From confusion to clarity: How to use historical data in the right way

2 Aug, 2017
4 Min Read Dan Ward

From confusion to clarity: How to use historical data in the right way


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Ask any implementation partner and they’ll tell you that data import is one of the most critical steps in a CRM project. But how do you know which data is worth importing? Just because CRMs are capable of storing and collating huge amounts of information, doesn’t mean that you should.  Overloading a CRM platform with every sales and marketing record ever created is not always beneficial. In fact, when it comes to importing historical data, it pays to remember that not all data is created equal.

Let’s look at the types of historical data you can import into a typical CRM:

  • Leads: prospective company names, contact details, sales stage information and associated product details

  • Accounts: current customer details, purchase history, origin of leads

  • Contacts: previous and potential customer databases

  • Campaigns: sales and marketing campaign information

  • Tasks: day to day sales, marketing and customer service tasks

You may have tens of thousands of customer records dating back 20 years. But is it really necessary to import them all?

Here are a few rules to follow when importing data into your new CRM system.

1. Start with the basics

Customer names and contact details are obvious. They are the cornerstone of any effective CRM system, and it is from this data that you can start to attribute tangible information to each customer file and build more meaningful relationships. Contact details are likely spread across numerous databases including previous, current and future prospects. Don’t be too concerned about double ups, as most CRM platforms can easily tag these and alert you to duplications which you can fix later.

2. Choose quality over quantity

Before you import certain fields or data sets, think about the quality of that data in terms of how your customer service, sales and marketing staff will use it. How often do they use it now? And if you locked it away, never to be seen again, would anyone even notice? This is a good litmus test for determining if information is of value, and whether it will help or hinder those using your CRM who need fast access to the most relevant customer information possible.

3.  Set time barriers

Data dating back five years is relevant. These contact details, purchase patterns and sales notes are most likely to represent your customers in their present state, which ensures your CRM creates accurate personal profiles. But think back to where you were 10 or 15 years ago – your needs, wants, likes, dislikes and general taste in products and services have likely changed a lot. By importing data from over a decade ago, you run the risk of making misrepresentations about what your customers are like today, and confusing sales staff who need to quickly and easily ascertain who a customer is, and what they’re most likely seeking.

4. Do a sample test first

Don’t go gung-ho and import every single list from your company into your CRM. Instead, take the time to scrub it down and choose the best, most relevant information to import. Then, select a sample and do a test. Though most CRMs are intuitive to use, you need to have an understanding of how your data correlates with the way the data is organised in the CRM. If you don’t, you could end up with missing data or data that winds up in the wrong places. Because your CRM is only as good as the data that drives it, the way you set up your CRM from the start will have long-term effects on its ability to thrive and serve you properly in creating deeper, more meaningful relationships with your customers.

This is why it’s important to work in tandem with your CRM implementation partner, who can help you decide which information to import and how best to import it. They do countless CRM implementations each year and will be able to walk you through the process by analysing your environment, understanding your short and long-term needs, and guiding you towards success. To learn more about how to get the most out of your CRM, download our whitepaper: Digital Trends 2017: Harnessing data to build customer intimacy across the lifetime.

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