We live in an increasingly automated world. Nowadays, it seems that our computers sync programs and install updates without us even realizing it. In a lot of ways, such instantaneous automation is making our lives a lot easier.

However, it also removes some discretion from processes such as data organization and considers pre-adjusted settings over case-by-case specialization. In the realm of digital marketing, such systems can present far more technological curses than they can blessings.

This is specifically true in terms of content management systems. When a business gets dozens of new contacts from a complex web of data entry points, all on a daily basis, it’s initially a lot easier to dump everything into pre-structured organization software than to do so manually (emphasis on the word initially).

With seamless automation systems available at the swipe of a company card, its easy to congregate all subscribers’ addresses into one place and call it efficient. Unfortunately the process doesn’t end there.

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As marketing tools like CTAs and eBook sign-ups have become the info-grabbing norms, it becomes increasingly critical for us to understand the person behind each email address in order to influence the individual consumer journey.

Tools like CRMs have made this easier, but even they cannot function properly with dubious data. Although a spreadsheet with 10,000 vague names and emails certainly doesn’t lack density, it might not have much substance when it comes to reaching your audience and understanding who you are selling to.

These contacts are useless if there is no way to follow up, continuously communicate, and help the people behind them understand the value of your brand’s products or services.

While taking the time to differentiate each one and collect as much information as possible seems nothing short of a pounding headache, it is an essential step in streamlining your marketing strategies. Contact management tools like those in HubSpot can definitely serve as measurable solutions toward reaching users and building relationships with them, but a lot of preliminary activity must happen within company databases before they can be optimally used.

The good news is that precautionary actions can be taken in order to make the process of importing these lists into various systems as painless and proficient as possible.

1) Divide and Develop Existing Data

It's important not to undermine the value of the contact databases that your business has already established, no matter how indistinct, undeveloped, or sparse its data fields might be. As a primary step in subscriber persona development, it’s important to reap from what you’ve already sewn.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the task of organizing the information in these systems, especially when data that has been gathered through various entry points from trade shows to landing page contact forms is all funneled into the same space.

However, you have to work with what you’ve got. In the most optimistic case, these organization tools are already stocked with as much information on each subscriber as possible. It’s then critical to compartmentalize each contact by demographics like location, occupation, age, and gender, and also based upon what they seek from your company. After that, buyer personas can be more swiftly and thoroughly built, their corresponding journeys can be define, and next steps can be taken to reach them.

On the other hand, and unfortunately the hand that holds the majority of us, these databases might be in short supply of contact information. Perhaps they are ridden with invalid addresses or don’t even have first and last names that correspond. In this case, it is still pivotal to divide and conquer. If your company has multiple systems, it’s important pick though each one, compiling as much relevant information per contact as possible.

Things like a contact’s past product purchases could also match specific skew, so be sure to sift through those archives as well. While undoubtedly intensive, it’s completely necessary to refine each individual’s existing data in order to tailor follow up content that meets their needs.

2) Scrub, Update, Then Scrub Again

Once your existing databases have been exhumed, it’s crucial to determine the validity and connectivity of each subscriber in order to move forward. That’s where scrubbing campaigns can become useful. These campaigns can be enacted to help a business understand the nature of their consumers and to get a pulse on their email engagement.

They essentially serve as tactics to see which addresses are responsive, active, and likely to continue engaging with email updates and company services. Each scrubber email must correspond with the buyer persona that is trying to be reached.

For example, if a crib company has 33,000 eBook subscribers and knows that most are 28 to 35-year-old mothers in Florida, a test email can be created and sent out to each contact. The content in this initial email should address a broad problem and include a short CTA to measure response.

In this instance, perhaps the subject has to do with nesting tips that focus on getting the crib ready for baby’s arrival and the content offer is a 15% discount on the company’s top-of-the-line infant mattresses. The CTA should be directly linked with a CRM tool like HubSpot’s in order to get each contact into the system for further evaluation.


When the email is sent the company can then ascertain how many subscriber have clicked and opened it and the feedback can be measured to determine which addresses are void. The invalid emails can be discarded and the users who clicked click can then be further refined and input into a data collection and action system like HubSpot. This process can be re-implemented and further refined as your contact databases continue to grow and your buyer personas are further developed.

3) Treat Every Step as Part of an Ongoing Strategy

Contact organization is not the end product, but a constantly evolving means to an endless solution. Consumer research should be continuously and fluidly developed as a way to increase engagement with your prospects, both through email communication and throughout the entire buying journey.

When it comes to optimizing your business’s initial databases and creating CTA entry fields for your subscribers, consider whether the information that you are asking for can be beneficial in the unpredictable future. Include columns about which platforms and outlets your contacts were acquired from and ask in-depth questions when promoting content offers.

An immediate goal should be to make all of your data as robust and agile as possible. When you export your contacts’ information into a new system, it’s important to make sure that emails are valid, names and locations are up to date, and buyer personas are build out to their fullest.

Once you enter such data into HubSpot’s CRM, for example, it is reported in static lists, so it’s better to be fairly certain of its resilience ahead of time. Spend time gathering facts, figures, and stats on the frontend to avoid potential, future stress on the backend.

Contact management and maintenance is far from glamorous, or even enjoyable. Most marketers don’t begin their careers with ambitions of becoming data entry mavens and would honestly rather spend time on more creative facets of the biz, like content generation or campaign strategy.

However, as we are all well aware, people drive the product and the first step in knowing the person is research. It’s becoming increasingly critical to understand that every experience is a user experience and the importance of strategizing in compliance with the buyer journey cannot be underestimated.

Think about asking the right questions to the right contacts, cultivating relationships with them, and expounding upon the value that your business can give them at every point in each individual journey.

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Originally published Oct 23, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023