When Yahoo! announced a few weeks ago that it planned to deactivate user IDs that had been inactive for more than a year and re-release them to the public, outrage ensued.
Existing users worried that their long-held (and, in some cases, valuable) addresses would be taken from them, while tech and media experts suggested that opening “old” or unused accounts up to whomever wanted to claim them could open the door to a number of cyber security issues.
In my opinion, all of those concerns were completely justifiable.
For me, however, the announcement simply agitated my frustration with a different issue — the overzealous tendency for technology companies, database administrators, and, in some cases, marketers to purge “old” or seemingly outdated customer information in the name of database cleansing.
The reason? That “cleansing” process may be beneficial to marketers and database admins who have no use for contacts who have “dead” email addresses or simply don’t respond to their to campaigns. This “cleaning” however, is often detrimental to a salesperson’s ability to do their job.
Newsflash: Prospect Databases Aren’t Just Helpful for Marketers
Frankly, it’s an issue that’s bothered me for a while.
I understand that database administrators want to keep their databases clean and compact. After all, databases that are overpopulated with inaccurate information can be a nightmare to manage, and storage isn’t free. But all too often, companies are too quick to purge information that they feel is outdated without first consulting their sales reps.
Yes, I said sales reps. Not marketers, telemarketers, or demand generation reps.
The reality is that databases serve a critically important role in relationship building, not just in push marketing and campaign management. And salespeople very often rely on them to quickly pull up information on old, current, or prospective customers.
For instance, take an interaction that I had with a prospective client recently, who sent me an e-mail that said, “You won’t remember, but we spoke at a CompTIA Breakaway conference in the early 2000s…” Normally, that prospective client would have been right. The likelihood of me remembering a nearly decade old conversation is slim.
Thanks to my trusty database, I was able to quickly look that prospect up and find notes that I’d taken from our conversation. From there, I responded with a message that said, “Yes! We did. We met in 2005 in Las Vegas.”
Doesn’t seem like much, does it? Maybe not on the surface — but that simple message (pulled from a tiny amount of information that wasn’t at all burdensome to my database) allowed me to reignite my relationship with a prospect whom many marketers would have written off years ago, and dive into the sales process well beyond the initial prospecting phase.
Before You Clean, Consider the Impact
Yes, I’m a sales expert — not a database or marketing expert. So why am I weighing in on database cleansing?
Because database information is valuable to salespeople, too. And because I’m tired of database admins (or marketers) who think that cleansing a database by deleting seemingly “old” contacts is a simple, straightforward process that can be completed without any input from the sales organization.
The reality is that prospects sometimes go into hiding and then resurface years later. And when that happens, salespeople need to be able to quickly tap into their communication history with those prospects to rekindle that relationship.
So, please, be cautious about which information you delete. You never know when it might come in handy again.