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When having a sales conversation with any new prospect, some of the first questions we’ll always ask are about the quality of their contact data.

  • Where has their contact data come from?
  • When was their contact data last cleansed?
  • How is their contact data tagged/segmented?
  • Where does their contact data live?

It’s surprising how often even large agencies and brands come back with some pretty unexpected responses.

Don’t worry, we’ll ask the sales reps to download it from their iPhones

We use Google Sheets/Excel/Outlook (delete as appropriate) as our CRM – it’s all in there

Don’t worry, we’ve just employed a new guy, and he managed to download all his clients from his ex-employer before he left” (seriously, we have had this conversation!)

Let’s be clear, alongside your content, data is the bedrock of your marketing automation strategy.  Bad contact data means bad targeting, and bad targeting means that no matter how great your marketing is, it’s falling on deaf ears and your sales will suffer.

Sales and marketing departments lose approximately 550 hours and as much as $32,000 per sales rep from using bad data (DiscoverOrg)

So, with that in mind, what does good data management look like (clue – it isn’t the three example above)

1. Good data is clean data.

The fastest, easiest and cheapest data hygiene exercise you can carry out is to run your existing contact data through a third party validation tool like Neverbounce.  Neverbounce will then flag your records as either…


A valid email address has been verified as a real email that is currently accepting mail. 

These are good contacts – feel free to email!


An invalid email address has been verified as a bad recipient address that does not exist or is not accepting mail. Invalid emails will result in a bounce.

DON’T SEND – These emails do not exist and are not safe for sending.


Disposable emails are temporary accounts used to avoid using a real personal account during a sign-up process. Common providers of disposable emails include Mailinator, Guerilla Mail, AirMail, and 10 Minute Mail.

DON’T SEND – These emails are fake or temporary emails and are not safe for sending.

Accept All (Unverifiable)

This is also known as an “catch all”. This is a domain-wide setting where all emails on this domain will be reported as an “accept all”. There is no definitive way to determine whether this email is valid or invalid.

Unfortunately, if you’re buying contact data (which we don’t recommend) you’ll find a lot of that data falls into this category.  The seller, who proudly proclaims “zero bounce rate!” is covered, as the contact won’t technically be invalid so won’t bounce, but more often that not, when you dig into the detail (AKA a Linkedin search), you’ll find that your contact has moved on.

We don’t recommend using accept all emails.


Neverbounce are unable to definitively determine this email’s status. This email appears to be OK, however the domain and/or server is not responding to their requests. This may be due to an issue with their internal network or expired domain names. Unknown addresses are checked up to 75 times before this result code is given.

We don’t recommend using UnKnown emails.

2. Good data is fresh data

Here’s where some tough love comes in handy. 

Take a look at your contact database.  Look at your email open and engagement rates.

Tell me, what percentage of your contacts haven’t opened an email in the last 6 months?  12 months? ever?

So why do you keep sending to them?

Repeatedly sending out emails to disengaged recipients isn’t only bad for your brand, it also plays havoc with your domain reputation, and therefore your campaign deliverability.

Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook etc. all look at your campaign’s past performance to determine whether your emails should go into the primary inbox, promotions, or even the dreaded spam folder.   

Once you’re there, it’s hard enough to get out (we can help you with that by the way), but to keep on sending emails to a user’s spam folder?  Well, you’re just asking for trouble.

Our advice? 

Just accept what the email subject is telling you, and stop sending them email.  Add them to an exclusion filter or suppression list and call it a day.  If this idea really scares you, allow yourself one final farewell email, with a call to action that they can click if they want to stay on board for the ride.  Just don’t be disappointed if no one clicks it!

3. Good data is tidy data

Yes, we know, you can have tidy data sitting in an Excel spreadsheet, but when we say tidy, what we really mean in multi-layered, relational databases that recognise different data hierarchies, such as contacts, organisations and deals, all sitting in one central location.  

Sound familiar?

Yup.  We’re talking good old fashioned CRMs folks (and no, Excel is NOT a CRM!).  

So, which CRM do we recommend?

Well, Salesforce is awesome at enterprise level, but in 99% of cases, it really is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and all that complexity comes at a cost, both with your license fees, but also resource (whether that be your in-house team, or expensive outsourced consultants).

At the other end of the scale you have Hubspot CRM, which is free to basic users and easy to get up and. running.  The challenge with Hubspot is when you want to start doing more with the tool, and things suddenly start to go from free to very expensive, really quickly.

So, where’s the middle ground?

We’ve found that Pipedrive hits most of the nails on the head here.  It’s powerful, good value for money (just shy of £25 a month per user), and when you’re on the pro-tier, it comes with all the workflow automation tools you need to ensure efficient CRM processes are maintained. 

In fact, we like Pipedrive so much, we use it as our own CRM, and we’ve even signed up as Pipedrive partners (so heads up, the link above is an affiliate link).

All of the above mentioned CRM’s have Zapier integrations available, so using our CRM playbooks we can integrate Kulea’s powerful marketing automation capabilities into your CRM of choice with little or no fuss.

4. Good data is rich data

Putting it plainly, if you only know someone’s forename, surname and email address, it simply isn’t good enough.

Rich data enables you to target and segment your communications better, to ensure you’re delivering relevant messaging that converts clients. 

So, what level of data enrichment should you be aspiring to?

  1. Comprehensive CRM data. There are literally hundreds of data enrichment tools out there that will take an email address, and enrich it with comprehensive CRM information such as Twitter handles, Linkedin profiles, job titles etc. We recommend Clearbit (market leader but quite expensive) and FullContact as starting points.  Both have native Zapier integrations, and both provide a huge array of data enrichment options.

