4 Steps for Cleaning Up Your Marketing Database

Jun 07, 2012 4:55 AM  By

With the ever increasing email acquisition opportunities in today’s cross-channel environment, it’s easy to neglect your marketing database. Data is coming in from your web site, POS system, commerce platform, social networks, mobile promotions, etc. Well, it’s time to bring out the cleaning supplies and tidy up your database.


These four steps will help you get started (the hardest part!) and guide you along a path to a streamlined database that can be leveraged for more advanced segmentation, detailed reporting, and dynamic content opportunities.

Step 1: Audit
As a first step, make a list of every data source feeding your marketing database and include how frequently that information is updated as well as the data fields that are exchanged. Identify any data sources that are no longer needed, contain relic data points, or need to be updated.

Also identify if there are additional locations, like Facebook or during checkout, where you are not asking people to subscribe. The initial version of this document may be cumbersome to build, but it will serve as a guide for ongoing database management.

Step 2: Consolidate
Now that you have a list of data fields each data source passes to your database, locate any duplicate data fields and determine which data source is more accurate and up-to-date. Are any of these sources passing information, such as middle initial or phone number, which you will not use for personalization, dynamic content, segmentation or reporting? If so, it’s just cluttering up your data.

Step 3: Clean
Removing data that is “nice to know” but not contributing to your marketing efforts may require some work, but once completed, processes will be more streamlined and you will decrease the risk of using incorrect or outdated fields for segmentation, dynamic content or personalization. If your database is housed by your email service provider, consult with them on the best way to safely remove the data.

Step 4: Structure
Now that you have tidied up data fields, review your database structure. Perhaps your email program began with one master list containing all of your subscribers but now you segment that list for specific campaigns like a weekly newsletter, special alerts, or clearance offers.

Take the time to create a list structure that reflects the opt-in options available to subscribers. Adopting this structure will help you better understand list growth and attrition for each program while having the option to opt-in or out of each program will provide a smooth user experience.

Every database is unique but I guarantee that there is potential to clean and better organize every one of them. Archive the documentation from this process and revisit it quarterly to determine whether there have been changes in your data landscape that would warrant repeating these steps.

Jim Davidson is manager of marketing research for Bronto Software.