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How To Get All Your Customer Data Into A Single Database In 5 Easy Steps

Storing customer data in a single, centralized database has incredible benefits for your bottom line. When your data is clean, organized, and easy to find, you can better understand your customers – not to mention market to them more effectively. You can also eliminate duplicate records, decrease overall marketing costs, and send the perfect marketing message to the right customer at the right time.

If you currently have multiple databases with an unknown amount of duplicate customer information, there are five simple steps you can take to merge all that data into a single location.

Here’s how to get started:

Step One: Standardize your data

Before you can get all your customer data into a single database, it’s important to standardize your data across all fields. Begin by looking for human error, which can ‘dirty up’ your data with incorrect phrases and misspellings. This often occurs during data entry, so pay special attention to any fields that have been created manually.

The best way to standardize your data is to list standard data fields as drop-down menu items. That way, anyone working with the data can select the correct menu item without having to manually enter anything – and risk making a mistake.

Standardizing your data across all fields will help to maintain the integrity and accuracy of the data as you move it into a single database.

Step Two: Check for duplicates

Next, check for duplicate data across all fields. Eliminate instances of the same customer with multiple email addresses, or multiple mailings going to a single household. Check out this article for more technical tips on de-duplication.

Step Three: Fill in missing data

You’ve standardized your data and removed duplicates, but might you still be missing data?

  • Look for records that have a mailing address but no email, or a first name but no last name.
  • Put a plan in place to fill in the missing data by reaching out to the customer directly, or by utilizing services like the National Change of Address (NCOA) service. Oftentimes an incomplete record is like having no record at all – so do whatever it takes to fill in the blanks!
  • For records that are already complete, make sure the information you have is still accurate. The NCOA is also a great resource for finding out if your customer’s mailing address is still current.

Step Four: Create a data map

A data map is used to determine where all the data from your current databases will ‘live’ in your new database. By mapping out where each and every field will go, you’ll ensure that each distinct data field is accounted for.

Data mapping is important because some databases store data under differently named fields. For instance, one database might store first names as a field called “First Name,” while another database might call the field “First.” If you try to import different field names into your new database, you’ll end up with a bunch of disorganized data that lives in the same place, but isn’t uniformed or easily searchable.

To sidestep this problem, create a new field in your main database called “First Name.” From there, you can make sure all first name fields from all databases are ‘pulled’ to that field and labeled “First Name” (regardless of what they’re currently being called).

Do this for every field of data you have. If your new database doesn’t contain a field from one of your other databases, you’ll have to create a new field so that data has a place to ‘live’ in the new database.

Step Five: Merge and automate

Export all of your standardized data from all of your databases into a single, centralized database. For this, you can also use industry-specific software tools that would suit your business’ needs. For instance, if you happen to operate in the hospitality industry, you could look for the best hotel channel manager software to integrate all your data in one place. This applies to any industry. Identify the most suitable technology and implement it. Congratulations! You now have clean, current, de-duplicated data all in one place.

The final step is to make sure you have proper business rules and alerts set up so you can optimize your data, keep it clean, and make it work for you. For example, you might automate a thank you email every time someone donates $500+, or set an alert if a new email subscriber’s information closely matches an existing record in your database. Luckily, you can do this pretty easily using miniDBA Software or other similar software to monitor your data and keep tabs on everything.

Food for Thought: Salami Salad

With all the wonderfully fresh vegetables available at farmer’s markets and grocery stores across the city, salad season has officially descended upon Chicago.

This particular salad reminds me of how powerful it is to store your data in one location. Taken separately, ingredients like salami and tomatoes aren’t that exciting. But throw them into the same bowl along with peppery arugula and raw fennel, and you’ve got one transcendent bowl of greens. Good things really do happen when all the right ingredients are combined in a single location – just like with your data! The salad will make your brains fall out.

The first step to creating clean data – the kind that can slash your marketing spend and boost sales – is organizing that data into a single database. If you have data stored in more places than you can count, or you simply don’t have the time to perform a data merge, Massa & Company can help. Find out how we can clean, de-duplicate, merge, and organize your data so you can market to your customers more effectively. Call us at (312) 463-1050 or email us here to learn more.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofits to make the best use of their information about customers, partners, donors and sponsors. With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and predictive analytics, Bonnie is passionate about helping clients make informed, data-driven decisions to increase the value of their customer base. She strongly believes that making pasta and ice cream from scratch are worth the effort, and she spends much of her free time testing and re-testing that theory.

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