Data is the building block of all decisions in business, or at least it should be! However, this relies entirely on the ability to be able to store and maintain it properly. CRMs are very handy for this and can make life a hell of a lot easier.

If you want to learn more about CRM’s and what it is you should be looking for, before delving into the world of Data within them, then check out our blog; ‘What is a CRM?’. If you are confident in your CRM setup to date, then let’s crack on.

So, why is data so important exactly?

Well, the answer is that it informs every decision that’s made within business. If you are trying to decide what to do for your next ad campaign, then why not use the data from the previous ones to compare which ones performed best and why; then you can see what makes the best delivering ad. Same goes for an email campaign; to find out which ones had the best open and click through rates, all you have to do is look through the data reports and then build on the best ones to create your hardest hitting campaign yet.

‘Data’ is a bit of a nebulous term so we need to narrow down what we mean by it exactly before going on to talk about some good practices for data management in the setting of a CRM. This will provide a bit more of an overview of data.

Data Within a CRM

Realistically you want as much data as possible within your CRM; all relevant to your contacts, sales and marketing efforts. This obviously includes all required contact details such as name, email and phone number, but also includes many other bits of useful information gathered pertinent to your business, such as web page views, purchase information and signing up dates. All of this extra data gives you insights into what your customers look like and how they act, which means that you’re able to target and sell much more effectively.

A good example of this would be if you ran a property rental company, where you would store your contacts basic information along with other details such as tenancy start and end dates, number of housemates and more. Having tenancy start and end dates helps you send scheduled emails based on this timeframe, reminding them of payments, sorting the next bit of accommodation or renewing or how to sort and split bills between housemates. All of this makes contact with your customers much easier.

Another big plus of gathering lots of information about your contacts is that it allows you to personalise every bit of communication that you have with them. CRMs and emailing tools will often be able to automatically insert contacts names and various other bits of information into any or all outgoing communications, improving customer experience as a whole. If a potential customer lives in a different country to where your business is based, you want your CRM to recognise this based on input information and therefore send any outreach to them in line with their timezone. Personalisation helps to mask generic and bulk emails at the end of the day. The data you have makes them feel more valued as a customer.

Good Practice with Storing Data

Below is a list of some really handy tips and tricks to make your CRM data life much easier;

Only collect what you actually need.

This is one of the simplest but most important things to remember when collecting data. This really helps cut down on clutter within your CRM and having to spend time sifting through everything you have stored, trying to find the right bits to measure or run reports on.

Another simple thing to remember to save you a lot of time and headaches, is to use a standard naming system that clearly states what each section of data is. For example, ‘First.Name’ is very clearly meant to store a contact’s first name. ‘Tenancy.Start.Date’, ‘Deposit.Paid’ or ‘House.Size’ would be other good examples of clearly labelled fields, over perhaps ’Date’, ‘Amount’ or ‘Ppl’, which are too general and will most likely become confusing 6 months down the line when the number of fields have grown significantly.

If you use a standard naming system then there’s no real chance of forgetting where a piece of data goes and there’s no chance of accidentally storing a piece of data in the wrong area (which can cause a whole host of problems).

Have a standard data management process for everyone who will be using the CRM.

Don’t just stop at standardising your naming practices; having a clearly defined workflow and process means that everyone in the team knows exactly where and how to store each piece of data. They will also know how to then access and use this data for your sales or marketing efforts. This includes punctuation! We recommend leaving punctuation out completely, as it’s much easier to forget or misplace punctuation, which can result in duplicate data or no results for your search. Also, you should decide from the start if you’re going to be using abbreviations or not, and then stick with your decision.

Implement basic rules for your team to use or ‘Standard Operating Procedures’.

These are very handy to have in place to make sure everyone is operating on the same page. Check out more on this below. An example would be if a contact needs to be manually entered into your CRM, it should be standard practice for whomever is inputting the contact to make sure that they search for them first within the system to make sure that they’re not creating a duplicate.

Speaking of duplicates, you want to avoid them as much as possible.

It’s good practice to not just delete one of them! Make sure that you have double checked they are the same contact by using a unique identifier such as a phone number or email address. Then see what data is on both and merge the contacts rather than delete one of them. This helps to keep your data complete and uncluttered. If you’re unsure about a duplicate then just ask the contact owner (the member of your team who input the data will likely be logged against the contact) about it to see if it actually requires any action to be taken.

Try to automate as much of the data collection and entry into your CRM as possible.

This saves your team having to do a boring, mundane task that could result in human error. If you are careful with building the automation, then you should have no problems from data being in the wrong spot or missing from a key contact.

Manage your tags!

One of the most tempting things to do within your CRM is to use tags for everything. They’re nice and visible and pretty modular so what’s the harm right? Well, as nice as it is at the start, you will soon find that they build up and become a problem. You’ll lose track of what they refer to or why you even have them there. This is because tags are so modular, you can have anything in them which means that you will put anything in there. We’ve learned this the hard way ourselves and now know that it’s best to create tags for short snippets of information only, that are actually useful to see straight away or don’t really fit into a custom field. This way your data will be much more succinct and tidy.

Backup your data.

Backing up your data every now and then is always a good idea. Pretty much every CRM that you use will be stable but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Do a full data export occasionally and clearly name the file with the date etc so that if the worst were to ever happen and the data was lost from your CRM, then you can go back to the most recent version saved. It is a bit of a dooms-day planning feeling, but it never hurts to be prepared and you’ll thank us if anything did happen.

Remember to prioritise data.

Ask yourself what is most important to see first and make sure that it’s easily visible for your team. It’s also wise to make sure that you have documentation showing where data is coming from and being stored. This really helps if you need to change a workflow or need to be GDPR compliant (there is more on this below). Furthermore, only give access to those who actually need it! Only a few people need full admin access to your CRM, so don’t go giving it to everyone as this can create some mix-ups from individuals, changing parts that don’t need changing. It’s inevitable.

Be GDPR compliant.

In the theme of data backups and storage, if you operate somewhere with GDPR rules, make sure that you know what’s allowed and what isn’t. We would recommend heading to ‘GDPR Explained’ here as they do a really good job of explaining GDPR in nice, easy to digest, chunks instead of needing to read through a large dossier. Being GDPR compliant with all your data collection and storage is paramount as if you violate it, which can easily happen accidently too, then you can cause a very hefty fine which can really impact your business. Make sure you know what data is being stored and where!

Get Your Team On-Board

The team using and updating the data within your CRM is really what’s going to make or break it. Making sure that everyone is on the same page is your top priority. You can do this by making some documentation for them to go through to see what practices to use and how to use your CRM of choice. These are referred to as SOP’s or ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ and there are loads of examples online on how to put them together and where to start with them. They definitely do make a difference if used correctly and in fact, writing the necessary documents will even help your understanding of your data and CRM. You’ll soon discover if there are any parts that you need to brush up on.

As a business owner or Director, it is important to keep your team in the loop about any changes that might be happening within your business that might affect your CRM or data collection, so that there’s no confusion. Be open to holding team meetings about how to use or store the data in question. Having ‘super-short’ update meetings on data management or any changes, new practices or reminders is a solid idea as it rules out team members missing an important email and leaves everyone in the know.

Final Words

So there we have it; keep your CRM data clear, standard, tracked and accessible at all times and you should have no problems. Newer CRMs often have features for making data management much easier in-built as standard, so it’s not too hard to get it going.

Good luck!

If you have any questions regarding what you’ve read, please get in touch for a chat. We are always happy to help. Jan’s the man for questions regarding CRMs, so why not start by emailing him;

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