You’ve finally been given the go ahead from the powers that be to invest in a CRM. Getting your team on board with using new software might be a challenge, but you know you can’t roll out your sales and data unless your sales teams accepts your vision for using the new CRM.

The current state of your data isn't great, but up until this point you’ve been so busy that implementing a customer data management strategy has fallen low on the priority list. 

Choosing the CRM itself is only one piece of the puzzle. Using it effectively is a whole other story. 

Today, we interview Anastasia Tatsenko, Head of Sales and Customer Success at NetHunt CRM. She's a passionate sales leader and an expert on sales operations, competitor analysis, and customer data management. She talks to us about how businesses are currently managing their customer data, how to choose a CRM, and the CRM best practices to adopt in your own customer data management strategy.

A good CRM needs good data. We clean it for you.  Request a demo today.

Anastasia Tatasenko

Anastasia is a passionate sales leader and a perfect product-demonstrator. She’s keen on competitor analysis, sales operations, and partner negotiations. Anastasia gauges the client’s business priorities, audience, objectives, and products in order to offer the best solution. When Anastasia is not at work, you will find her dancing salsa. 

Anastasia Tatasenko, Head of Sales and Customer Success at NetHunt CRM

What is customer data management?

Customer data management is the systematic workflow of collecting, storing, analyzing, structuring and optimizing your customer data. Your customer data may come from various sources, including transaction data, website subscribers, social media, offline leads, and more.

Your different departments probably store and collect data in different ways. Some could have their contacts in a spreadsheet, while others may be using CRMs. 

Merging all the cross-departmental data into one centralized hub and organizing it in a way that is useful for everyone is customer data management.

Adopting effective customer data management practices can help you:

  • Create the difference between offering a client the perfectly sized TV stand for the flat-screen they just bought from you, or offering them a discount on another TV...when they already have one.

  •  Get actual praise from SDRs about how well the CRM has helped them close. Turn MQL into a term that actually means something again, instead of just another contact who doesn’t want to hear from your team.

  • Understand why your email campaigns aren’t converting. Is it your content that isn’t resonating, or are your emails just not reaching your audience?

  • Use automation to release the strain on your sales team, allowing them to focus on selling and building relationships with potential customers.

  • Segment your data to send personalized marketing and sales campaigns to increase customer retention.

Get our ultimate bundle of checklists, workflows and swipe files to manage your customer database like a data pro

What is the state of how people are managing their customer data right now?

Anastasia has worked with many businesses that use NetHunt CRM to manage their customer data. Even companies in the same industry use entirely different workflows to manage their data—it’s a matter of preference and experience. 

Just because they all use the same CRM doesn’t mean they have effective or even similar management practices in place. Many are starting to understand the importance of keeping their data clean, which is a good sign, but most have more data sources than they can keep track of.

Each salesperson may have their own list of leads, with some stored in Excel sheets, and other in CRMs. With each person filing contacts in different ways and in different formats, there is no standardization. That means if another person needs to use the same data, it’ll be hard to know what’s what.

When you do eventually merge these lists they will be full of inconsistencies, duplicates and missing fields. Your compiled dataset will need some serious data cleaning to get it organized and ready to use. 

As companies scale—customer data isn’t only about automating more and remembering birthdays—suddenly, your company is responsible for thousands of data points and any potential breach that comes with it. Amateur data management could jeopardize the security of your customer’s data. 

So yes, good practices means you’ll probably get more sales and more loyal customers, but it also means you can give your customers peace of mind about how you and everyone at your company is handling their data.

Everyone who touches the data needs to be on board to keep the data clean and secure. So how do you balance staff priorities with data management practices?

How do you know which kind of CRM platforms to use?

If you're a brand-new business with no customer data management system in place, then Anastasia recommends starting with a basic CRM while you create internal processes. 

What is a CRM? In a nutshell, a CRM is a software that helps you manage your customer data. 

Even if you've already been using a CRM to manage your data, you likely don't need as many features as you think you do. Resist the temptation to purchase the most advanced CRM on the market.

Instead, think about what your current everyday routine is. 

What are your real needs? If you're looking to communicate with leads via social media channels like LinkedIn, you might want to look for a platform with social media integrations. You'll also need basic details such as contact information, company details, and social media handles.

