Why it’s time to clean up your data

1st November 2018

In the aftermath of GDPR it’s never been more important for marketers to use clean and up-to-date data. Here we talk to Martin Rides, Managing Director of The Software Bureau, one of the leading data hygiene software companies in the UK about why inaccurate data is not only worthless, but costly to your company  and how you can cleanse your data.

Why is it important for companies to regularly update and cleanse their data?

Martin: There are three main reasons why. Firstly, accurate data has value. Inaccurate data is worse than worthless.

The second reason is to minimise waste. Why waste your budget on mail or calls that won’t reach the intended recipients? Don’t put mail in the post, or don’t call people if they’re not there.

Thirdly, it’s to protect brands; too often we see our industry plastered all over The Daily Mail, being castigated for trying to contact the dead with poorly targeted marketing communications.

What happens if companies don’t data cleanse, or do it infrequently?

Martin: Data decays from the moment it’s collected, that’s a simple thing. People move, people die, people get married every day.

Data controllers have a duty to maintain a healthy customer database, and if they don’t, then they’re creating more work for themselves further down the line.

How regularly should companies update or cleanse their data? What’s the best practice?

Martin: Files for suppression cleaning, address moves and deceased are updated primarily monthly, but that is all due to change. We’ve developed a cloud-based software application called SwiftCore, which enables the data providers to feed into a living, breathing database, which updates in real time.

Post GDPR, what are companies required to do that they previously didn’t have to?

Martin: GDPR has been a big wake-up call for everybody in the industry, but mainly because of the impending fines.

Prior to GDPR the 1998 Data Protection Act stated in its fourth principle that data should be accurate and kept up to date. GDPR has not changed that, it has just reinforced the message.

MPs and the media have been critics of companies that send irrelevant door drops and direct mail to households. Is there a danger that the government may step in to legislate or regulate the industry?

Martin: We’ve lived in fear of legislation for years. The only sign of the government actually acting was the Etherington review in 2015, which was all about the charities and fundraising side of the industry. The ‘Fundraising Preference Service’ came about as a result, which meant people could opt out of receiving fundraising messages from particular charities.

I hate to say it, but it’s fallen flat on its face. They’ve only managed to sign up 5,700 people, so it’s been a complete and utter waste of time.

Contrastingly, we have embraced the Mailing Preference Service, where people can sign up to opt out of receiving unsolicited, direct mail, which has about 6 million names on it.

Why should marketers use The Software Bureau’s data & software solutions?

Martin: We’ve got access to the majority of the suppression data that’s out in the marketplace, and that’s in the region of 500 million records. A lot of it comes from probate data, or data volunteered by the general public (i.e. people have informed us know that someone has died, or moved home), or from mover information from the likes of Royal Mail, or credit reference agencies.

We pride ourselves on having high data standards, we seek the providence of the data, and find out where it’s come from and how it was created before we share it with our customers.

How much does it cost to maintain cleansed data?

Martin: Data hygiene is not expensive when you consider how much it costs to recruit a new customer, which can run into hundreds of pounds. An enquiry from the ICO could run into thousands. Fines from the ICO could run into millions.

Taking an update from a suppression file, or removing a file, and updating your customer database with information, will only cost you pennies at the end of the day.

We offer data matches, which companies can pay for on a per match basis, and in addition we offer software to help companies process their customer database against these files, which is charged on a royalty basis.

Who should be responsible for ensuring that the data being used is clean?

Martin: It depends on the size of the company. Most large organisations will now have a data protection officer, who is the guardian of the customer data they hold.

For the smaller companies, historically, it’s fallen into the marketing department’s remit, because suppression data really was about marketing and communications.

Yet, with GDPR and the wider data quality aspects of it, it does seem to be falling into the compliance and governance areas of organisations.

For new comers to direct mail, what are the steps, or the stages they need to go through, to acquire the data? How do they go about it?

Martin: If you were doing a marketing campaign for the first time, the best people to provide that service is, in fact, the mail producer or the mailing house, like Howard Hunt. They’re right at the end of the supply chain. They are the safety net to make sure that what you produce is actually going to get to the intended recipient. They’ll screen data before any direct mail goes out the door, to make sure what they produce is going to give you the best return on investment.

At Howard Hunt, we want you to get the most out of your campaigns. To talk to us in more detail about how you can cleanse your data, click here.