Data Spring Cleaning; don’t just sweep it under the carpet

I was listening to the Chris Evans breakfast show the other week when he mentioned it was National Spring Cleaning Week. Who knew?

I was intrigued, and looked at the website to accompany the dust-busting initiative and discovered it was about more than simple cleaning, it provided advice on how to clear your life of physical and metaphorical clutter. On how to spring clean your finances, your body and your technology.

And the ‘technology’ aspect got me thinking about how, as marketers, we should seize ‘spring cleaning’ as an opportunity to evaluate the quantity and quality of our data. We all know the potential damage to a reputation that mailing a deceased person can cause, for example, so in not managing our data we risk anything from the unnecessary cost of postal returns to bad publicity.

A bit like cleaning houses, though, it’ll all depend on size as to whether you need help to do the data cleansing job or can do the clear-up yourself.


If you’ve only got a small amount of data then it’s probably manageable in-house. Our advice is to combine lists and collate all aspects of the data from your business into one place. We’d suggest using a customer relationship management (CRM) system rather than a spreadsheet as that can be more difficult to keep up to date.

Be quite ruthless and have a good sort through the names, and weed out those companies or single customers with whom you no longer work, and remove or update contacts who have moved on.


Use an address validation tool to test email inboxes to see whether the account is live or not. It will help both protect your servers and ensure you’re not treated as a ‘spammer’. Equally, good telephone validation ensures higher contact rates and saves call centre operators time and less complaints.


If you’ve got a substantial amount of data, you might be better off using a company that can cleanse and enhance it. Data suppression (or cleansing) refers to the process of adding, removing or editing details to ensure that data is accurate and current. It flags up or removes people who have moved house, who have died, or who have signed up to screening services.

Data enhancement goes one stage further and corrects or adds further information like telephone numbers and email addresses, and de-dupes contacts.

If you do a lot of traditional direct mailing then it might be worth asking the data management company that has spring cleaned your data to advise you on the most effective postal solution to ensure a good return on your investment (ROI). Mailing thousands of contacts without proper data cleansing effectively kisses goodbye to any ROI

Successful marketing campaigns depends on clean, accurate, standardised and accessible data. And with only a year (May 25, 2018) to go before the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into effect it might be worth doing a really deep clean this spring rather than sweeping the issue under the carpet.

To paraphrase the National Spring Cleaning week campaign: ‘Bring back the squeaky-clean surfaces and get your house into shipshape.’