The Importance and Value of Data

Emer Gallahar Hall outlines the multiple benefits to your business of keeping your data accurate and relevant to your activities


Companies generally hold on to a lot of information and one of the most valuable assets
you hold is your customer information. Having up to date and accurate information is important for everyone. Accurate customer information is vital, so that you can know your market better and contact customers if and when needed. Having the newest, most
accurate information also helps to get the most out of sales and marketing efforts. You may have data on 100 ‘customers’ listed on a database, but what percentage of the data are accurate, and what percentage of those customers have you been in contact with over the previous 12 months? On average, data decays at about 35% per annum, so it’s safe
to assume that at least 35 of those 100 records are either inaccurate or outdated.

Data Cleansing

Data cleansing is important, it improves data quality and in so doing, increases productivity. When you clean your data, outdated or incorrect information is removed,
leaving only the highest quality information. This ensures your team does not have to go through countless outdated documents and allows employees to make the most of their work hours. Now that you know what data cleansing is and why it is so important, you may be wondering how to start the data cleansing process! There is no ‘one size fits all.’ Data cleansing methods often depend on the type of data you have. However, here are
some general tips to help you get started.

Assess Your Data

Data cleansing usually involves cleaning data from a single database, such as a spreadsheet. If your information is already organised into a database or spreadsheet, you can easily assess the volume of data, how easy it is to understand, and what may or may not need updating. If your data is currently in individual files and spread across your computers or network, you will need to compile it so you can evaluate it in entirety.

These are some questions you need to ask:
Does my data seem to make sense?
Are there any duplicates, and if so, why, and is that okay?
Does numerical data add up and make sense?
Are there spelling errors or numbers where there should not be?
Is there any information that you would like to add to your data?
Does it leave options open to add data in the future?

This initial evaluation will allow an estimation of how much there is to do. If you notice all your data is from 2015, you may have your work cut out for you! But if you simply notice
a few outdated numbers and a spelling mistake or two, a quick update may be all that is needed.

Clean Data in a Separate Spreadsheet

Before making changes, create a copy of your spreadsheet and make any changes within the copy instead of the original. This will protect you and your information in case you make a mistake! When working with business information, a single mistake can be serious. Once the data is cleansed, you can copy your updated sections back to your original spreadsheet. It may take extra time and effort, but it will be worth it for peace of mind and to ensure your efforts have not gone to waste.

Make Use of Functions

It can be difficult to clean up every single error or outdated piece of data manually. When working with spreadsheets, make use of functions and let the program work for you! If you are using Microsoft Excel, there are many “functions” to choose from that will do some of the cleansing for you. ‘Remove Duplicates’ is a function that you can use in both Excel and Google Sheets. This function works for text-based columns. If you have accidentally entered the same customer information or contact information twice, the “remove duplicates” function will go through the column and delete copies. Using the TRIM Function takes the cell reference (or text) as the input. It then removes the leading and trailing spaces as well as the additional spaces between words (except for single spaces).

How Data Management Can Help Your Business

When you have great data management practices in place, data files will be much less likely to get out of hand with incorrect or outdated data. Data cleansing also reduces the waste associated with physical marketing strategies like direct mail marketing. With an up-to-date data list, you can ensure you are contacting people that have a genuine interest in your products or service. This reduces the likelihood of your mailing being thrown away before it is read. Cleansing also helps by removing incorrect details that may affect accuracy. This includes details on people that have changed work or home address or even passed away. By excluding these contacts you reduce the amount of printing and distribution required for mailings. This saves money and minimises the environmental
damage of your campaign.

Additional Benefits of Data Cleansing

Project your Reputation

People do not want to receive information that has no relevance to them. More often than not spam mail and unsolicited contact will damage the reputation of your brand. By
maintaining accurate data, you ensure that your communications only reach people that benefit from them. Not only does this increase the likelihood of generating business,
but it also helps maintain your brand integrity and reputation.

Minimise Compliance Risks

With the introduction of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), data security and permissions are more important than ever before. Regular cleansing of databases helps businesses to keep tabs on customer contact permissions and ensure people who have opted out of communications are not contacted.

Maintaining a clean and organised data set will also help you avoid the large fines associated with breaching GDPR and other legislation. It is sometimes necessary to get help, ask someone else within the business to look over your data. For example, not everyone will know the difference on paper between a landscaper and landscape architect, your local knowledge is key here, you know your customers.

Horticulture Connected have recently undertaken a data project to; cleanse our data, organise the data set into categories or segments and ratings and to update our data. After cleaning, organising and updating our data (for example we replaced 100 inactive florist subscribers with 160 new, active ones) we can now use our data to give up to date and clear details on industry sectors, highlighting sectoral gaps in the data, that we could act on. For example, we previously had only 74% of golf courses on our mailing list, this has
now increased to 96% coverage.

The Benefits of Segmentation

The Pareto principle that “80% of profits are usually derived from 20% of customers” generally holds true in most businesses. Identifying and understanding your customer types by sector or segment can deliver significant benefits to your business. This information enhances your company’s competitive position by providing direction & focus for your marketing strategies. By examining the data growth opportunities can be realised through identification of new customers, growth segments or new product uses. Segmentation also promotes effective and efficient matching of your company’s resources
to the targeted market segments, giving you the greatest return on marketing investment (ROMI).

After you have cleaned your data, it’s time to start using it to your advantage. Taking a landscaping business as an example, the business may want to contact those customers who they provided a service to more than a year ago. By asking the customer for feedback on the project, if they require any design revisions or upkeep and maintenance services, you maintain contact with your customer base and potentially create more business and
increase customer loyalty and referrals.

It all starts with the data. Data leads to insights and actions, but you need to have the right data first!

EMER GALLAHAR HALL, has worked in
Horticulture and the Fresh Produce industry for over 30 years, since graduating from the Botanic Gardens. She has just finished an MSc in Supply Chain and Account Management with Bord Bia and UCD Smurfit where she was based in the UK market. She is currently working on a Data Project with Horticulture Connected. Contact Emer at