Your CRM houses all the important data you need for business success, including info on leads, your employees, vendors and currently paying clients. However, there’s one overlooked aspect that’s likely impacting your organization – data decay.

Data decay can negatively affect your sales numbers, customer satisfaction, employee retention, etc.

In this article, let’s look at data decay, its root causes and how you can deal with it before it impacts your bottom line.

What Is Data Decay?

In simple terms, data decay (or data degradation) is the gradual deterioration of info within your, for example, CRM, over time.

It's like watching a picture fade or the pages of a book yellow with the passage of time.

In the context of CRM and sales processes, this decay means that the data you once stored – whether it's email addresses, phone numbers or other details – becomes less accurate or relevant as time goes on.

For example, if you created a lead list today, a lead on that list might change jobs ten months from now on. Once you access their information in your database, it will no longer be accurate.

On average, data stays fresh for around 90 days. However, it can vary depending on various factors like the data type, industry and your organization’s data management system. The challenge lies in keeping this information fresh and up-to-date without constantly re-checking your tools.

Why Data Decay Matters to Sales Professionals

Without reliable information, sales pros can feel like they’re trying to tie a knot with their hands behind their back.

Data Decay Means Wasted Resources and Poor Lead Generation

One direct consequence of data decay is wasted resources and compromised data management practices.

Imagine gearing up to engage with a promising lead, your personalized copy ready to go. You fire off one of your kickass cold emails – and boom, the email bounces because the person moved jobs.

That’s data decay in action.

If we look at the data itself (pun intended), email addresses decay at a rate of 22.5% each year, closely followed by phone numbers at 18%. And the larger your dataset, the harder it is to keep your data updated and relevant.

And if you look at the financial implications, poor data management can cost a company upwards of $15 million. This clearly shows how (the lack of) data management can affect the overall financial health of a business.


Decreased Conversions and Missed Opportunities

When CRM data gets old, it can lead to lower conversions and missed sales opportunities.

For example, let’s say you want to segment targets based on job titles and send relevant sales emails to them. If the job info is outdated, you might end up sending the wrong message to the wrong people, hurting your chances of turning interested leads into actual customers.

And it's about more than finding new customers. Old data can make you miss chances to sell more to current customers. If your system doesn't know their latest purchases or what they need now, you might not suggest the right additional products or services.

When you talk to marketing and sales professionals, the majority of them will tell you that poor data quality is the key reason they don’t have a 360-degree view of their customers.

Hindered Personalization and Customer Experience

Data decay can also impact your personalization and overall customer experience. Personalization is about understanding what each customer likes and needs, but your efforts might miss the mark if the data is outdated.

If you try to personalize messages or recommendations using old data, it might not match what the customer actually wants now.

But that’s not all, because data decay can also affect how you interact with customers. Whether you're suggesting products, solving issues or offering special deals, relying on wrong data means your efforts feel off and disingenuous.

Customers might feel like you don't know them, which can make their overall experience with your brand less positive. Staying on top of data is the first step to creating experiences that feel like genuine connections and tailored recommendations instead of making your prospects and customers feel like they’re being straight-up sold to.

The Causes of Data Decay

Now, we know that data decays. But why?

1. Inaccuracies in Contact Information Lead to Data Decay

People often change their contact details, like emails or phone numbers, over time. In fact, a third of people change their email every year for one reason or another (e.g., switching jobs or moving to a new place).

If this info is not updated in your system, it leads to data decay.

2. Changes in Job Roles and Responsibilities

When people get new jobs or take on different responsibilities, their job information can change. More practically, it could mean they now have a new email or phone number. If you don’t have up-to-date information, you won’t be able to reach them, nor will you be able to address their current pain points.

For example, someone who just became Head of Marketing has different pain points to the challenges they dealt with when they were a product marketer a year ago.

This is a well-timed message to a new hire, which is only possible because of fresh data. P.S. The timing was not off.

3. Company Mergers, Acquisitions and Rebranding

Companies sometimes merge, get acquired or change their brand names.

Again, this means everyone will likely get new email addresses and roles might be swapped around.

4. Technological Changes Impacting Communication Channels

As technology evolves, people may switch how they prefer to communicate. For example, someone might start using a new email platform or prefer messaging apps over phone calls.

Just look at the evolution of cold outreach. Back in the day, old-school sales reps could only use cold calls and in-person visits. Then, it was all about cold calls. And today, we’ve got cold email outreach, LinkedIn messages and more!

The common thread between all of these causes is “change.” While change and evolution are great for success, they’re a detriment to (CRM) data, as every change will cause it to decay.

Challenges Posed by Data Decay to CRM Efficiency

Raise your hand if you wanted to scream the last time you were prompted to update the CRM as an Account Executive. Hands up? Good. You’re not alone!

However, updating the CRM is the next best thing if your company isn’t automating data refreshes. For example, data decay affects CRM efficiency in the following ways:

  • Outdated Customer Information: Of course, data usually starts off correct but degrades with time due to changes in people and businesses.
  • Duplication and Inaccuracies in Data Entries: Sometimes, if you combine lists or have the same individual provide contact info via various lead-generating tactics like newsletters or contact forms, you can end up with duplicate entries. (Human error can also lead to data being entered wrong.)
  • Limited Insights and Predictive Analytics: Outdated data limits your ability to get meaningful insights from all the numbers in your system, making your predictive analytics much less accurate.
  • Ineffective Sales Forecasting and Planning: When data decay affects sales-related information, it undermines the accuracy of sales forecasting and planning. Suddenly, you’re guided towards the wrong strategies, missing opportunities and your sales performance is taking a hit.

