data-driven customer relationship strategy.

Improving your CRM data management

A key tenet that all businesses should adhere to is that data management is not a one-time task to be picked up every now and again, but instead a continuous regime that needs to repeatedly be controlled in order to consistently drive revenue.

Research by Forrester confirms the importance of focusing on enhancing and utilising customer data and found that businesses which embraced a data-driven strategy are on track to earn $1.8 trillion by 2021.

In a modern organisation, huge volumes of data are generated from every department, so in order to manage this data effectively, any governance team needs to include subject matter experts from all areas of the business. Through a cross-functional approach such as this, a business can guarantee that it is complying with industry standards and regulations across the board and there will be no blind spots.

As with most things in life, the key to successful data management is simplicity. The less convoluted and complex the processes of data entry and editing can be made, the higher the quality and integrity of the underlying data will be. This results in a more consistent and proactive response to carrying out best data practices.

On top of simplification, it is also important that end users understand why these data processes are imperative to follow, and the implications of them not being followed, which will naturally cause them to be more invested in attaining higher quality data and lead to more successful customer communications in the long-run.

Utilising technology and remembering to educate

Validity and Demand Metric’s State of CRM Data Management 2020 report found that 63% of the companies surveyed were taking a manual approach to maintaining their CRM data. However, this can be futile, tedious, repetitive, and very time-consuming. Businesses should instead be taking advantage of the various technologies available to automate processes and facilitate efficiency.

That said, too often businesses fall into the trap of believing the latest technology immediately translates into better results. While new, shiny technology can achieve great things with a click of a button alone, it doesn’t necessarily make the human element entirely redundant. Time and attention should still be spent on properly training your teams on how to use new technologies to really accomplish the best quality data possible. Data quality should be regarded as a core consideration and responsibility by every employee.

Unfortunately, the DMA’s latest Marketer Email Tracker report found that a disappointing 30% of organisations are not currently making ongoing training available to their teams. If businesses decide to invest in technology, they should then follow through by also taking the time to thoroughly educate their teams on how best to utilise it as this will be worthwhile in delivering better results that will drive healthier customer communications.

The five steps for quality data

Investing time and money into technology is important for improving customer communications, but it is also worth noting that businesses should not go hunting for one solution that claims to do everything.

A one-size fits all, one-stop shop solution does not exist. Instead, there are a multitude of tools and solutions available that businesses can leverage, and there are five steps which data governance teams should focus their attention on: profiling; standardisation; deduplication; verification and enrichment; and monitoring.

With profiling, the data team can look for accuracy, completeness and inconsistencies so businesses can question whether the data is stored in the right location and if it is up to date. Following profiling, it is likely that any areas which require standardisation will have been identified and standardisation is necessary as it allows the data to flow correctly through the company, and into the analytics from which crucial business decisions are informed.

Governance teams can then turn their attention to deduplication as no CRM is free from duplicate records without constant prevention and management. It is important that each business creates its own definition for what it views as duplicate records so that they can find a flexible third-party tool that can be customised to merge duplicates based on those set parameters.

Data is ever-changing, so businesses need to see the value in verifying their data on existing customers through external sources just as much as they would do for new prospects. The data can then be enriched with other key data points to help drive an understanding of the companies they work with to serve them better and drive revenue.

Monitoring is the easiest part of the process, once all the other steps listed above have been taken, for a successful data-driven CRM strategy. Businesses can even enlist the help of automation to ensure the data remains cleansed by setting up dashboards and alerts that track data quality anomalies.

Without a governance team that strives for high quality data using the right technology, training and processes, businesses cannot experience a true digital transformation whereby they are effectively leveraging and interpreting data for successful customer communications. Putting in place robust governance initiatives is not easy, but the improved revenue that businesses will enjoy by doing so will be sure to make it worth it.