Too many companies, especially small businesses and startups, have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that is a chaotic mess. Issues such as duplicate records, incorrect capitalization, spelling errors, and missing information run rampant, all while invalid and opted-out addresses are repeatedly emailed.
A disorganized CRM creates a lot of problems:
- Duplicate records cause important information to be overlooked and make the CRM harder to navigate.
- Incorrect capitalization and spelling in personalized content creates a bad impression, like saying “Hi micheal” instead of “Hi Michael”.
- Using incorrect titles and names in emails looks unprofessional, such as using “Dear Steve” instead of “Dear Dr. Johnson”.
- Sending emails to inactive addresses makes open and click-through rates unreliable, leading to inaccurate reporting.
- Repeatedly emailing people who’ve opted out can result in your emails to willing recipients being sent to their spam folder instead of their inbox.
An unorganized CRM makes it difficult to accurately group email lists based on customer behavior or characteristics due to inconsistent and incomplete data. This can result in awkward situations like sending sales emails to long-time customers or mass-emailing everyone the same message. A poor customer experience, like irrelevant emails, increases the chances of unsubscribes and spam reports.
Failing to clean your CRM data also prevents you from using features like dynamic content. This lets you personalize emails or landing pages based on a person’s profile, leading to increased engagement and conversions. Don’t miss out on this and other powerful features just because of an untidy CRM.
What Is CRM Hygiene?
Fortunately, good CRM hygiene prevents these and other problems. CRM hygiene (also called “list hygiene” or “data hygiene”) has 2 key parts:
- CRM Cleaning & Maintenance: Accurate, complete, and standardized data is crucial for CRM records. Adding new data only makes the CRM messier.
- Following Best Email Practices: Only contact those genuinely interested in your emails to follow email rules. Breaking the rules can blacklist your IP address and violate federal law.
Both parts aim to improve audience engagement, reduce negative metrics (like unsubscribes, spam reports, and bounces), and provide accurate reporting. Good CRM hygiene also improves your email sender reputation with both people and email service providers (ESPs).
Investing time and resources for CRM hygiene is crucial for a return on your investment. Properly maintaining your CRM will help you get the most out of this valuable tool. Don’t let negligence make it go to waste.
This guide provides broad instructions because various CRMs use different words for the same things.
- CRMs: Most companies use a combined CRM/marketing automation platform, such as Salesforce, Hubspot, and Marketo. Others use separate platforms for CRM and marketing automation. For simplicity, all platforms will be referred to as CRMs in this guide.
- People, Accounts, & Records: This guide will use the term “people” to refer to human beings, which may also be called “contacts”, “leads”, “prospects”, or other terms depending on the specific CRM being used. Companies and other types of organizations will be called “accounts”. The term “records” will be used to refer to both people and accounts together.
This guide has 2 parts:
- Full CRM Cleanup: This guide will teach you how to clean and maintain a CRM, focusing on new and existing data.
- Email Sender Reputation: This will cover email best practices to impress both people and ESPs while also following the law.
Everyone who uses the CRM should read this guide and participate in the cleanup process.
With this guide, you’ll improve your CRM hygiene by creating processes to keep it organized with minimal daily effort. You’ll also gain valuable knowledge for employee training on cleanup and establishing email protocols. A tidy CRM will improve collaboration between teams and make it easier to access accurate data.
Help Is Always Available
Training is essential for small organizations with limited resources and employees who handle multiple tasks. In the absence of a designated CRM manager, employees may not have enough knowledge about data entry and email marketing regulations, which will worsen existing problems.
Most CRMs offer training resources such as Salesforce Trailhead, HubSpot Academy, and Marketo Academy. You can also find paid courses on websites like Coursera and Udemy, as well as free educational content on YouTube.
CRM companies offer various resources to help users with specific questions, including live chat, video office hours with specialists, and forums with qualified individuals. Additionally, many popular CRMs have app marketplaces with third-party apps, both free and paid, that can make your work easier.
