Cleaning CRM Systems: How to Clean Your CRM Data in 7 Simple Steps

Cleaning their CRM systems should be a key responsibility for anyone managing the company's CRM. Learn all about the importance of clean CRM data and how to keep it tidy in this weeks's article. 

To keep your CRM useful, your contacts need to be consistently validated to make sure they’re up to date, accurate and error-free.

Yet every year,  37% of people change their email address and 34% have a change in job title or function. 

This is where the important practice of data cleansing comes into play to track and maintain the health of your CRM data.

"Between 10-25% of contacts in a B2B database contain errors." Zoominfo 

This is a situation where both sales and marketing teams have to work together to clean out the CRM database and make sure the information in their records is valuable and relevant to the business. 

Learn more about data collection, analysis, management, and turning insights  into action by downloading our ebook

How to clean your CRM data in 7 steps

  1. Organise your contact records
  2. Stick to a standard process
  3. Use structured data
  4. Perform a data audit
  5. Fill in the gaps
  6. Identify duplicates
  7. Use an integrated platform


Cleaning your CRM system

It’s hard to get rid of a contact when at the back of your mind there’s a voice saying, “but maybe this person will buy something someday”, cleaning crm systems and clean crm dataeven though they haven’t engaged in a few months or even years.

Some businesses might have 20,000 contacts in their CRM system of which maybe only 8,000 are people within their ideal buyer profile. The other 12,000 have probably either moved on, changed companies/jobs, or are no longer relevant to your business. 

Simple steps like organising your contact records, sticking to a standard process, using structured data, performing a data audit, filling in the gaps, identifying duplicates and using an integrated platform can help you cleanse the data in your CRM and figure out the information that is useful to you and ignore all the rest.

1. Organise your contact records

To organise your contact records, link each contact to their respective company and create a contact record for everyone you speak to (this is a complete record of all interactions with that organisation). To help you find which contacts to focus on, filter all contacts in your database based on contact owner, job title, and lead status using drop-down fields. 

Work out which contacts in your CRM database are still active and if they have incorrect data or are no longer engaging or interacting. If someone doesn’t engage with your emails, then that person isn’t necessarily someone you need in your database. 

Send emails periodically and create a list of contacts that bounce. You can then review the list and remove these email addresses. It could be that they aren’t formatted properly (accidental whitespace, unwanted characters etc.) or that your contact has changed email addresses. Next, go through your CRM and see who doesn’t fit your specific personas. Generate a list and work through whether each person is relevant. 

You don’t have to completely get rid of the data. It can be taken out of the CRM and put into a spreadsheet and stored elsewhere. It may seem difficult to remove people from your database, but in doing so, you’re enriching your valuable data and making it more relevant to your business needs. 

"Look at old deals that never closed, is the company or contact still needed? Look at the contacts who have been in your CRM for the last two or three years. Is their data still relevant?" Chris Grant, Sales Services Consultant, BabelQuest


2. Stick to a standard process

Rather than setting an annual or monthly review, analysing your CRM data should be done on an ongoing basis  Your sales and marketing teams should be cycling through the contacts and sending out emails to check if they bounce. It’s a constant process of verifying the data, generating lists and deleting contacts when necessary.

What actions are you going to take while cycling through the marketing and sales database? During this verification process ask yourself what your contacts database is for and whether the data is relevant. You must define the criteria for the right contacts to have in your CRM and whether they fit the ideal customer/buyer profile. From there, you can figure out who is interacting and determine who to get rid of and who to keep.

3. Use structured data 

Structured or standardised data makes your data easily searchable and it gives a more accurate representation of the people and companies in your database. For example, having similar job titles such as Head of Revenue, Director of Sales, Sales Director or VP of Sales can all be lumped together under one standard job role: Head of Sales. You can still keep the job title data, the job role field simply helps with a clear segmentation of the data. 

Get rid of any unstructured free form/free entry data fields which can be filled with grammatical errors and too many variations of the same answer. Using workflows and simple standard fields to fill out, such as drop-down menus, helps to improve the filtering and list segregation of your data. 

