Tips for a Clean Database[dropcap]T[/dropcap]
here is a common misconception among dealers that their biggest asset is their inventory. In fact, your customer database is your greatest asset. If you don’t have a customer base, you can’t sell your inventory! Despite this, many dealers have neglected their customer database. How can you avoid this costly mistake?
Clean and maintain your database! Here are some key steps to follow:
• Back up your existing data. Data can be damaged or lost during the cleansing process, make sure to start by backing up what you have. This also provides a reference point for comparison once the cleanse is done.
• De-duplicate it. Many databases have duplicates due to nicknames, misspellings, etc. For example, you have Jim Smith, James Smith, and Jimmy Smith in your database, all with the same address, phone number, and email. Your database is counting this customer 3 times, and you’re sending him 3 emails or direct mail pieces. By de-duping, or combining these records, you’re not only helping clean your database, but saving money when marketing to this customer.
• Check for address and email changes: By running your data through the National Change of Address (NCoA) database, you’re able to update addresses of customers who have moved. If you’re sending direct mail, this could save you thousands by not marketing to customers who are no longer in your area. While addresses are nice to have, the modern focus is capturing email addresses. Via a process called email append, we are able to update email addresses that have changed, are unused or were never captured in the first place.
By now you should have a cleaner database than you started with. You should be able to mail and email customers with a higher contact rate since you’re now communicating to the proper customers, via the proper communication method and with, hopefully, the right message. The next steps are about diving deeper into your data and maintaining it going forward.
• Audit your data: Examine the sources feeding your database to ensure they’re providing you with proper information. Remember, garbage in, garbage out. If internal staff is entering data, proper training is key for consistent data entry. Another step during the audit stage is to examine customers’ lifecycles. Not only is this a great exercise to do during the database cleanse, but also it helps pinpoint a great target set of customers to communicate with. By learning where certain customers are with reference to their sales, service or F&I lifecycles, you have the ability to spot exactly with whom you need to communicate and to determine the proper message. There is no need to send a communication to a customer to sell them a car if they just bought one last week. This will save you a lot of time and money on marketing because; let’s face it, that’s the goal, right?
• Maintain your data: You’ve just spent considerable time and possibly money to achieve a clean database. Don’t let it go to waste by abandoning it for another five years. Set up a process to continually clean the data, train data entry staff, and update address and email address records. Databases are continually changing, so your effort to keep quality data cannot stop.
Finally, be patient. Cleaning your database is an art, not a science. It will take some time and learning along the way. A clean database doesn’t happen overnight. But with some help, you could have a clean database that will generate greater sales with less effort by approaching the right customers in the right way. Remember, customers, not inventory, are your greatest asset.
If you have questions about database management, please contact one of our professionals today.
About the Author: Derc Teschler
Derc has been in the world of automotive for over 8 years with experience in targeted data marketing. He has worked with hundreds and hundreds of dealerships throughout North America on a consultative level to help increase sales and service at all levels of dealership management. Derc has also held leadership roles in established companies as well as been part of multiple startup ventures. He is currently the President of Dealer121.