  2. Behavioural data. Do you know what pages your prospects are looking at on your website, what PDF’s they’ve been downloading, or what links they’ve been clicking in your emails?  No.  Well, you should!

    Behavioural data, also known as implicit data or intent data, is essential for understanding which leads provide the greatest opportunity.  A lead that’s been looking at your pricing page is a lot more likely to convert, for instance, than one that’s only been looking at your home page. Marketing automation tools like Kulea help you to better understand this intent data, enabling you to prioritise your sales team’s time. Behavioural data is also the key driver behind…

  3. Lead score data. Once you’re able to track your lead’s online behaviours, you can begin to score them based on that activity.  Marketing automation platforms like Kulea then enable you to automate follow up communication sequences, CRM updates and sales alerts off the back of lead score thresholds being reached and breached.  Kulea even allows you to tag lead scores, so you can create a fuller profile of how each lead score is assigned, for deeper sales analysis and insight.

5. Good data is unified data

Often, the single source of truth for a business is their CRM.  Data can enter the CRM through multiple sources, such as inbound enquiries, sales team prospecting, booking reservation tools, ecommerce websites etc, and that data should then be consolidated into a single rich record within the CRM. 

That[‘s the theory, anyway, however reality tends to be a bit messier, with CRM’s limited in their ability to “talk” to different solutions and ingest different data formats.  In situations like these, there are three options.

  1. Accept the limitations.  Rarely is there such a thing as a perfect single source if truth.  There will always be gaps in your prospect/customer knowledge, so rather than trying to tie up every loose knot, work on the Pareto Principle and accept that 20% of your data will provide 80% of the benefits, a focus on that 20%.

  2. Unify what you can. ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) tools like Zapier enable you to amend and enrich data as it’s passed from one solution to another through their Utilities functions.  This comes in really handy for unifying your data into a single standardised format, within a single standardised solution (usually your CRM)

  3. Use a third party tool to get your house in order. These days it’s (relatively) easy to upload multiple data sources into a business Intelligence tool like Tableau

    Whilst Tableau isn’t a CRM, its data visualisation and manipulation capabilities provide a powerful business solution for unifying data.  In fact, when we clean and unify data for our clients, our go to tool is always Tableau.  It’s not one for beginners, so we’d recommend talking to the professionals, but once your data is ship shape, it can be loaded back into your CRM for use by your sales and marketing teams

Finally, if you’re suffering from duplicate records, then we should probably mention that on average, it costs about $1 to prevent a duplicate, $10 to correct a duplicate, and $100 to store a duplicate if left untreated (SiriusDecisions).

Whilst CRM tools will do their best to match records to prevent duplication, and marketing automation tools like Kulea use email address as a unique identifier to mitigate the risk, no one solution is perfect (mainly down to human error and mis-inputting of data). 

We could write another full blog article on deduplication best practice, but we won’t as there are already some pretty good ones out there.  

6. Good data is legally compliant data

We know, we know, GDPR is old news.  Except it isn’t, because it’s as relevant today as it was in 2018, so let’s clear up a few misnomers about GDPR.

  1. Your data doesn’t have to be opted in.  You are perfectly within your rights to source and use third party data, including (and we hate to say this), bought data.  That’s not to say we advise rushing out and buying a load of data off dodgy Dave the date broker (we don’t, we definitely don’t!), but from a legal perspective, you can quite ‘legitimately’ claim legitimate interest as your tenant for for storing and processing data.  Just make sure your data processes and policy are clearly defined and documented.

  2. It’s not your data. We know it’s sitting on your database, or in your marketing automation platform, but the data itself belongs to the data subject. 

    If it’s about them, they own it, and you’re only looking after it for them. 

    This means that if they want to update it, delete it, export it, or do anything else with it for that matter, then legally, you must allow them to do so, and you need to make it easy for them – see https://ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/your-right-to-get-copies-of-your-data

    Fortunately, Kulea comes with a self serve Subject Access Request capability then allows data subjects to do all of the above, without you touching a thing.  We can’t vouch for other solutions though, so make sure to interrogate your email/marketing/CRM provider.

  3. If you don’t need it, you can’t have it.  Let’s say you’re a pizza delivery company.  You can absolutely legitimately argue the case for holding a customer’s phone number and delivery address, as you need this data to do business with the customer.

    But if you were storing information about how much the customer tips, how expensive the car parked in their drive is, or the supposed value of their property, then this could be illegal as that data bears no relation to the sales and services that you offer

  4. It’s not yours forever.  Going back to our point about keeping your data fresh, you can only hold a person’s data for a legitimate period of time.  If you’ve sold them a pencil, it’s not legitimate to hold their data for thirty years.  However, if you have sold them a car, you could legitimately argue that it’s reasonable to hold their data for the lifetime of that car, and beyond.  Whatever your justification, make sure it’s clearly documented.

  5. It’s not global. Whilst it’s almost too easy to send data from one location to another these days, doing so could actually break GDPR law.

    Different countries outside the EU have different approaches to data security and use, and if you’re passing data through those countries, even if only in transit, you need the approval of the data subject to do so. 

    In practice, what this means is you’ll need to audit third parties that process your data (known as a data processor), and clearly identify and document where that data is being processed.

Of course, we’re not lawyers and therefore none of the above constitutes legal advice (sorry!), and we’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg of the mountain that is GDPR. We’d therefore recommend as a next step heading over to the ICO guide to data protection to get fully up to speed on the subject.  

And with that final disclaimer, we wish you a good day – do drop us a line if you have any concerns or questions about your sales and marketing data.

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