What is Database Cleaning and Why Bother?

What is Database Cleaning and Why Bother?


A database of clients and prospects is a valuable tool, though its value is determined primarily by its accuracy. If it’s full of incomplete or out of date data, then not only is it likely to make any marketing campaign flop financially, but could also cost significantly in terms of time too.

In fact, in a recent survey, data accuracy was rated number 1 in order of importance for ensuring a successful marketing campaign (click HERE for more information)

In addition to this, there is an increasing onus being placed upon companies that hold personal data to ensure it is kept accurate and up to date. This requirement will become even more pertinent when GDPR comes into play in 2018. Any non-compliance can be met with hefty fines being imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) Logo

My Database Isn’t Old Enough for Database Cleaning…

According to industry research, a database goes out of date by an average of 37% per year, costing UK businesses around £220 million p.a. – and that’s just on inaccurate mailings (postal campaigns). Adding in other channels such as email and telemarketing, not to mention social media, must take that already eye watering figure stratospheric! So before you dismiss the idea of going through a Data Cleansing exercise, ask yourself exactly how old is your database?

So what do I do now?

The first stage of a Data Cleasning exercise is to obtain a data audit. This involves processing your database against a number of files, in order to assess the quality of your existing data. Once this has been done, a report is obtained which details where your database inaccuracies lie and how it can be improved and possibly enhanced with additional data fields. Many companies (Data Bubble included) are happy to provide you with a free database audit, so finding out how accurate your database is shouldn’t cost a penny.

The files Data Bubble uses for the audit are:

UK Comprehensive Business Database (B2B only) – From this, we match company information to check accuracy, plus see where we can append additional information such as additional contacts, SIC codes, number of employees, email addresses, telephone numbers, website, turnover etc.

Post Office Address File (PAF file) – This is a file from the Royal Mail that will clean and update any address elements of your database. It can standardise casing (where your database has a mix of upper and lower case text), remove unwanted spaces / hyphens, correct spelling mistakes and add on missing elements such as postcodes. This can help in many ways, including searching CRM systems / databases plus when gaining mailing discounts.

Deduplication (dedupe) – This part of the process identifies a number of different duplicates within your database (i.e. 2 x Joanne Claytons at the same address, Joanne Clayton / J Clayton, family duplicates J Clayton / S Clayton in one house etc). This can be useful in several ways, including where you only want one mailshot to the house and not one to each person living there. When deduping with B2B data, it can identify multiple entries, as well as multiple contacts at one company / site, or highlight Head Offices only etc.

Business Gone aways / Ceased Trading (B2B only) – This part of the Data Cleansing process identifies companies that have moved or ceased trading

Provide a New Business address (B2B) – Secondary to the step above, this identifies where we can provide a new business address for those that have moved

BT OSIS – This is where we look to verify / append telephone numbers (for both B2B & B2C)

Deceased (B2C only) – This file contains a list of people that have died and whose families have registered their deaths with the Registrar

Additional services

Besides cleansing your database, it is often possible to:

Enhance your database – It may be possible to add other fields onto your database, to give you more information about the contacts. Such fields include telephone numbers, email addresses, websites, turnover, employee count, to name a few

Profile your database – Data profiling can show where your customers are and what they do. This can help you target new prospects by directing your campaigns towards the correct industries / geographical areas / business sizes


What Info is Needed to Complete an Audit?

The information required for data Cleaning is title, Contact name, Company name (B2B), Address inc postcode, telephone number. This information ensures accurate matching. You may also wish to include your own URN, such that you can then match the cleansed data back into your CRM.

How do I confirm my contacts are still at the company?

When running a B2B cleanse, it may not be possible to bring back an exact person match on your database contact information. That’s because when company data is captured and verified, only certain employee details are shared and those employees are usually the most senior named contacts on site.

The Data Cleaning process would identify:

  • exact matches
  • alternative senior named decision makers
  • where no matches have been found

If verification that your contacts are still employed at the company is essential, then the only way to do that would be to run a telephone verification process.

What About Time Scales?

An audit can take up to 48 hours to complete, though is often delivered within a day of you supplying your database.


So Now You Have Your Audit

The audit will show you in summary how many records you submitted, how many were matched, how many are accurate & inaccurate, how many inaccurate records can be rectified and how many cannot. It will also include a summary of how many additional fields of information can be supplied, for your consideration. Finally, it will detail a list of costs for each aspect of the cleansing process, so you can decide how you wish to progress.

Once you have decided, it’s a simple matter of telling us what you would like cleansing – whether that’s everything or only certain aspects, we can easily run the process. It usually takes less than 24 hours to complete the process and you would receive your newly updated database, showing all the fresh data for you to use.

Next week’s blog will be about how you can keep your shiny new database clean and up to date – be sure to watch out for it!