I met someone recently who was waxing lyrical about their database.  It had 1,000’s of prospects on it.  On checking when it was last checked for accuracy, and whether it contained “do not contact” records, it appeared it might have been more than 4 years ago, and anyone who had said “do not contact me” had been removed… but there was no record of who had asked not to be contacted again.  I started to question what was so great about this database?


  • Government figures for the year 2017 – 2018 show 12% of companies dissolve each year,
  • According to Corpdata , they can show that, on average, organisational decision makers change every 20 months.
  • Over 93,000 people of working age died in the UK in 2018
  • The impact of this is that roughly, the contact details for one in 5 organisations and well over half of decision makers change each year. 
  • The other factor is our own businesses change.  Last year’s ideal customer may no longer be fit for purpose.  If the database is full of poor prospects, the database is useless.


If you don’t have standard protocols for how records are entered in to the data, your database could contain duplicates, and these pose a risk. GDPR says data subjects have an absolute right to object to direct marketing.  Failing to find all of the records associated with a request for removal could cause a loss of reputation , or a complaint, and even a report to the Information Commissioner, which may leave to them taking an interest in your company.

Failing to keep data in one central place will mean different departments are communicating to customers without using the most up to date data.  For example, the sales team may find out that an important contact has died, and they update their data.  But then accounts send the normal monthly invoice to this customer, from the accounts system.  This is insensitive and can cause poor goodwill.


1. Consistent input

Make sure rules are in place for how data is inputted.  It will help ensure duplicates are not missed, or sorting by value is accurate.  For example, phone numbers.  Our number could be 01904 215040, (01904) 215040 or +44 (1904) 215040.  Miss out the space and there are even more possibilities!

2. Abbreviations

Similar logic and rules apply to how words can be changed.  Road becomes Rd, Street becomes St, or is it Saint?  Agree with anyone entering new data the applicable rules.  Our advice would be to avoid abbreviations, and enter words in full.

3. First name, Surname

So many times we find data with both the first name and surname in one cell.  This will ruin a mail merge, or a data sort exercise.  Also, people cut and paste surname into first name, and vice versa.   Our advice is always to use two defined fields or cells for both the first and last name.

4. Link everything

Use one central source for your data. One change in the central place will then systematically update all other data sources that are being used.  A CRM system can be used, or a master excel list.

5. Training

All parts of the business need to understand the importance of data accuracy.  Delivery drivers (for example) will get to hear about changes to the data, or will be able to comment on the validity of the data.  GDPR now places even more emphasis on the business to keep their data up to date from all company representatives.

6. Protect it and make it recoverable

Make sure the data is secure, and is protected by a strong password.  Do not let the data to be copied unless there is a good reason and make sure the data is backed up, remotely.


If you are updating your database, it can be a simple verification call.  This investment in time though can pay off.  If you actually speak to the customer or prospect, you could turn the call into a feedback or sales call.  This approach, whilst effective, can be time consuming or expensive, particularly if the database is large and has not been tackled for a long time.

Another approach is to match and update your database to one that you know to be accurate and up to date via a GDPR compliant data supplier.   They often offer a “match and update” process.

In terms of frequency, a six monthly update is recommended.


Your database is the heart of your business.  It keeps the company healthy and helps pump information to various parts of the business to help it function.  Look after it, constantly!!  Any other top tips welcome.

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