Start basic, and as you grow, you can scale your software to fit your needs. As companies grow, they always come to a point where they want to restructure how they manage data, which is usually once they realize their data management could use some TLC.

You also want to find the perfect balance between a system that is flexible but has some restrictions. A fully customizable CRM isn’t the best choice for every business. That is especially true if your team is new to data management. 

The more customizable the system is, the easier it is to make a mess out of it.

What if your data is already a mess?

More often than not, companies looking to start using a customer data management platform (DMP) are not starting from scratch. 

They already have a long and messy spreadsheet of contacts that they’ve been compiling for years. While ideally, you'd lay the foundations for your CRM processes from the beginning, it doesn't usually work out that way. But that doesn't mean your data isn't salvageable.

Anastasia once worked with a company that had been on the market since the 60s. They have 25 salespeople working with their customer data, and they had never used a CRM. The salespeople were all using their own spreadsheets, and they had millions of sources. So, how did they get their data back on track? 

Anastasia breaks it down into three main steps:

1. Work out what key information you want to track

Before you start combining all your sources, decide what kind of information you want to be tracking. There is no point bringing in data that isn't relevant to you. For example, say you’re a SaaS company selling a task management software to businesses. 

Some valuable information to collect is the company your contact works for, and what their job title is. You don’t need to collect data on the size of their household or what their personal interests are. Figure out the information that is relevant to your business and your campaigns and stick to that. Any extra data will just clog up your datasets.

2. Unify your data

Once you know what information you want to import, you can unify all your data. Data unification is a colossal task, so Anastasia recommends using a customer relationship management tool, such as NetHunt, to unify your data. Data unification is the process of merging all your contact data from multiple sources into one centralized customer database so you can get a full view of the customer. 

3. Clean your data

Once you've unified all your data sources into a single CDP (customer data platform), then you can clean it. While you can attempt to clean it manually, Anastasia advises against it. Instead, a third-party CRM data cleansing and enrichment software like tye can do all the work for you. You simply upload the unclean data and let the tool work its magic. Then you can import the clean data into the CRM of your choice, ready to use. Want to see how it works? Clean and enrich your first 100 data points for free!

Customer data management best practices

Unless you're a data scientist or experienced business analyst, it could be your first time creating a customer data management strategy. Anastasia shares her best practices when crafting a management system that works for you.

1. Do your CRM research in advance

The market of CRMs is huge. There are tons of options, and they may all seem similar on the surface. They all have different pricing plans, features, and integrations that set them apart from each other. Do your research before investing in a CRM to find one that suits your specific needs. We wrote a list of the 10 best alternative CRMs.

2. Avoid using spreadsheets to manage contacts

Most companies will start by using a spreadsheet to store their individual customers because it's easy and free. What tends to happen is that they will just settle for using them, and a year down the line, it's a mess. The trickiest part is that when you're inputting data manually in a spreadsheet and trying to move it to a CRM, the system will struggle to figure out what specific fields mean. For example, some people could write the date as July 1, where others might just put in 2021. Here is how your data might look if you've been storing it in a spreadsheet:

First Name

Last Name

Subscription Date

Email

John Smith


2020

jsmith@gmail.com

henry

porter

Jun 17th

henryporter2gmail.com

Sylvia T.

Thomson

April 10, 2020

sylviat@gmail.con

P.

Robinson

03/09/2020

PatriciaR@outlook.com

Staff may input data into the incorrect fields and in formats that aren’t standardized. Instead, using a CRM allows you to set specific formats so that staff cannot enter the data unless it’s in the correct form.  


3. Have a data governance strategy

A data governance CRM strategy determines where you will collect each type of data from and exactly what data you will be collecting. Having a data governance strategy ensures that everyone who has access to your data is on the same page. All staff should understand where the data is coming from and what it's being used for.


4. Unify workflows

Switching to a more effective CRM is only the first piece of the puzzle. Then you have to teach people how to use it and create unified workflows. Your staff has likely never used your new CRM and used to working with other systems. So, set up the workflow for them and show them how to use it properly.

The first step of any workflows is defining how to deal with incoming leads. What qualifies as a hot lead? And where do they go in your database? One example might be leads coming in through contact forms on your website. Does someone who’s downloaded a lead magnet qualify as a hot lead? Or should they go into a separate list to receive extra nurturing first? 

Many CRMs will automatically segment your contacts for you based on stipulations you set. Still, each person that has access to the data should know the process for qualifying leads to keep it consistent. 

