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Data Hygiene: Definition, Benefits, and Best Practices

Rotten data is worse than no data

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Most of us have a typical kitchen routine: In the morning, we make breakfast, cleaning up any spills or stray crumbs as we go. If the cupboard is disorganized, we readjust containers so that we can easily locate the cereal and sugar tomorrow. We remove expired milk from the fridge, instinctively knowing that it’s not something we should keep.

It’s become a habit to take care of household hygiene, but what about data hygiene? In sales, good data hygiene is just as important as good hygiene in the kitchen.

What is data hygiene?

Data hygiene is the process of keeping sales data neat, up to date, and accurate via various practices. Sales data is anything that helps the sales team. This means information about the performance of sales reps, about the sales pipeline, and about prospects or current customers.

Letting stored data get unorganized or out of date is bad data hygiene and it can bode poorly for revenue. Mistakes can happen by accident during initial entry or when a change was made while updating records, and it’s easy to miss them.

Implementing good data hygiene habits enhances the productivity of sales and marketing teams.

Why is data hygiene important?

McKinsey reports that 53% of the world’s top performing companies use data to drive revenue. Businesses hoping to follow in their footsteps should ask themselves: What is the point in implementing big data if it’s the wrong data?

According to LinkedIn, these are the top five functions sales data is used for:

  • Selecting accounts to target
  • Selecting industries to target
  • Assessing performance
  • Selecting regions to target
  • Identifying the buying committee

Poorly managed data means sales teams can’t carry out these duties to the best of their knowledge.

Data hygiene best practices

The first step in good data hygiene is recognizing how critical it is – and hooray! That’s one thing we can check off.

The rest of this should be practiced, too:

  • Audit the data

Locate existing data. Make sure the system to record, store, and analyze it is working properly. Determine which data metrics are useful to the business and whether or not there’s dirty data – in other words, outdated or incorrect data – and adjust accordingly.

  • Remove unneeded data

There’s such a thing as too much data. There’s no point in collecting or keeping data that won’t be useful for marketing or sales. This data might be customer names or contact info on official do-not-contact lists, underage consumers, or non-compliant data and should not be used or stored.

  • Be detail oriented

Examine the small details of each entry. Formats for emails or abbreviations should be standardized across the database. Standardization improves legibility and makes errors more apparent.

  • Make data hygiene a habit

Data hygiene never ends – a one-time cleanse isn’t enough. Entering data correctly and regularly reviewing the database is necessary to prevent unnecessary budget spending and to increase overall ROI.

  • Enlist a data team

The experts know best. A team of data specialists can carry out the former tasks as well as those more complicated, like merging or removing duplicates. The team can be internal or a hired third party that offers data hygiene services.

  • Use the right tools

71% of sales reps say they waste too much time on data entry when they could otherwise be selling. Sales tools that help with management, monitoring, and visibility of data save sellers time and eliminate opportunities for mistakes.

Data hygiene tools

It’s easy to say “I should keep my kitchen clean.” It’s an entirely different thing doing that, though, and it can easily become a heavy burden.

The same goes for data hygiene. That’s why there are tools that take over some of these responsibilities instead of letting them fall on the shoulders of sales reps.

Sales tools like Revenue Grid make the data hygiene process easier by incorporating automated data capture that integrates with CRM, email, and calendars. The platform auto-creates Salesforce entries and updates them with new data as it’s captured; it also auto-syncs with calendars to log meetings to Salesforce.

Revenue Grid also tackles the data visibility challenge with a dashboard of real-time pipeline metrics and even a dashboard for sales leaders showing team analytics, performance metrics, and individual sales activities.

Data hygiene vs. data cleansing

Most of those in sales have heard the term “data cleanse” at some point, but what exactly is the difference between data cleansing and data hygiene?

To put this back in household terms, imagine going about your business at home doing minimal chores. You put the dishes in the sink but don’t wash them. You hose down the shower but never scrub it. In a month, the house is going to be filthy.

After not managing chores – or data – for a while, you need a big cleanse; in contrast, cleaning up as you go and preventing messes is akin to good data hygiene.

Both include detecting and removing outdated or incorrect data. Yet you can’t rely on just data cleansing. Data cleansing regularly is only one part of good data hygiene.

Data cleansing process

A data cleans is a great first step toward implementing good data hygiene. For a company in need of a data cleanse, there are several main steps to carry out:

1. Find and clean up duplicate data

2. Delete outdated or irrelevant data

3. Filter unwanted data to prevent mistakes and duplicates

4. Complete missing data by inputting values or merging if applicable

5. Standardize formats for fields and naming conventions to keep data uniform

6. Finally, validate your data and data collection parameters to ensure quality

Get clean and stay clean

Armed with a deep understanding of data hygiene, it’s time to explore the business data hygiene options and techniques mentioned in this article. After all, a well-planned data hygiene strategy strengthens sellers’ customer knowledge and reduces wasteful spending, thereby improving return on investment.

Go to your data hygiene journey with Revenue Grid

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