Duplicate records within your Marketing Automation platform or CRM (and almost always both) is one of the biggest headaches that continues to plague marketers everywhere. Even if you don’t know they’re there (or don’t want to know), they’re doing immeasurable damage to your marketing efforts, including:
- Throwing off your list segmentation, causing you to miss out on marketing and cross-sell opportunities
- Hurting your personalization efforts, making it look like your organization can’t even manage its own data (or not sending an email despite actually having the necessary data)
- Inflating reporting numbers and sabotaging your campaign results by not fully reaching your target audience
- Making it possible to continue sending email to contacts despite privacy opt-outs, putting you in breach of compliance laws
- Providing a negative customer experience when a user reaches out to Support or Billing, and your team members have to perform mental jiu-jitsu to reconcile information across multiple records
And these aren’t the only potential drawbacks. If you need help justifying the resources required for a deduplication initiative at your organization, this blog post goes into more detail about several marketing activities that suffer when duplicate records run amok.
In the majority of cases, the sales team discovers duplicates when they are either trying to create a new record or locate an existing one, and come across multiple existing records for the same contact. Typically, marketers notice duplicates after an action has already been performed on them. By that point, the damage has already been done.
Where do all these duplicates come from?
How and why duplicate records arise depends on several things, including the sources of your data, the platforms you use, how the platforms have been integrated, and the effectiveness of your record creation practices and sales rep training.
If you haven’t put strict rules and user training in place, you likely have duplicate records. Some platforms have stricter rules than others, such as uniqueness constraints that aid in reducing the creation of obvious duplicates (e.g., an email uniqueness constraint or form submissions matching on existing email addresses) or dupe blocking rules in Salesforce. Despite these basic measures, however, many other vectors still exist where duplicates can be created, and this can be difficult to prevent.
Even if you have already identified and reconciled existing duplicates, it is important to address how they were created in the first place in order to minimize the likelihood of new ones popping up moving forward. In order to do this, you must look at every source of lead and contact creation within your Marketing Automation platform and CRM.
In order to get a sense of where the majority of duplicates may be entering your system, start by answering the following questions to determine where there may be room for improvement:
Marketing Automation Platform
- List Uploads: Are marketers uploading lists from other sources? How are they matching these lists to existing records?
- Forms: Are forms configured to match upon existing contacts? Do forms have real-time validation that block or identify submissions that are duplicates of existing records?
- Integrations: Are external platforms integrated with your Marketing Automation platform creating contacts without checking for existing ones first?
- Manual Entry: Do sales users create a new record when talking to a lead without checking for an existing record first? Do you encourage your sales users to use an existing record instead of creating a duplicate?
- System Constraints: Are there rules in place to prevent the creation of duplicate records?
- Intentional Duplicates: Is there a way to easily identify when a record is an intentional duplicate, if your organization uses these to meet certain business requirements (e.g., contacts who share the same email address and/or phone number; contractors who work with multiple accounts and must exist as separate contacts on each; or partner records that must coexist with your own records and be retained for source tracking purposes)?
- Integrations: Are CRM admins merging records, but not understanding the implications in other platforms?
Integration between Marketing Automation Platform and CRM
- Merging Records: How are merges in one system handled in the other? Are they replicated between the two?
- Updating Field Values: What happens if someone changes a key identifier, such as an email address? What is the procedure when a user needs to change their email address? Is this change cascaded to the other systems, or does it create a duplicate record?
- Compliance: Is compliance properly accounted for? What is the system of record?
The best defense is always a good offense
The most obvious (but often impractical) method of resolving duplicates is through manual intervention. Sure, you could identify them as you look through your CRM, Marketo’s duplicate tool, or a CSV export of your records to see if any catch your eye. None of these methods, however, are practical for marketers with databases in the hundreds of thousands. They also don’t scale over time as your database grows, so we don’t consider manual intervention a realistic approach.
The more practical solution typically lies in using an outside tool that allows you to filter your data, come up with a complex set of matching rules, match and merge across objects, exclude intentional duplicates, save important data between duplicates, and facilitate merges across your Marketing Automation platform and CRM.
Data issues are so common for many of our clients (and marketers in general) that DemandGen created DataMD to help protect our clients’ strategic MarTech investments. Let our experts handle the dirty (data) work for you, so you can become the strategic, data-driven marketer you were always meant to be.
Devon Guerrero is a Solutions Architect for DemandGen and a certified Eloqua Implementation Specialist. In addition to putting together creative solutions for his clients, he has a long-term goal he practices and preaches: to unite the two distant worlds of marketing and engineering by creating the “marketing engineer.”