Your account manager is always there to guide you to the right resources. With so many options for training and help available, there’s no excuse for allowing a messy CRM to deteriorate even further.
Hiring A CRM Consultant
A CRM consultant can help optimize your company’s use of the CRM software by cleaning up the system, documenting processes, and providing expert knowledge on data management, process improvement, and automation. They can provide ongoing training and support for your team.
Full CRM Cleanup
Cleaning New Records
To keep a clean CRM, it’s crucial to promptly clean any new data that’s added to the system in order to prevent further clutter.
Step 1: Fields
To ensure complete records, set mandatory fields in your CRM that must be filled out before a record can be saved. However, limit these mandatory fields to essential information, like a full name and email address for people. Requesting too much information will deter people from simple actions, like signing up for a newsletter. You will always be able to fill in other fields later. Mandatory fields for accounts usually include the account name, account type, and contact information.
Custom fields help you tailor your CRM to meet the specific needs of your business:
- For people, you can add custom fields for information like interests, preferences, or purchase history.
- For accounts, custom fields might include details such as hours of operation, ownership structure, or the stage in the sales funnel.
- Additionally, you can use dropdown menus, checkboxes, and other standardized inputs to add custom options to existing fields.
To monitor the cleanup progress, create a “Verified” custom field (like a dropdown menu) for people and accounts. As team members review each record, they should update this field, allowing you to track the cleanup’s overall process.
Your CRM comes with default fields that you may not need. You might also stop using some custom fields in the future. Removing unused fields can reduce clutter and make it easier to find the important fields. Remember that you’ll always be able to restore deleted fields.
To ensure accurate and complete records, inform your team about which fields they need to fill out, either through outreach or research.
B2B contact databases such as ZoomInfo and Lusha provide useful information such as phone numbers, social media profiles, and company websites, which can be automatically added to your CRM. However, it’s still crucial to manually inspect the synchronized information’s accuracy. These databases also help you identify potential prospects within the same company and similar businesses to target.
Step 2: Scrubbing New Records
Create two dynamic lists in your CRM – one for people and one for accounts – to capture new records. Make sure to regularly update the “Date Created” field and check these lists often. Consider using email alerts or messaging app integrations, such as Slack or Teams, to receive quick notifications about any new records.
Clean new records following these steps:
- Check that mandatory fields are completed. If not, there’s an issue.
- Correct spelling, capitalization, and other obvious errors in the record, such as email addresses with “.con” or “gnail”.
- Manually check for duplicates that aren’t automatically detected. Remember to look for alternate names for people (e.g. “Bill” for “William”) and accounts (e.g. “Initech” for “Initech Inc.”).
- Group people who have a business email with others who share the same email domain and assign them to the same account, if applicable.
- If you have time, search Google and update the record with any additional contact details, websites, social media profiles, or news mentions found.
- Check if new information has synced to the record from your B2B contact database (if you bought one). If not, search the database to update it.
Assign each record to a team member and notify them. Once the team member confirms that all necessary information has been added, they should update the custom “Verified” field to mark the record as reviewed.
Cleaning Existing Records
To maintain a high level of CRM hygiene, manually review and clean existing records, similar to how you scrub new records but on a larger scale. You can use CRM functions like dynamic lists, bulk changes, and automations to make it easier. Another option is to download records as spreadsheets, edit them, and re-upload them into the CRM.
Dynamic lists are especially useful for cleaning data, both in the present and future:
- Use a filter to identify unverified records with missing or incorrect information that you want to focus on.
- Clean the records and change the custom Verified field to remove them from the list. Your goal is to have zero records left in each list.
- Don’t delete the dynamic lists, as they’ll be able help identify issues with any new records uploaded to the CRM.
It’s best for the team members who own the specific records to take responsibility for manual checks. Assigning a manageable number of records for each person to clean up weekly is ideal.
