Spring Cleaning: Why you should care about data hygiene

By Susan DeMatei

What do you think of when you hear “data hygiene”?  Most people either have no idea what the term means or believe it involves tedious hours mired in excel. But like regular car tune-ups, it should translate to increased marketing program performance and sales.

  Why? Because just like that tune-up, our engine, or in this case our database, needs periodic maintenance to clear out the “gunk” and refresh the connections. Even if we’re growing our list and sending out great emails, our work isn’t done — we need to keep our database healthy.

  How do we keep a database healthy?

  If the reason to have a database is to drive sales, then the ultimate indicator of health should be strong sales, right?

  So, what are the predetermining steps for sales?

  Size: The size of your database directly correlates to the level of sales you can expect from that database.

  Size is not a function of data hygiene but instead your lead generation efforts. Whether lead generation efforts are done through a tasting room or event table, accumulating names or advertising on Facebook, a continual flow of new prospects is like oxygen to your database. Databases decay at a rate of about 2% a month – so every year, you can count on losing 25% of your database. Therefore, it is imperative for the health of your database and sales to target a growth rate of at least 2% a month to not slip backward.

  Best database collection practices say to review all signup forms for typos, fake names, or duplicates before uploading. If you routinely see false addresses like “noemail@gmail.com” talk to your tasting room staff to find out why they feel pressured to fabricate data. There is likely some process that needs revision or a technical barrier that requires an address to continue. A conversation can identify various data collection challenges while impressing the importance of a usable database to your company.

  Additionally, attaching a source to your new prospects as they sign up is invaluable not only for hygiene but also for future continually monitor them to judge their quality. Ask yourself how many leads you got from each activity, how many of them ended up buying, and how long it took them to buy. Next year, this will be invaluable information when planning activities and ensuring you move forward with the activities that yield the best quality leads.

  Validity: The individuals in your database need to receive your emails without flags or filtering.

  You can instantly see the validity of your database when you send a mass email by looking at the bounces and invalid addresses.

  Bounces are typically categorized into soft or hard bounces. A soft bounce is temporary and, in most cases, a setting. The most typical one is an “out of the office” message. The email address is valid; they’re just not getting this email delivered now. Most Email Service Providers (ESPs) will attempt to redeliver to an address marked as a soft bounce multiple times, over subsequent campaigns, before flagging it as a severe deliverability problem.

  A hard bounce is a server error and means the address is no longer on that domain. Servers do go down temporarily for reasons like scheduled maintenance, so most ESPs will still try a bounce two or three times before marking it permanently undeliverable.

  There is a third category. Let’s call these “Unmailables”. Unmailables are junk and so obnoxious the ESP doesn’t even try to send them. They are blank or data is in the wrong field (e.g., the phone number in the email space). They can be made-up domains that don’t exist (like noemail@noemail.com). However, sometimes there is an obvious typo you can fix, like yahoo or Gmail is spelled incorrectly. And sometimes, the email address is in the phone number field, so these are worth investigating.

  Trust: Upon seeing the email in their email box, the recipient must believe that the source is trustworthy and contains relevant enough content to open the email.

  You must know how your ESP defines an “open” email. There are differences in how mail apps track this data point. Most notably, Apple’s Privacy updates for iOS 15, that preload data, create a false “open” to make tracking less reliable. (And this isn’t minor. In 2021, Litmus reported Apple devices accounted for approximately 52 percent of all email opens.

  In addition, gain agreement from your management as to whether you are reporting on total or unique opens (because someone can open the same email several times). At WGM, we report on unique opens because they best indicate how many individuals responded, and the same goes for clicks.

  Interest: The content of the email must be compelling enough to provoke further action, like a click to a website.

  Clicks are also not as straightforward as one might think. For instance, some Email Service Providers count unsubscribes as clicks. Here is where coordination with Google Analytics is critical.  You must overlay the bounce rate of your email traffic to the landing page (because a qualified visitor will stay and read and purchase).

  Note: Conversion, or sales, is ultimately the role of the landing page. An email can deliver a target somewhere, but it can’t close the deal.

  A Simple Yet Critical Hygiene Exercise: Pull your entire database with open, click and bounce information from your last email campaign. Dedupe. And, do this based on name, address, and email address. Sort all the bounces and put them on a different sheet. Review these for typos or duplicates and clean up what you can.

  If you are lucky enough to have sales data, divide the group into purchasers and those who have never purchased. Pull out Wine Club members and multiple buyers and consider calling them on the phone for an updated address. You may also want to add an ongoing postcard program where you drop a card in the mail asking customers to update their email. For the others, if they have purchased, leave them be for a record of purchase history. But if they’ve never bought from you and bounced, you should delete them.

  Sort the un-deliverables and do the same as above:

•    Fix issues.

•    Divide into sales and no sales.

•    Reach out to valuable contacts and delete empty records.

  Do the same with unsubscribes as the first two above. The only difference here is you should pull viable email addresses, upload them to Facebook and target them in your next campaign. Just because they didn’t want an email doesn’t mean they never want to hear from you again.

  You should be left with only customer records with sales attached to them that you cannot email. You will want to keep them for a historical sales record, but you don’t want them muddying up your data. For this group, you can tag them as non-viable, so you don’t keep pulling them for each email.

  It’s good to do this clean-up periodically. But how often and how deep you go down the rabbit hole depends on the value of this potential customer and how much time you have on your hands.

  Most experts recommend some type of database clean up quarterly. If you work at a busy tasting room, you may want to perform them monthly. But with all the evidence that “cleanliness is next to responsiveness”, there is a compelling argument for making data hygiene part of your routine marketing schedule.

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.  Now in its 10th year, the agency offers domestic and international clients assistance with strategy as well as execution.

  For the past two consecutive years, Inc. Magazine recognized WineGlass Marketing as the only Napa company listed in the top 250 hyper-growth tier of the “5000 Series California’s Top Companies”. WineGlass Marketing has also been recognized by the community winning the North Bay Bohemian “Best Digital Creative Services” spot for both 2021 and 2022 as well as being honored by her clients in the North Bay Business Journal as Napa’s “Best Company to Do Business With.” In addition, the firm has taken top honors in the 2021 Web Awards for Best Beverage Website and 2021 Internet Advertising Competition for Best Integrated Ad Campaign in the Beverage Category and the 2022 Internet Advertising Competition for Best Wine Website. The agency is also a Webby Honoree in Website and Mobile Sites at the 2022 Webby Awards.

WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or wineglassmarketing.com

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