4 Ways Duplicate Data Can Derail Your Marketing Returns (And What to Do About It)

/ May 19, 2021 | 7 Mins Read

4 Ways Duplicate Data Can Derail Your Marketing Returns (And What to Do About It)

Know exactly why duplicate data can be a problem for companies of any size and the different ways that it can harm your marketing and sales campaigns.

Marketing and sales teams are often blamed for a decline in campaign performance metrics. Getting consistent low email deliverability, failed deliveries and missed quota targets can set any company back by several thousands (if not millions) of dollars. But what many companies don’t realize is that low marketing returns aren’t always because of a lack of resources and staff hours spent unwisely. Instead, it can be due to a far more hidden and sinister problem: duplicate data.

Duplicate entries can lead to unresolved entities within data sources. It can give a distorted picture of customers and create a misalignment between sales and marketing functions. In fact, an InsideView report found that inaccurate and incomplete data stood as the biggest barrier for sales and marketing alignment. When this happens, companies become at risk of losing their competitiveness.

Here are 4 ways duplicate records can hinder your marketing returns and how you can resolve them.

What are Unresolved Entities?

Techopedia defines an entity as “any singular, identifiable and separate object”. 

For marketing and sales efforts, it could mean anything from customers, addresses, emails or phone number records. When an entity is unresolved, it means that a record either has exact duplicates or has variations in the form of casing, punctuation, and spelling errors. In any case, determining a golden or unique record becomes painstakingly difficult.

Let’s understand this using the following example:

Company X records a paid ad lead by the name of ‘Edward Smith’. However, after analyzing the CRM, the marketing team finds several name variants by the name of ‘Ed Smith’, ‘Eddy’ or ‘Mr. Smith’ from different inbound and outbound channels. 

Table 1

NameLead TypeChannel
Edward SmithOutboundReferral
Ed SmithInboundLive Chat
EddyOutboundEmail
Mr. SmithInboundPPC

Now are they all duplicates? It is possible that each is a different prospect for which marketers will have to track each journey separately. But it’s also possible that it’s the same contact who has clicked on several marketing campaign links and a different name was recorded each time for various reasons. In the latter’s case, all touchpoints will have to be analyzed to determine if the lead is a marketing qualified lead or a sales qualified lead.

What Are the Sources of Duplicate Data?

A Gartner study found that US companies lose an average of $3.1 trillion as a result of bad data quality – and duplicate data is not an exception. But how do duplicate names and entries find their way inside the CRM in the first place?

Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated

Figure 1

Here are a few reasons:

  • Input errors: these are spelling, formatting, or punctuation errors that can be made by the prospect or lead when filling out sign-up forms or by employees during data entry. 
  • List importing/exporting errors: marketers can create duplicates when importing or exporting lists. They could accidentally copy and paste contact details into other sources such as from an Excel file or auto-responder software to the CRM and vice versa.
  • Lack of consistent validation: disparate data sources (Excel files, CRM, relational databases) may have different validation checks for each data field that could end up creating a variety of formats e.g. full name vs. first name vs. first name and last name. 
  • Changing contact data: contact data such as address, job title, company, and more can change very rapidly. Prospects switch jobs, get promoted, change departments, and move to a new home.

4 Ways Unresolved Entities Can Hinder Your Marketing ROI

Jonathan Block from SiriusDecisions once remarked, “it takes $1 to verify a record as it's entered, $10 to cleanse and de-dupe it and $100 if nothing is done, as the ramifications of the mistakes are felt over and over again”.

For any campaign to bring about the intended results, marketing data needs to be of top-notch quality. But the longer the time inconsistencies in CRM remain unchecked and unverified, the more difficult it gets for firms to derive meaningful and relevant insights for their business outcomes.

 Here are 4 ways of how this can occur.

1. Lost Email Domain Reputation and Deliverability

Email marketing stands as one of the most relied forms of marketing, especially in the B2B industry. But if unverified and duplicate emails exist, it can lead to two serious issues: 

  • High unsubscribe rates: multiple emails are sent to the same or wrong contact which prompt them them to hit the unsubscribe button.
  • High bounce rates: a bounce rate of above 20% as too many emails are sent to incorrect email addresses or those with punctuation and spelling errors. 

If done repeatedly, the problem can snowball to ruin your domain reputation, affecting deliverability or cause internet service providers (ISPs) to block or blacklist your email domain entirely.

Chart, line chartDescription automatically generated

Figure 2

Any emails sent then will either fall in the spam folder or not get delivered at all, and you risk burning through your addressable email contact database in the longer-term.

2. Lack of a Single Customer View

Unique customer records can help avoid much of the guesswork in tracking customer journeys for each campaign and decide when a lead should be greenlit for sales reps to engage. 

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Figure 3 [Source: LinkedIn]

But with duplicate entries, checking which stage of the funnel a prospect or lead is at can become blurry. Sales reps may abandon following-up with a sales qualified opportunity assuming they are not interested at this stage. Or marketing can send a case study to influence product buying decision to a lead that is only interested in educational content. 

