Data Quality

Enhance the value of your data through data cleansing

Organizations rely on data to make big decisions about business strategy, product features, marketing programs, budget allocation, and much more. Since data powers a company’s direction, inaccurate data can lead to substantial losses. Eric Niebergall, Sr. Sales Engineer, explains how to keep data clean.

Eric Niebergall
Senior Director, Sales Engineering

Eric Niebergall is our resident data processing expert. Having been with Data Axle since 1993, Eric brings a wealth of insight, thought leadership, and best practices to the direct marketing industry. As Director of our Data Processing products, Eric oversees all operational aspects of our clients' data processing needs.


How do you define data cleansing and what are the stages of the data cleansing process?

Data cleansing is the collective process designed to keep data accurate and clear of corrupt or incomplete records. Data cleansing consists of data hygiene, augmenting/enhancing, and duplicate identification.

Data hygiene can encompass direct mail (name and physical address), email, and phone number.

Direct Mail:
Did you know that on average, companies will waste $180,000 on undeliverable direct mail?1 For direct mail hygiene, companies should invest in address standardization, CASSTM, NCOALink®, DSF®, and flagging against common pander suppression files such as deceased, prison addresses, do not mail (DMA), etc.

For email, there is a “ping” process that lets you know if an email address is a hard bounce, suspect, or DMA. At this step, companies can also turn to their provider to update email addresses that have been identified as a hard bounce. Email hygiene is especially important for good email deliverability, as it helps protect a company’s IPs from blocks and blacklists which damage sender reputation and result in a company’s emails landing in recipients’ spam folders or not making it to their inboxes altogether.

Every hour, roughly 872 telephone numbers will disconnect, which makes phone hygiene especially important. Phone hygiene includes phone standardization, phone verification, and phone append. This can be done to landlines or mobile numbers.


Data augmentation simply means filling in the blanks, to ensure that records are complete. For example, if a customer record is missing an email or phone number, a data partner such as Data Axle, could append the missing information. If the customer record was missing a name or physical address, the existing email or phone number could be used to perform a reverse append to get the name and address and complete that record.

Enhancement means matching and appending third party data to a company’s own customer and/or prospect file. For B2C companies, this means appending demographics such as gender, age, location, marital status, presence of children, income, home value, and many more.
On the B2B side, data enhancement would provide variables such as company size, business type, revenue, SIC Code, and much more.

Duplicate identification means identifying duplicate records at the individual/household level for consumer records and individual/site for business records.


What are the 3 biggest benefits of regular data cleansing?

Whether your goal is acquisition or retention, having a solid foundation of clean and actionable data is paramount to any successful marketing campaign.

More effective campaigns and higher conversion rates
A recent Forrester and Data Axle study found that when using accurate and actionable data, marketing organizations saw their ROI more than double. This translates to an estimated average yearly increase of $104 million in marketing-driven revenue for the average enterprise of 500+ employees. In the same study respondents reported achieving more than double the conversion rate when using accurate data to power campaigns, as compared to campaigns powered by unverified data.

A holistic view of your customer
Companies need to know who their audience is as a whole, as opposed to a “match” against individual attributes. By considering a consumer’s complete profile when developing and communicating their message, marketers can build an emotional connection with their audiences, which translate into increased loyalty and better lifetime value.

Better personalization
In both B2B and B2C marketing, buyers expect a personalized experience. A Data Axle study found that personalized subject lines in email campaigns boost open rates by 50% and drive a 58% higher click-to-open rate (CTO) than non-personalized ones. Personalized subject lines may seem straightforward, but they require accurate data to be effective. A customized email subject line can feature various data points about the recipient: their name, location, birth date, a previously purchased item, a new product that is relevant to them, their zodiac sign, and so much more.


How often should data be cleansed?

Data cleansing should be done on a quarterly basis. This is my typical recommendation when balancing cost and frequency of cleansing. However, every organization has different needs and resources. Depending on the type and cadence of marketing campaigns, an organization might need data cleansing as frequently as daily and as infrequently as semi-annually.


What are the consequences of not cleansing data regularly?

Lost money
According to IBM, bad data costs U.S companies three trillion dollars per year and a study by Gartner has found that most organizations surveyed estimate they lose $14.2 million dollars annually as a result of poor data quality.2

Less effective campaigns
A clean customer/prospect file is the foundation of any business objective or marketing program. If your customer file is dirty and out-of-date, that will affect the performance of any marketing program or the effectiveness of any business intelligence that comes from it.

Dirty data means you won’t be able to create a 360-degree view of the customer and will lose out on the opportunity to build a lasting connection.

Inaccurate data means poor personalization. With 79% of organizations that exceed revenue goals reporting that they have a documented personalization strategy, you can’t afford to ignore this pivotal marketing program component.3

Let’s break down the consequences by channel:

Direct Mail
On average, companies will waste $180,000 annually on undeliverable direct mail as a result of wasted printing and postage costs.

Repeatedly emailing invalid or inactive email addresses results in poor inboxing rates, low sender reputation, budget waste, and loss of opportunity. It signals to the email provider that you are sending mass messages carelessly which can result in emails being blocked by ISPs.

It takes an average of 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect.4 If your sales team doesn’t have the correct phone number, they can’t establish this crucial point of contact. It’s a waste of the reps’ time and a waste of resources.


What should I look for when selecting a solution provider?

You should be working with a service provider that, first and foremost, has many years of experience in cleansing and augmenting customer or prospect data. They should offer a full range of capabilities, not have to outsource any piece of the puzzle, offer the option to test their data for free, and be transparent and up-front about their processes, data sources and pricing.

For more guidance on selecting a data partner that will fit your needs, use our vendor selection worksheet or get in touch for more information on how we cleanse data.


Data Axle is a non-exclusive Licensee of the USPS® (United States Postal Service®) to provide Full Service NCOALink® processing, ZIP + 4® Coding and DPV and DSF2® services.