Krampus torments a business owner who
ran a business on crap data in 2012

  • high bounce rates on e-newsletters
  • vital data sprinkled across multiple sources
  • commission payments were wrong
  • mail sent to out-of-state clients for local events
  • unable to follow-up with major donors

Grüß von Krampus

With Christmas behind us, there’s a new year ahead of us to be naughty or nice with our data. Will Santa visit you with gifts in 2013 or will Krampus come pull your ears and thrash you with birch switches?

What can we do to avoid Krampus next year?

#1 Face Up Any Data Challenges

I recently talked with Productivity Consultant Jenny Dombroski and she explained that disorganization costs money. Stacks of paper, non-existent processes, and unopened mail have monetary consequences. She deals with the physical realm and I am in the digital realm—both of us clearing the path between clients and their objectives.

Let’s look at a scenario:

Project: Direct Mail Marketing Campaign
# of Contacts: 2500
Expected # of new customers: 3% = 75
Average transaction: $300
Potential gain from the mailing: $22,500

A lot of businesses can’t do that mailing because their lists are a mess. Beyond mailings, some crap data can invite lawsuits because contractual agreements can’t be met. It’s also difficult to answer important questions if you can’t access it easily.

None of this is surprising, yet it’s easy to avoid (until it hurts really bad)? Why?

Some business owners suspect that a good data clean-up is a painful affair: at best it’s hours of cut-&-paste, at worst, it’s accidental deletion of the whole shebang.

Stop it! There are solutions. But we have to ask questions first.

#2 Ask Questions & Ask For Help

First, what do you need from your data? Get clear about what you need to know and want to know from your data.

Next, ask about ways to get your data tightened up. There are solutions that don’t involve laborious cut-&-paste.

r-VLOOKUP testimonial screenshot

Excel’s VLOOKUP can be used to compare and complete sets of data instantly. One business owner sent 2 people to a quiet place over 2 days to do what a skilled person can do in 30 minutes. They obviously determined that the clean-up was paramount [applause applause!] but they went the painful error-prone route.

The Facebook screenshot (to the right) shows how someone saved an hour of time on a repetitive task because of a simple VLOOKUP.

#3 Get Your Data Cleaned and Organized

Whether you do cut-&-paste or hire someone to scrub your data, get it clean. Develop the apps that you need to simplify your data management. Build dashboards into your spreadsheets.

Again, ask questions. Also, determine the value of this to your business and your budget. NOTE: Data-scrubbing isn’t a data-entry level skill. It often involves writing computer code to get at patterns in the data, and developing a layered strategy. The result is a quicker, cleaner result that gets your business moving forward again.

#4 Develop Processes To Keep Your Data Clean

CRITICAL! Ensure that your data can’t go back to being a mess:

  • Don’t let business cards back up. Enter them into your system within a designated amount of time or, throw them away.
  • Use validation in the areas where you enter your data
    • Use dropdown lists to limit choices
    • Restrict date fields so that they can only accept dates
    • What data is important to maintain and which to discard?
      • Do you really need a field for Pager Numbers?
  • Read the guest blog from XLCalibre on The 7 Deadly Sins of Data Entry

I recently heard of a sales rep who left a company because he never got paid his commissions. Why not? The company was being run on crap data and calculating the commissions seemed an impenetrable proposition. There wasn’t anything sinister. The “one day” the data would get scrubbed just didn’t come soon enough for this sales rep. So, he’s gone. Fortunately or unfortunately, he didn’t file a lawsuit.

Someone influential in the business should have faced up to the cost of the crap data, asked questions about solutions and got it handled.

Another year begins in a few days. Are we going to be naughty or nice about our data? Will it be St. Nick or Krampus next Christmas?