Tackling database decay – how to give your email marketing a health check

By Rob Harlow, above, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Outbase.

I probably don’t need to tell you that there’s been a lot of movement in the job market over the past year or two. The “Great Resignation” that followed the pandemic lockdowns was caused by people spotting the opportunity for a change and resulted in thousands of people – including key decision makers – switching organisations and roles across the globe.

This has caused some pain for those of us in the business of email marketing. At Outbase we carried out research earlier this year among 500 marketers and discovered that for over 80% of them, at least a fifth of their marketing database is out of date. Almost 70% told us that they have experienced increased bounce rates for their email campaigns and three quarters admitted struggling to keep data accurate. It seems that high job turnover rates have caused databases to decay faster than we’ve been able to fix them.

Database decay is a big problem. Email marketing is still the preferred contact method for 71% of B2B buyers and any contact tracking system is only as good as the information it contains. None of us wants to begin 2023 with a database that is falling into disrepair and that will soon be worse than useless.

And it’s not that marketers haven’t been trying. Almost all said that they update their database at least quarterly, and 42% review their data every month. The changes have just been too fast. So what do we need to do as SMEs?

Fortunately, there are several things that marketers can do to return their database to health and to reduce future decay.

1 Spend time focusing on the quality

Getting data right takes time and human intervention. If you can’t keep up with your database because it’s so large, make it smaller. Pay attention to every detail and if something doesn’t look right, cross check it on social media. A LinkedIn profile is often the first to be updated when someone changes job so if you aren’t sure a record is valid, look it up. It’s time consuming – but worth it.

2 Show your ruthless side

B2B marketing is all about quality not quantity. Act on the feedback from your distribution software. If a record bounces, make sure it’s swiftly deleted from your main database. Filter and eliminate market segments that are unresponsive. The route to success is all about enabling high value engagement, not broadening your field.

3 Get your tech to do the heavy lifting

Good technology can help with all of this. In larger organisations it can be easy for one team or department to lose touch with what another is doing, particularly when legacy systems are involved. A sales team may be carrying out expert maintenance on its own lists but failing to ensure that this information is available to the rest of the company. A modern automated platform will not only synchronise information automatically and be easier to use but will allow you to apply filters and segmentation in order to drill down into the data to find the “diamonds” – those ideal people and businesses that you are looking for.

As SMEs, we have work to do to restore our decaying databases to robust health, but the task is achievable, and the rewards are large. In spite of the “bounce” issues, over 70% of the marketers we surveyed said that they had experienced an increase in engagement with their emails during and after the pandemic. With the right messaging, engaging emails, and a database that is glowing with health, the effectiveness of email marketing is hard to beat.

More information on Outbase’s research is available in this free report: