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Data is everywhere in the modern business world. For businesses of all sizes, there is no way to scale, grow and operate without quality customer data. Although, for small businesses especially, it’s important to follow data management best practices to ensure reliable growth, compliance and data quality.

Without the right data management procedures in place, it can be very difficult for smaller businesses to scale. Without the right data management in place, you could be basing your business strategy off unreliable data, and risk the safety of your customers’ information.

To help you make the most of your data, we’ve put together nine data management tips for small businesses and SMEs. 

1. Ensure data compliance

The first thing that every small business should consider when managing data is compliance. There are several data protection laws and regulations that businesses must follow, or risk facing fines, legal repercussions, and serious brand damage.

Take GDPR for example. This is perhaps the most well-known data protection law, introduced in May 2018 to give individuals more control over their personal information. In a 2021 survey from REaD Group, we found that 85% of SMEs are familiar with GDPR

However, the report also finds that 25% of SMEs do not run data cleaning processes or update data compliance processes. If you are one of these businesses, it’s time to integrate GDPR compliance into your data management plan.

2. Data protection and security

Data security should be a priority for any business handling data. Customers are putting their faith in your business that their personal data is secure, protected and handled responsibly. Companies have a responsibility to fulfil this, ensuring that data is both virtually and physically secured. 

Companies should put data protection measures in place to prevent falling victim to data breaches and attacks, putting customer details at risk.

The digital world can be unpredictable, so ensure that you invest in multi-layered security. Consider using firewalls, two-factor authentication, antivirus software and implement regular training sessions for employees using these technologies.

3. Backup your data

Protect your data against loss by regularly backing up your database. Your business relies on data, so it’s vital that it doesn’t get lost and is backed up safely. Consider backing up your data with the following options:

  • Backup data to the cloud
  • Regularly export data to an external hard drive or USB drive

However you decide to back up your data, remember to clean, delete and update data backups regularly to remain compliant with data protection laws.

For instance, if a customer wishes to withdraw their data from your records, you must also withdraw their data from any backup files you hold. 

4. Standardise data entries

One of the most common data quality issues that businesses face is data inconsistencies. In order to perform and return results, data must follow a consistent, standardised format. This means that data entry labels should be consistent throughout your database. 

For instance, all email data would be categorised under the same label, such as ‘email_address’. Inconsistencies arise when data is formatted or labelled inconsistently, for instance, email data under labels for ‘email_address’, ‘emailaddress’ and ‘email’.

Inconsistencies make it difficult to use your data across different platforms. Fixing this manually can take a lot of time, and also leaves your data open to human errors.

Standardising these data entries from the outset will help you avoid running into this issue. Although, not to worry if your data already suffers from a few of these errors, our data cleansing service can help. Or if you’d really like to take charge of your own data, check out our self-serving online data management platform

5. Ensure data quality

Data quality is something that more and more small and medium enterprises are paying attention to, and for good reason. As data becomes more integral to business, it’s vital to ensure that data is high quality and purposeful.

But what exactly is data quality?

Data quality is essentially a measurement of how well your data works for its intended purpose. This measures important data quality dimensions such as:

  • Accuracy
  • Completeness
  • Consistency
  • Timeliness
  • Validity
  • Uniqueness

How to identify data quality issues

Identifying data quality issues isn’t always easy. Some issues may be more obvious, although many issues can go undetected in your database. In either case, poor data quality will prevent your data from performing to its maximum potential and working for its intended purpose. 

The impact of this can be severe. From wasted budget, lack of ROI, duplicate communications, and potential brand damage. Learn more about the 6 most common data quality issues

Aren’t sure where to start? Get in touch for a data quality assessment.

6. Set a regular data cleansing schedule

Small business data management is an ongoing process. No matter the size of your company, it’s important to stay on top of data, ensuring it is compliant, cost-effective and high quality.

One way that many SMEs keep on top of this is with a regular data cleansing schedule. A lot can change from month to month. Customers might change their contact information without notifying you, move address or revoke consent.

There may also be inactive contacts in your database that have passed away. Suppressing deceased contacts from your database might not be something that crosses every business’s mind, but is extremely important for avoiding brand damage and dealing with the situation sensitively.

Here’s an overview of things to look for as part of your data management schedule:

  • Goneaway suppression – the process of removing or updating information for contacts who have moved address.
  • Deceased suppression – the process of removing deceased contacts from your business database. This helps prevent brand damage and save costs.
  • Data validation – look out for contact information that isn’t valid. Unless communications bounce from these contacts, these can be hard to spot.
  • Incomplete data – look out for missing data entries. For example, are you missing email contact information for some contacts? 
  • Data entry mistakes – keep an eye out for spelling and input errors. It is possible for users to have mistakenly provided incorrect information, or for businesses to input data with mistakes.

These data management dimension can be difficult to spot. Especially if customers have not updated their details, or if you aren’t notified of bounced communications. That’s where an online data management platform comes in handy!

7. Focus on new data creation

One of the biggest challenges that small businesses face is acquiring new data. It can take a long time to gather a proportionate amount of data – especially data that is high quality, accurate and up to date.

As part of your data management plan, it’s important to also focus on new data creation, alongside the ongoing management of your existing data. There are several ways to do this, many of which involve customer acquisition marketing campaigns.

Common data acquisition channels include:

  • Instagram – visual posts and videos designed to attract new customers and leads.
  • Facebook – video streaming, messenger, business profiles and advertising.
  • YouTube – long form informative and entertaining videos.
  • TikTok – short form informative or entertaining videos.
  • SEO content – acquiring customers through organic search, using relevant web content to attract the right audiences.
  • Paid social – short form advertising with compelling copy and visuals.
  • Paid search – acquiring leads from search advertising. 
  • Referrals – customer loyalty schemes, points systems, word of mouth.

Customer acquisition for startups can be tricky, even when utilising many of the above methods. A common way for small businesses to hit the ground running with data acquisition is to buy customer data.

Though, be cautious of which company you buy prospect data from. It is important to buy from a trusted, reputable data insight company that processes data lists compliantly, with permission-based values.

At REaD Group, we pride ourselves on having the most comprehensive consumer database in the UK. Our data lists are of the highest quality, fully permission based, GDPR-compliant, helping you access data that has higher potential to perform.  Explore our prospect databases to find out more.

8. Make your data accessible (DMP)

Data should be managed in a way that makes things simple and accessible for everybody involved. While data should not be available to everybody in your company, it should be easily accessible for the select individuals who need to access it.

This will save you and your team time and effort. It is useful to make sure that everybody responsible for data management understands what the data is used for, how it is processed, and how it is purposed. 

9. Use a data management platform

Keep your data clean, organised and optimised with a data management platform. This is one of the easiest ways for businesses to manage their data, as well as clean and enhance it.

At REaD Group, we offer a fully self-serving online data management platform, REaD Online that lets businesses manage, audit, cleanse and enhance their data. All within a simple and easy to use online platform.

This can be used to identify data errors, invalid contacts, goneaways, deceased contacts, and much more.

Have a question? Speak to a data expert

Make the most of your data today with the help of our experts. We help businesses achieve their goals with the right data and insights to match. Find out more about how we can help by getting in touch, or explore our data services.

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