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Cleaning Up Your Marketing Database

I’ve been talking to a lot of people these days about database hygiene. Many have asked for best practices amounting to a “get well, stay well” healthy data routine. We do have a great white paper on this subject, Is Dirty Data Sabotaging Your Marketing Results?

One step is to make sure that users of your CRM system have a handy/easy way to “flag” inaccurate contact records.

If you are a customer, here is a way to help in this area:
The instructions/advice below requires administrative privileges in


1. A field must be designated for data quality/lead quality to be reported through. For instance, here, we use our “Lead Status” field and have created custom values in the pick-list to accommodate the error reporting. Example: Bounce Back (Email); Wrong Phone Number; Contact No Longer There, Company Closed/Acquired.

a) A pick-list type field is best for this because it standardizes the options for reporting.
b) We have found it useful to go beyond the simple “Bounce Back, Wrong Phone Number” type of justifications for a contact being wrong and include information such as Company Acquired/Closed (with a custom field allowing users to input the company it was acquired by), Company No Fit: No budget/need, Wrong Contact: Need higher level contact/lower level contact, etc. Once you have a basic infrastructure for error reporting customizing the field to your organization’s needs is easy.

2. After the field is in place and has begun being used, create a custom report that pulls the data you wish to report on. It is typically much easier to report on the exceptions (the wrong data) rather than the correct data.

  • Go to the “Reports” tab, select “Create New Custom report”
  • Choose “Leads”
  • Use a tabular report format
  • The columns we use are:
  • Lead Owner
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Title
  • Company/Account
  • Lead Source
  • Lead Status
  • Created Date
  • Created Month
  • Street Address
  • City
  • State/Province
  • Zip/Postal Code
  • Country
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • RF Internal Project (*Custom field, created to denote what project each
  • contact came from)
  • Nothing needs to be summarized on the standard summary fields
  • Any changes in the placement of columns is strictly based on personal preference

For report criteria the following is important:
a) View - choose All leads. Date/Duration/Start & End Date - leave the standard “Create Date” and “Custom” settings but delete the date in the “Start Date” field - leaving it blank ensures all possible data is captured in the report.
b) Advanced Filters:

  • Field - Lead Status (or whatever field you have elected to use to report the error data in)
  • Operator - contains
  • Value - Whatever error messaging you have input, for example “Bounce Back, Wrong Phone Number, Contact No Longer There.” If you have used a pick-list to populate the field then you will be able to use the look up (looking glass icon next to “AND”) to select all relevant information.

Here at ReachForce, we run this report on a weekly basis, but companies with less sales reps or reps who make fewer calls won’t necessarily need to run the report that frequently, conversely companies with lots of reps or reps who burn up the phones will want to run an error report more often.


To avoid lead duplication, it is best to export the bad data with a unique identifier (like the Lead ID provided by and then re-import the data using the same identifier. By using the Lead ID, you can ensure that notes and activity history that were previously attached to the record are not lost in the process.

It is important to remember to reset the Lead Status field once the data has been cleaned up (or whatever custom field designates the data as bad) so that sales reps calling on the data know it is ready to be called on again. Here at ReachForce we also have a “born on date” for our refreshed data. In that field we import the date that the records were updated in so that the rep calling on the record always knows how current the information is.

After data has been cleaned up, it is important to continue to keep the data up to date, using the error reporting discussed above and setting a time-table for how long it takes for a lead to “expire” allows you to keep all of the data in your database fresh. For example, if a lead is new on 9/1/2007, it is safe to assume that by 9/1/2008 it might be in need of an update.


We have found it useful to leverage a free AppExchange program put out by salesforce Labs called “Data Quality Analysis Dashboard 1.0? to give better visibility into the completeness of records and what deficiencies exist. This package installs a set of dashboards and reports that give scores to each type of record within your CRM and then provide high level views of how your records score. Using this tool can give you a better idea of where your records need improvement and/or if particular types of records are better kept than others.

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