Miss Julie Pitt? No, I’m Miss. Julie. Pitt
There are some things I see all the time. The small, seemingly insignificant things that, if you changed them, would make so much difference in how you were able to handle your data. Below is my top 10 “things you should do with your data to make your life easier” list.
- Split out title, first name and surname.
Splitting these into 3 fields (or 4 if you add middle name) allows you to create the correct addressee and salutation for everyone. No one, but no one likes to get the letter who’s first line reads “Dear Miss Julie Pitt”. This is bad form in anyone’s book. Split them up = getting it right.
- Splitting out the address lines.
Addresses should have 5 lines. This is the UK standard. Split all 5 out in your data and all will be well. And don’t forget to…
- Split out town and postcode.
These should also be separate fields in your data. Splitting out the postcode from the rest of your address will be the single most important thing you do.
- No commas.
There are still some out there that use commas in addresses. I for one don’t but that’s probably because I remove every single one of them from my sources of data. In the same way as everyone uses PDF’s for sending round Word type documents, so we send data around as text (*txt) or – most commonly – comma separated (*.CSV) files. Every time a comma appears, whatever you load it into will assume there is a break in the data and put the next bit of text in a new field. Additional commas (usually put in when the proper number of address lines don’t exist) equals incredibly messy data.
- Codes and their descriptions.
A lot of databases have a two-field system for codes i.e. exclusion codes, appeal codes etc. One field will be the code and the other will be the description. The number of databases I’ve seen where both are populated with the code. The information about what the customer was sent, what they want or who they are, is now lost. I have no idea what GH672SDTr2001 was. You probably don’t either.
- Proper Case.
Think about how you want your communications to look. Do you want them to look like mIss julie pitT or would you like the altogether more professional looking Miss Julie Pitt? It matters. It’s your business you’re under-valuing with sloppy attention to data detail.
- Source code.
If you have somewhere sensible to store this information, add a source code. This can be an appeal code or a more top level description i.e. inserts, cold list, referral etc. Having some idea of what activity generated the business will help decide where to invest in customer acquisition.
- Date things.
If you flag a record as deceased say when you did it. If a communication is returned, put a date when it happened. Without dates there’s no way of telling how relevant a piece of information is.
- Minimise notes.
It’s almost impossible to find information stored in notes. Important information such as ‘do not contact me’ or ‘gone away’ should be stored as a flag, where everyone who is dead or doesn’t want contact is shown in the same way. Minimising the use of notes, minimises the risk of upsetting customers and falling foul of DP legislation.
- Capture as much as possible and fill in the gaps if you can.
Sometimes you might not know that you’re going to need a piece of information. Sometimes you might have gaps. Capture as much information as you can; purchase information, customer details, communication preferences. And if you don’t have it, think of ways to get it; ask the customer, add it to order forms, buy the information from an external source. The more you have the greater your chances of getting the communications right and increasing business.
Food for thought! Would you like to know more? Call me for an informal chat.