Coming Clean the Old-Fashioned Way

While myriad high-tech tools and techniques exist to help you scrub your data, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of manually cleaning out the file, says Don Buck, president of Milwaukee-based consultancy Buck Marketing.

“It may sound arduous,” Buck says, “but I once worked with a business-to-business cataloger that took its entire 500,000-record customer file, printed it out, and handed out portions to every employee, from the president on down.” The employees reviewed the file in search of misspellings, slightly different street addresses, and near- duplications, such as “Michael Smith” and “Michael P. Smith.”

“Each set of computer printouts was handed out with instructions and time sheets,” Buck continues. “The list department controlled this process by tracking who had which set of computer printouts, spot-checking staff’s work, tabulating hours, and coordinating with the keying department. Because all 150 employees were involved, it took about two weeks. This was done annually for three years in a row. The company’s annual catalog mailing costs, including postage, printing, and all other associated costs, was $32 per customer. The savings, after cleaning for three consecutive years, was in the six figures each year.”

In general, Buck says, “updating your addresses and merging your duplicate records are absolutely essential in cleaning your customer file. If you have a clean file, your match rates from processing merge/purge will be more accurate.” This saves you from mailing prospects who are already customers on your file, for instance.