Step 1: Eliminate Duplicates
To make manual cleanup easier, first remove duplicate people and accounts. This will decrease the number of records that require inspection and may also result in cost savings, as some CRMs charge based on the number of contacts.
Most CRMs come with a duplicate detection feature that compares fields such as name, email, phone number, etc. to find matches. However, keep in mind that merging duplicates still requires human input.
If your CRM lacks a duplicate detection feature, consult your account manager or CRM consultant for alternative methods like automation rules or apps. You can also export your data to a spreadsheet. Excel and Google Sheets have built-in functions to identify duplicates.
Step 2: Address Absent Data
To fix missing data in your CRM, like records without a name or email, use dynamic lists:
- Create filters to display unverified records with the specific field you need.
- Start with missing mandatory fields and then address other missing fields based on your priorities.
- After filling in the missing data, follow the same steps for scrubbing new records.
- Update the custom Verified field to indicate that the record has been reviewed.
Step 3: Formatting
Keeping data consistently formatted is important for improving the CRM’s efficiency. It makes the data easier to understand and search through.
Certain CRMs can identify incorrectly capitalized or formatted data. If your CRM doesn’t have this feature, ask your account manager or consultant for help. This is faster and more accurate than reviewing lists manually. After fixing formatting errors, update the custom Verified field to indicate that the record has been reviewed.
First & Last Names
To ensure proper capitalization of first and last names, create a dynamic list to identify records that don’t begin with a capital letter, then manually correct them. Alternatively, you can download the records and make corrections in Excel.
When reviewing records, be mindful of occasional cases where the first and last name are switched. This mistake is common and easily overlooked, particularly when both names could be a first name (like “Elton John” or “Kevin James”).
Middle names cause issues when entered in the first name field since there’s no dedicated field for them. This leads to problems with personalization, like addressing someone as “Hi James E.” or “Hi James Earl” instead of “Hi James”.
Entering middle names in the last name field affects CRM alphabetization and can be confused with a hyphenated last name. Long first or last names with a lengthy middle name cause issues when the field has character limits.
It’s best to remove middle names to avoid complications since they are not necessary. Create a dynamic list of people with a space in the first or last name fields. Delete any middle names in these fields. But make sure not to delete people with compound names such as “Mary Ann”.
Prefixes & Suffixes
- Prefixes are titles that appear before the first name, like “Mr.” or “Dr.”, and are often mistakenly entered in that field.
- Suffixes are letters or words added after a name, like “Jr.” or “PhD.”, and indicate family relationships or education/career status. Suffixes are often wrongly added to the last name field.
To solve this problem, use dynamic lists to find wrongly placed prefixes and suffixes. Then, you either remove them or create dedicated fields for them.
If you make new fields, make sure they are dropdown menus instead of text fields to ensure consistency in data entry, including punctuation and capitalization. You can also add new options to the dropdown menu for any new prefixes or suffixes you find in the future.
Prefixes and suffixes are especially important for doctors. To simplify data entry, create a rule that if “PhD.” or “MD” is entered in the suffix field, the prefix field will automatically change to “Dr.”, saving time and preventing missing information.
It’s important to respect how people want their names spelled, but accent marks often cause problems. Most American keyboards lack accent marks (e.g. é, á, ñ, œ, ü). This makes it difficult to input data and can affect search results. For instance, searching for “Jose Gonzalez” may not display results for “José González”. Also, manually copying and pasting accent marks is inconvenient.
It’s risky to assume that accent marks will display correctly for everyone because some factors like device or software cause issues. To avoid this, replace accent marks with the closest English letter. To identify records with accent marks, create a dynamic list by filtering first or last names that contain commonly used accent marks, starting with those in Spanish, French, and German. Add more as you find them.
Step 4: Additional Lists
To speed up manual checking, create additional lists of unverified people to find additional errors:
- Find people with names that have unnecessary numbers, punctuation (except for hyphenated last names), or special characters (like @, #, %).
