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What is Data Cleansing?

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Data cleansing is becoming a household term for association managers, online marketers, and database managers. But it can mean different things, depending on who you talk to or which website you visit.

Data cleansing software can help you standardize and correct your mailing list, to make sure your message reaches your target list.

De-duplicating (or “de-duping”) software flags possible matches in your database or spreadsheet, based on criteria that you set, to help you combine two or more lists and eliminate duplicate records (“merge and purge”).

Data cleansing is also about knowing who within an organization should be in your database, and whether they’re the direct sales contact, the ultimate decision-maker, or a supporting contact.

These three definitions support and complete each other. By standardizing and correcting your data and eliminating duplicates, data cleansing software makes you more effective and saves you money.  But how much more impact could you have if you knew your list contained precisely the right contacts for every organization?

In a previous blog, I wrote about the mailings I receive from a company that was right to treat me as a business prospect…until things changed. Their programs and services focus on project management, and for a long time, that was my role at Greenfield. But times change, and I’ve moved on. If they had reached out to cleanse their list, the company would have learned that someone else had been in that role for more than a year—and that she should be on their list.

Their subject matter is valuable and relevant. My replacement would probably attend the occasional program, course, or seminar. But I hate to admit it—there are only 28 hours in every day, eight days in every week (I know…it’s a calendar thing), so I discard the mailings when I receive them, rather than passing them on. Data cleansing software won’t catch the problem, because the mailing address is correct. But the information isn’t reaching the person who needs to see it.

If you want to stretch your marketing dollars, maximize the impact of your next mailing, and eliminate the cost of duplicate distribution, you should make direct outreach a regular part of your data cleansing program. With business information stale-dating at a rate of at least 30% per year, it’s a lot harder to boost conference attendance, raise exhibit or sponsor revenue, or recruit new members with lists that aren’t quite all they can be.