If you ever reach the point of having both unstructured and structured information stored in your CRM, then it’s a sign that your data needs cleaning. Going back to our earlier example, export and collect every job title that has anything to do with the Head of Sales role, create a job role field and then update them all to Head of Sales. 

For more on using structured data, read our latest guide ‘From Data to Insight to Action’.

4. Perform a data audit

Performing a data audit helps to identify the information you already have in your system and where it’s stored. Look at the people who are more likely to buy your product or service. Is it someone with a specific job title or from a particular industry sector?

From here you can then prioritise the data that is most valuable to your business and identify any missing gaps in the information you have. Maybe you have new prospect data that hasn’t been entered into the CRM yet?

"If you can go through your data and work out who doesn’t fit, then at that point you might have a review. Are they likely to sign off on a deal? Are they an influencer?" Chris Grant

5. Fill in the gaps

Whether you use HubSpot CRM or another system, within most contact records there are hundreds of different possible fields you could have. In a HubSpot contact record, you have three sections of information: 

  1. The data about the person and whatever you want to track about them
  2. Their timeline, which includes their activity, email clicks, websites visits, blog article readings and other interactions
  3. The company and the deals associated with them 

To identify any gaps, the first step is working out what these fields should be and making sure they’re relevant and valuable. Instead of looking at the data that would be nice to have, think about the information you actually need for each person or company in your CRM database. Otherwise, you could spend ages filling out data fields you’re never going to use. 

"If you decide what you need comes down to seven different fields, then you can work out which accounts, customers and people are missing those specific data points. From there, you can go through and figure out how you’re going to collect that data." Chris Grant

To successfully fill in the gaps, there needs to be alignment between marketing and sales. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, sticking to a standard process is going to be important. What data does the marketing team need to segregate people into different groups to do relevant personalised marketing? What data does the sales team need to get in touch with them? Build your CRM so that it’s useful for you and ignore all the rest.

6. Identify duplicates

Duplicates occur when the same copy of a record in your database is created. This could be two different entries for the same company, however, each entry has inconsistencies in their data (phone number, email address, name etc.). Manually identifying, managing and merging these duplicates can be painfully time-consuming.

Thankfully, HubSpot has a de-duplication tool which uses AI to match-up the records that look similar and then enables you to easily merge them together. For example, if there are two people in your database with the same first and last name but they have slightly different email addresses. In this case, you could remove the email address that bounces and combine the two records. 

"To get rid of a duplicate problem, do a purge. Send everyone an email in the database, see what bounces, put them on a list and delete them." Chris Grant


7. Use an integrated platform

When you do a data audit, you’ll discover that data sources can be found in places other than the CRM. This could be in spreadsheets or even in notes from a journal. The key is to pull everything together, review it all, and enter it in the CRM so it’s useful across different departments like marketing and sales.

If you have an integrated technology suite (i.e. HubSpot), then every time a lead or customer interacts with you, it creates data that’s stored in one shared space (to continue the HubSpot example, your contact’s timeline). This means that whether it’s a recorded phone call or logged emails, all that information is synced up in one place and can be accessed and analysed across the business.

Crucially, pulling all the information together and seeing everything about a customer from start to finish enables you to understand where they are in their buyer’s journey and how to better generate leads that actually close.

Need a hand with setting up or migrating your CRM?

How do you clean your CRM data?

It’s important from the start to get everything talking to each other. Without a seamless alignment between departments, the data won’t be communicated or utilised effectively. 

Define what your CRM data should be, determine what the process should look like for collection and analysis, enrich the data wherever possible and remove anything that’s redundant. It’s not just marketing — everyone benefits from good, clean data.

Keeping your CRM data clean is only one aspect to successfully executing your data-driven marketing strategy. For more on collecting and analysing data and turning your findings into actionable insights, read our latest ebook ‘From Data to Insight to Action’.

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