- Identify records with identical first and last names, But they may not always be incorrect, particularly for non-English names.
- Check for records with first or last names containing only 2 or fewer letters. However, keep in mind that this may not be an error, especially for non-English names.
Step 5: Final Manual Checking
To wrap up the data cleanup process, create a dynamic list that filters only for unverified records. Although this list may be the most extensive, it is crucial to go through each person and account carefully to avoid leaving behind any incorrect or incomplete information. Once these lists are empty, the cleanup is finally over.
Email Sender Reputation
Your email sender reputation depends on factors like spam complaints, bounce rates, engagement, and unsubscribe rates. Poor email marketing practices can harm your reputation, which could cause ESPs to blacklist your IP. When this happens, your emails may not be delivered at all or could end up in the spam folder. Removing your IP from a blacklist is a very challenging and time-consuming process.
To check your email sender reputation, use free monitoring services like Sender Score or Barracuda Reputation to get started. Also, watch out for high bounce or spam rates when sending emails, as they could indicate an underlying issue.
The CAN-SPAM Act
The CAN-SPAM Act is the law that sets the rules for commercial email messages in the United States. The Canadian and EU equivalents are CASL and GDPR. Violating the CAN-SPAM Act results in fines of up to $43K+ per email, as well as potential legal action from email recipients or ISPs. Intentional violations can even lead to criminal charges and imprisonment.
7 rules to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act:
- Make sure the email header’s “From”, “To”, and “Reply-To” fields identify the sender correctly.
- Do not use deceptive subject lines.
- Clearly state that the message is an advertisement.
- Include a physical address in the email.
- Make it easy to opt-out.
- Honor opt-out requests within 10 business days.
- Keep an eye on the email marketing companies you’ve hired as both the sender and advertiser are accountable for compliance.
The CAN-SPAM Act allows adding US-based users to your mailing list or sending commercial messages without prior consent. But, sending unsolicited emails increases the likelihood of being marked as spam, even if the intention is good. It’s important to never purchase lists of people you don’t know and email them.
Regardless of the law, some CRMs, like HubSpot and Constant Contact, forbid cold emails. But others, like Mailchimp, PipeDrive, and Yesware allow them. Before you start any outbound email strategy, check with your account manager to see what your CRM’s rules are.
Engagement Is Key
To ensure email delivery success, monitor your recipient list carefully. Email service providers (ESPs) use metrics like open, click-through, and opt-out rates to assess engagement levels. A consistently low engagement level can lead to your emails being flagged as spam by ESPs.
Use double opt-in to prevent problematic emails in the CRM. Sign-ups receive a verification email to confirm their subscription, and the address won’t get any emails until they click the link. Double opt-in confirms valid user email addresses and reduces the risk of bounced emails and spam complaints.
Do Not Email List
Create a “Do Not Email” list in your CRM and add the following people after every marketing email send:
- Anyone who has marked you as spam.
- Anyone who has unsubscribed from your emails.
- Hard bounced email addresses.
- Send 1 more email to soft bounces, and if it bounces again, add to “Do Not Email List”.
- People who haven’t opened a single email in 3-6 months (depending on your email sending volume).
- Send a final email asking if they want to continue receiving emails. Add them to the “Do Not Email List” if there is no response.
Role emails like info@ or sales@ are used for specific departments in a company. But, because they are not for specific individuals and can be transferred to different employees, it’s better to add them to your “Do Not Email List.” Sending emails to role emails often cause low engagement, high bounce rates, and spam marking. Still, these emails are useful for identifying the company and researching exactly who to target.
ESPs can flag your email as spam based on subject line and body content:
- Avoid excessive capitalization and exclamation points (like “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!”).
- Include only 3-5 links in your email, depending on length and context.
- Minimize words and phrases commonly associated with spam.
- Examples: “free”, “win”, “cash”, “limited time offer”, “earn money fast”, & “buy now”.
- Don’t use phishing words such as “password”, “account”, “security”, etc.