Conducting a data audit. Cheatsheet

Having an in-depth understanding of what data you have in your business, where it is, how it is used and why it’s collected is imperative to creating a solid email marketing strategy that WORKS!

Whether you’re in a marketing department doing it all for yourselves or are fortunate enough to have access to a specific data team and analysts who can dig through the wealth of information available to your business, as a marketer YOU need to have an insight into your current data situation so that you can use it to inform what you do now, and what you are able to do next, to advance your strategy.

The first place to start is to conduct a data audit.

You can be as in-depth or as high level as you want with this activity, and dependent on your business, but start with these questions.

  1. What data do you currently have?

List out all the data you currently collect directly from subscribers, track or analyse from different sources (these are described as data fields). Think about data you have across each level of the data pyramid.

Data Pyramid

  1. Where is this data found within your business?

Are you currently collecting this data in other areas of the business but it’s not currently linked to your email subscriber list?

If you are, why is this data not available in your email marketing system, and could it be made available for use?

Make a list of all the different systems within your business in which data may be stored, such as your ESP, CRM (Customer Relationship Management system), POS (Point of Sale software), website software, additional marketing channels and other systems.

Speak to the other departments within your business to ensure you have a clear picture of ALL data available and where it is currently stored (and why – are they using it for something that isn’t related to email marketing?).

  1. Which pieces of this data are you currently using within your campaigns?

Identify the data you’re currently using in your email programme, how you are using it and why. For example, to identify specific segments for increased relevancy (who is contacted, or not, as part of the current send strategy) or to personalise content with customer information (for example, pulling first name or the name of the last product purchased into your email content).

  1. Prioritise the data you have, based on value to your company and email marketing programme

Some data will be more valuable than others – for example, information about a customer’s last purchase. Other data may be collected but not used by the business – in this case, you should consider whether or not this data is still needed going forward; don’t collect and store data you don’t need and are not going to utilise (don’t forget to take note of how other teams are using this data so you don’t get rid of something that is important to them!).

Data Field

Once you have mapped this information, then think about:

  1. What are you missing that you NEED to have?

What data do you not have that would be critical to fulfilling your email marketing plans going forward – for example, additional purchase data?

  1. What are you missing that you’d LIKE to have?

What data do you not have that would be nice to have but not essential, to further enhance your email marketing plans going forward?

You will continue to build on the answers to these last two questions as you expand your email marketing plans.

  1. Why don’t you currently have the information you need?

Is it because you’re not collecting or tracking it? Think about what tracking you currently have in place to support behavioural and purchase data and what additional tracking may be needed to extend the data you have available in the future. Or is it because it’s currently stored in a different system within your business and not currently accessible to you?

The answers to these questions will allow you to identify each of these problems and create a plan accordingly to either start collecting, or gain access to this data for future use.

Data Importance

In order to complete this audit, you will definitely need input from other areas of the business, particularly your technology team who most likely control the database. Ask them to export a list of all the data fields you currently have stored to get you started.

When you know what you have and what’s missing, you can start to fill these gaps.

Then, once you have a clear view of what data you have and where within your business as well as the data you’d like/need to have to fill the gaps, start to think about how you will go about collecting this data.

You can also start to analyse the quality of your data – for example, what percentage of your data fields have missing values, what percentage are incorrectly formatted? Can you trust the quality of your data?

All of this will start to give you a clearer view of your data situation and allow you to create your ‘data dictionary’

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