Get It Together Part 1: Normalizing Your Fields 1

Normalizing State FieldsWelcome to my “Get it Together” series, where each week I will look at one simple thing you can do to begin to clean up your contact information and work toward a well organized marketing machine.

This week, I am going to focus on normalizing data fields. What does that mean? It means that all of the information in one particular field looks and acts in the same format so you can compare blueberries to blueberries and not blueberries to beets (I’m a bit tired of apples and oranges!).

Let’s look at a couple of typical areas that are more often than not, a big ugly mess. How many different ways can you represent the State of California in a “State” field? Let’s look at the ones that the USPS recognizes: Cal. Calif. CALIF. CA. Now let’s imagine for a moment that you are organizing a road show and want to mail a postcard to all those in California, but you want your mailing to be in alphabetical order by the person’s last name. If you sort your spreadsheet by state and then last name, it will not work. All of the CA’s will show up first (Last names in order), then the “Cal” folks… you get the idea.

By normalizing the field to a standard, say the two letter code “CA,” you now have a clean data set and can sort to your heart’s content.

After you have tackled states, take a look at countries, addresses and of course, phone numbers.

Setting up certain rules of how data should be entered into your data collectors (web forms, email subscription forms, contact relationship management (CRM) systems, address books, etc. will set you up for success in the long run. It can be a bit tedious to clean up at first, but will save you in labor costs and frustration forever moving forward.

Next week, “Asking for Information.” How do I get the data I need?

Do you have overwhelming data chaos lurking in your lists? We can help. CONTACT US for information on our Data Integrity Program.

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