3. Risk of Brand Erosion

Duplicate records can also put your brand image at risk. Many copies of the same record can create a fragmented view of your contacts, which can lead to inconsistent marketing messages for each customer. Using the example of Table 1, Company X can send a blog post, do sales outreach, and email a case study – to Edward Smith, Ed Smith, and Eddy Smith all under the assumption that each are separate entities. 

Over time, the lack of personalization and poor targeting can push customers to switch to other brands in the hope of a more seamless user experience. 

4. Lost Team Productivity and Revenue

Unresolved entities are just as harmful for your teams as they are for your customers. Having multiple contact names, phone numbers, address details, and emails can create confusion among marketing and sales teams about who purchased what, when, and what the next steps should be. 

They may have to spend hours going through each record in their CRM to identify the right customer history that could other be better spent meeting sales quotas.

Productivity can nosedive and efforts to drive more business from existing customers – through newsletter campaigns, cross-sell and up-sell activities – can suffer.

How to Prevent and Fix Duplicate Entries 

As we’ve explored, the harms of duplicate data are serious. But there’s good news. Companies can take proactive measures to avoid and fix duplicate entries within their CRM databases in several ways. Here are a few.

  1. Enforce Company-Wide Data Validation Guidelines

The first step to ensure there are clean and unique CRM records is to start with the source. Duplicate entries usually creep in when employees insert and update information in the CRM without restoring to a standard guideline. For example, one user may create a new contact and enter ‘NJ’ under Address while another may type ’27 Street’. 

Data validation guidelines can include setting field validation checks to standardize formats across the entire company by answering questions such as: 

  • Contact name: ‘Name’ vs. ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’ fields?
  • Address: what should be the correct format for ‘Address 1’, ‘Address 2’, ‘House Number’, ‘Street Name’, ‘Street Number’, etc.?
  • Country: should employees type ‘USA’, ‘US’ or ‘United States’? and more

With clear data validation guidelines, employees can all be on the same page when creating new leads and contact entries or when updating information for consistency.

  1. Make Data Entry a Priority

Manual data entry is bound to be error prone. Misspellings, formatting, and punctuation mistakes can easily find its way into CRM databases, marketing automation tool lists, Excel files, and other sources. Here are some ways this can be done:

  • Educate employees about duplication harms: teaching employees the seriousness and importance of data entry through workshops and written data entry guidelines can go a long way in curbing (if not preventing) duplicate and erroneous data. 
  • Instill best practices: employees should be asked to be especially alert when creating new contacts in CRM and when importing and exporting lists from one source to another to prevent any duplication. Making it a norm to check for duplicate entities prior to staring any campaign can also alert any issues before they occur. 

  1. Choose an Entity Resolution Software

A dedicated entity resolution software is a robust solution for removing duplicates in your CRM software, marketing automation software, and other lists and databases. Instead of manually checking duplicate records, an entity resolution software can identify erroneous data and deduplicate records with little to no coding. Firms can keep track of unique customer records and track all engagement activities across multiple channels.

Such a tool usually comes with the following features:

  • Native and cloud data source connectivity: import data from a variety of on-premises and cloud data sources.
  • Data profiling and cleansing: find and fix various types of errors 
  • Higher matching and deduplication accuracy: find and match variants using advanced fuzzy matching rules across millions of records to identify and group duplicate entries.

A Note on In-House vs. Entity Resolution Software Tools

A large marketing company has data stored in MS Dynamics CRM, Excel files, and MySQL database. It finds it has duplicates across all disparate sources and needs to dedupe several thousand records quickly for an approaching deadline with the highest matching results. It has a team of 3 data analysts and is considering whether to hire additional analysts or go for an entity resolution tool.

For many firms, choosing whether to go in-house or opt for an entity resolution tool can be a difficult one. But deciding which one you should go for should come down to two factors:

  • Number of records: applications such as Excel has its own deduplication feature to handle several thousand records. But, for processing millions of records, a deduplication tool can be a much better solution.
  • Complexity of duplication: for duplicates spread across multiple data sources, sophisticated matching definitions and configurations will be needed. This is especially if the data is spread across several CRMs, Excel files and SQL and Hadoop-based repositories.

Opting for a dedicated tool would be better off as the company will be able to save time matching fields and find duplicate entries with greater accuracy in less time. 

Conclusion

As marketing becomes more and more data-driven, poor campaign performance and returns can very well be the case of obsolete and duplicate data. Seeing how companies can lose their edge and revenue, entity resolution software tools can be a worthy solution to search for and dedupe voluminous amounts of data without having to spend thousands in growing staff. 

Javeria Gauhar, an experienced B2B/SaaS writer specializing in writing for the data management industry. At Data Ladder, she works as Marketing Executive, responsible for implementing inbound marketing strategies. She is also a programmer with 2 years of experience in developing, testing and maintaining enterprise software applications.

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