Start with the people who are responsible for the team, such as the sales manager, team leader, or CEO, and teach them first. Once they have a handle on it, then the workflow can be introduced to entire sales and marketing teams. What that looks like will depend on the size of your team. With a small team, the training can be one-on-one. If you have a large team, you can record sessions to watch or create a learning management tool for them.


5. Use required fields to keep CRM data clean

Even if you create unified workflows, there may still be members of your team who input data incorrectly or skip fields altogether. Although using required fields will take your team some practice, it will prevent them from entering details incorrectly. For example, they have to fill out certain pieces of information if they want to create a new contact.

Companies must think about how they will fill out their fields from the beginning. They also need to think about the segmentation of their data instead of just throwing everything into one spreadsheet. Decide which types of customer data your organization will collect and stick to it. Avoid data collection that isn't relevant or information you aren't going to use.


6. If your CRM isn't working for you, switch

Companies are afraid to experiment with their data for fear that they might lose something. 

Thanks to backups, you can always revert your data, so it's no excuse not to switch to a new system if your current one isn't working. You spent tons of money and time implementing a large system, but you're not happy with it. Still, you don't want to walk away from such a large investment. 

Since you have so much data already the thought of data migration might seem like a nightmare. Companies will end up sticking with a system they don't like for years, just because they are too scared to move on.


7. Data protection and security

Whenever you're dealing with customer information, you need to consider how you will keep that data secure. There are legal data privacy standards that you must meet to protect your contact information. When picking your CRM and choosing the best customer database software, make sure that it's secure. It is also your responsibility as the one collecting the data to stay GDPR compliant and have customer consent to store their data points.

If you currently have no system for managing your customer data, you’re not alone. In this article, #customerdata expert Anastasia Tatsenko from @nethuntcrm explains that it doesn’t take more time or resources to take back control of your #CRM

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Minimizing errors in your CRM

You can never eliminate errors completely from your CRM, but you can take steps to minimize them. Anastasia recommends creating a playbook for your team once you have a set process around workflows. That way, they have a reference to look back on to ensure that everyone is following the same processes.

Here are some of the touchpoints where you can minimize the errors before they find their way into your CRM datasets.

1. Learn the system/staff training

Although we touched on training as one of the best practices, it's an essential step to minimize errors in your CRM. Not all of your employees will be big data analysis experts, and that's ok. 

The majority of the staff members using your customer data will be your sales team and marketers. Investing in customer data training for your team will pay off more than investing in a sophisticated CRM. Create a data-driven culture amongst your team and teach them how to use your CRM effectively.

2. Control access

Not everyone in your organization should have access to your data. The more fingers in the pot, the more chance for mistakes. Only allow access to those who need it, and control what capabilities they have in the software. 

Only certain team members should have full administrative privileges, and those who do should have thorough training. Others may have "view only" privileges, where they can view the datasets but not edit them. It also allows you to identify who's made changes, so you know exactly who to go to if there is a problem.

3. Create rules for data categorization

Without creating standards, your datasets will end up full of errors. Stipulate the exact file formats that staff are to use and set standards for file naming and tagging. Creating a CDM (common data model) will keep all your data fields consistent. Having these strict standards will ensure that everyone can quickly navigate the data, find what they are looking for, and use it for its required purpose.

4. Take advantage of automation

Automation can hugely reduce the number of errors in your customer databases. There are some fantastic automation features in CRMs that can help relieve your staff from manually writing data into your CRM. Some of these features include:

  • Automatic formatting
  • Auto-population
  • Opportunity management
  • Lead-tracking
  • Analytics and reporting

But it's important to remember that there will always be a human factor involved with customer data management. If you're having a conversation with a client, such as on the telephone, in-person, or even via email, then your CRM cannot automatically populate the details you discuss. It's up to the person to track the conversations and add relevant details into the CRM.


A good CRM needs good data. We clean it for you.  Request a demo today.

Key takeaways: customer data management software

Regardless of your customer data's current state, anyone can have a CRM that they can be proud of. Taking all of Anastasia's tips into consideration, you can choose the perfect CRM and implement a customer data management strategy that will help your business succeed.

Get our ultimate bundle of checklists, workflows and swipe files to manage your customer database like a data pro

Markus Beck

Markus Beck - January 19, 2021

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.