Thankfully, updating your CRM religiously isn’t the only way to prevent sales data decay!

7 Methods to Mitigate Data Decay in Sales and CRMs

1. Perform Regular Data Cleansing and Validation to Prevent Data Decay

Fighting against data decay is a continuous battle. However, regular data cleansing and validation is your sword and shield.

Data cleansing involves practices such as the following:

  • Systematically checking for changes in customer information
  • Actively identifying and eliminating duplicate entries
  • Validating the accuracy of data fields (e.g., verifying email addresses’ accuracy with an integration with a tool like Findymail)
  • Filling in any incomplete entries

The essence of data cleansing is to refresh and refine your CRM regularly, reigning in the buildup of outdated information.

Source: Bestarion

Of course, this should be a part of your overall data management strategy, implemented top-down. It’s the best way to make fighting data decay an everyday task instead of a quarterly initiative that gets put off endlessly.

2. Implementing Automated Data Verification Tools

Of course, you don't have to do it all manually. There are tools that can help automatically check and verify your data. Using them will save you time and effort while also reducing the chances of mistakes that can happen when doing things by hand.

Some examples of these tools include Astera, Data Ladder and Alteryx. When looking at these tools, make sure they offer real-time updates and health checks for your data.

Source: DataLadder

Also, having an interactive data grid lets you easily look at and understand your data, helping you make better decisions. This means you’re not just keeping your data fresh but doing it without any learning curve headaches.

If you’re looking for specific tools for data that tend to decay faster (e.g., email addresses), use a specialized tool like Findymail.

Findymail doesn’t just find email addresses – it verifies them.

You can even use it as a GSheets formula or integrate it with your CRM (from Hubspot to Salesforce) for verification on the go!

3. Enforce Data Maintenance Best Practices to Prevent Data Decay on an Organizational Level

To keep your data in top shape, it's essential to enforce good data maintenance practices.

For example, you need real-time updates for your data. This means making changes as soon as they happen. You can take care of this by referring to method 2 and using tools to help you.

Another helpful practice is having data governance policies. These are rules that everyone follows when entering and using data. It keeps your data consistent and accurate. This includes having standards for how information is put into the system and used.

For example, you might create a data entry SOP for your SDR team, so they have to re-check specific data points (e.g., job titles) before reaching out to a list of leads. Again, it’s much better if you have a data enrichment or cleansing tool to help you.

Users play a significant role, too. Encourage them to give feedback and report any issues they see with the data. This way, you have more eyes looking out for problems. If data entry and refreshes take up much of their time, consider what tools you could provide to help them.

Regular audits and quality checks are also crucial to catch minor issues before they become big problems.

Ultimately, all of these practices will make your CRM data more robust and effective while protecting you from data decay’s harmful consequences.

4. Integrating Systems for Seamless Data Flow

When your systems can talk to each other seamlessly and share info, data can flow smoothly from one place to another without getting stuck or lost.

Integration helps in various ways. First, you won’t need to constantly monitor different data sources. It ensures updates in one system quickly reflect in others so data stays fresh.

Secondly, it reduces the manual heavy lifting and cross-checks in different tools. If your team only has to update Salesforce for the changes to reflect in their cold outreach tools, adhering to data governance policies becomes easier.

Not only are you avoiding data decay with integration, but you also get the benefit of streamlining your CRM!

Source: ZoomInfo’s enrichment in Hubspot at work

5. Training and Education for Sales Reps on Data Management

You also need to make sure your sales team understands the importance of data management. That’s where training comes in.

Training sessions can cover the importance of accurate data entry, the significance of timely updates and how to identify and address common data issues like the ones I mentioned above.

6. Leveraging AI and Machine Learning for Data Enrichment

Data enrichment takes the data you have on hand and boosts it with extra information to make it more valuable and accurate. With advancements in AI and machine learning,  they analyze patterns, update information in real-time and even predict changes based on historical data.

These systems can automatically find missing details, correct errors and add new information – making your CRM rich in data (and hopefully lining your pockets, too).

Some tools I like to use include ZoomInfo and Demandbase. They help you get contact info, firmographics, technographics, intent data and more. Plus, they integrate with tools like Salesforce or HubSpot to make your CRM setup even more powerful.

7. Promote Collaboration Between Departments to Fight Data Decay

Don’t forget to collaborate with other departments since different teams interact with various aspects of the customer journey.

For instance, the sales team engages with customers directly, while the marketing team analyzes a campaign’s performance and attracts more qualified leads to your business. The problem is, if the teams aren’t talking to one another (and neither are their systems), you’ll start experiencing data silos.

Trust me, there’s no “better” place for data to decay than when it’s stuck in a silo!

On the other hand, when your teams and systems work together, you can share real-time updates, feedback and observations –  keeping your CRM with the freshest and most relevant data.

Future-Proofing Your CRM Against Data Decay

Data decay is an ongoing issue that only becomes more challenging to deal with as companies collect more and more data. The more data, the more complexity and chance for data decay.

However, following the methods outlined in this article will give you the best defense against it. With fresh CRM data, you give your business the best chance for success.

If email outreach is a major part of your sales strategy, then you need an extra weapon to battle data decay. And Findymail is the best tool for the job!

Findymail provides you with verified B2B email addresses so you can enrich your CRM data with the correct contact information.

And it integrates with your favorite CRMs, such as Hubspot, Salesforce, Zoho and more!

Sign up for Findymail today and try it for free with 10 credits!