Knowledge is power, and the only place where it is centrally held is your database.

In another MMA guide, we talk about the need to send a regular newsletter. One of the reasons for doing so is that it cleans the database. In order to enjoy the full effects of this regular cleanse, it’s important your database is structured correctly with the correct codes, mandatory fields, levels, sectors, functions, tags and so on.

*** For the purpose of this guide, any record being added to the database is called a contact ***

Email Address

In order to gain an understanding of how clean your database is, you should find out how many people you have stored on it. Then, pull a search which tells you how many of these have email addresses. There’s not much point in storing someone on your database without an email, so if this percentage is low make it a mandatory field before it gets out of hand.

There will be times when storing an email isn’t required, such as a prospect list for example, but this is more likely to be the exception rather than the norm, and you can input your own email address for them to allow you to monitor how many there are and who they are assigned to.

Of course, those with an email might not necessarily be correct. Some might be duplicates, some might have inaccuracies in them (a misspelt surname for example) and some might be out of date (they’ve changed jobs). But fear not, when you upload your full list for each newsletter a good platform will tell you which ones haven’t made the grade. This should be your first action; separating this list and updating the database with the correct information so that they’re in the mix for next time. Just one of these could be a potential client worth thousands of pounds, so it’s well worth spending an hour or two correcting the information or employing someone else to.

Function, Level & Industry

Of those with email addresses, you should then be able to cut by either function, level or industry (unless you are industry-specific) – which means that you can target direct emails to say HR Directors in Healthcare, COOs in Financial Services or Chief Executives in charities. It’s important to note that without mandatory function and level codes, you’re leaving yourself at the mercy of tags and job titles – which everyone will input different dependent on how that person describes themselves on their website / email footer / Linkedin.

For example, a leader of a company might be input as anything from a CEO and Chief Executive Officer to Chief Exec, Chief Executive Officer and even MD and Managing Director. Better to have one level (C-Suite) and function (Board & Leadership) that captures it all rather than having to remember the seven different iterations each time you want to contact your CEO list.

Industries

Holistically, all industries fall into three sectors: Public, Private and Not for Profit. Within the public and NFP sectors the choices therein are fairly obvious, but the in the private sector there are seemingly endless industries to choose from, and endless sub-sections after that. Traditionally, The Financial Times has offered a good comprehensive list to keep as your generic headings (somewhere between 10 and 20 is about right), beneath which you can add as much variations as you like.

Function

Similarly with functions, about 10 to 20 is the right number, across areas like sales, marketing, finance, IT, HR and so on. Ensure you have a Board & Leadership function and have a system in place for how you ensure dual positions such as a CTO go into both this and IT.

Synchronisation

Another reason for cleaning your database is that employees handle so much on their linkedin account, personal mobile and work email that if your database isn’t working properly data, the data you’ve paid them to collect will walk out of the door with them. For a start, your company’s emails should be synced to your database – to both the employee record and the record of whoever it is they’re contacting. If you really want to push the envelope, you can use internet-based telephone systems to sync phone information as well as email.

Responsible User and Team

Every contact you add should be assigned to both a responsible user and – if your company is big enough – a team. Assigning to multiple users is not a good idea as it leads to arguments of ownership, and people can add themselves as an owner without being notified. Ideally, you want just one user (generally the person creating the record) and one team (the team that they are in) with only a system administrator being able to change this.

Doing this allows for easy segmentation for things like newsletters and event invites, so that the sender is the owner, coming from their address and with a tailored, relevant introduction  – increasing personalisation and ultimately the chances of success. It also allows you to track where bad data is coming from – and if someone unfortunately decides to move on – you can transfer ownership to their replacement rather than them being lost and forgotten as is so often the case. When their replacement starts, there’s then a ready made BD activity waiting for them on day 1; an email to the list introducing themselves.

Bespoke Fields

For every company there will be specific requirements which you have that few others do. For example, if you entertain your clients regularly, you’ll want a field containing their sporting or music preferences so you know what tickets to buy. But a good generic example is a LinkedIn profile field. That way, if their email ever bounces or you want to see if your data is current, you can simply click it and it will take you to their profile. Beware of databases that automatically updates their information with changes – this is now illegal.

Mandatory Fields

As you might have guessed, mandatory fields are the most important aspect of database management. When people input data they are generally in a rush and will pay little attention to detail. Mandatory fields protect your organisation against years of abuse. Get them right and you’ll have every customer you’re ever going to have at your fingertips.