In many arts organisations, customer data is one of the marketing team’s most valuable assets. Charlotte Kennedy of CCR Data explains why it’s important to keep your database up-to-date, and how to go about cleaning up the data.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Mary Hutchison
Much of the arts sector is hard-pressed for funding right now. Yet, however counter-intuitive it may seem, you sometimes have to spend some money to save some more. This can be particularly true when it comes to tidying up your customer records – something known as data cleansing.
While there is a cost associated with it, data cleansing enables you to save money on costs such as brochure distribution. It also helps increase your response rates by targeting customers at the correct address and protecting your venue’s brand by not posting to the same address multiple times, or worse – contacting deceased patrons. Every year in the UK, over 6 million people move house; half a million addresses are changed by the Royal Mail, and 600,000 people pass away.
Cleansing your database works by exporting a selection of your customer data – for example, your mailing list, your active clients, or your entire database – to a data bureau. They can then check the ‘health’ of your data by analysing and removing duplicates, those who have moved home, left your region (‘gone-aways’), or – hopefully less frequently – died.
Photo used by kind permission of Belgrade Theatre
CCR recently worked with the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, cleansing their mailing file for their August Brochure. “One of the main reasons we decided to cleanse our data was due to the number of returns we were getting from our brochure and direct mail mailings,” says Tom Jeavons, Marketing and Communications Officer at the Belgrade. “The main advantage we’ve seen from this is a greater efficiency in terms of the cost of our mailings and the percentage of active customers receiving information about a show we feel they would be interested in.
“We’d definitely advise other venues to do the same, as wastage on gone-away customer files can have such a negative impact on budgets, which are already tight in the current climate, but it also helps you to maximise your data potential for whatever show you’re currently promoting. We now have a much better database to use for future emails, direct mails and brochure mailings.”
If you’re considering cleansing your data, here are some key things to bear in mind:
Ask for a free data cleansing audit: this is the only way you will get an understanding of the true state of your database, and what kind of services you will need to get it into a fit state.
Choose a data bureau over a mailing house: unlike a mailing house, data bureaus have access to data from multiple credit agencies (such as Equifax and Experian). Therefore, with a data bureau, you will gain a much ‘deeper cleanse’, resulting in better savings further down the line.
Choose your supplier carefully: do your research and choose the supplier who best suits your needs. Ask them for testimonials or examples where they’ve helped similar organisations to yours, and don’t be afraid to check out the story by calling them up yourself.
Protect your data: it should go without saying that there is a legal requirement to protect your customer data at all times. Your supplier should provide you with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and a secure method of transferring your data to them before starting the audit.
Apply a unique ID to each record and label your fields: before sending your records to the data cleansing supplier, make sure you have all the correct fields populated in the file, such as unique ID, title, address and postcode. This prevents confusion and speeds up the process.
Don’t just mail the file: once data cleansing has been completed, make sure you import the changes into your ticketing system. This is where your unique ID field comes back into play and helps make the import easier. Your data cleansing supplier and ticketing system provider should be able to help you with this. If you use a mailing house, ensure beforehand that they will return the cleansed file back to you – otherwise you could end up cleansing the same records again in future.
Little and often: cut mailing costs and reduce wastage by cleansing your data frequently. Don’t forget that your supplier should always offer you a free data audit.
Charlotte Kennedy (@CharlotteCCR) is Business Development Executive at CCR Data Ltd.