Contacts Not Included: How to More Easily Build Your Contact Data Asset

Every business wants better customer relationships, but how much effort should you expect to put into collecting and managing the data you need to fully connect with customers? There are a lot of good companies selling contact management, big data, and CRM solutions to help make your customer relationships better, but those solutions can be overwhelming – and not very useful – without significant effort to build and manage your contact data asset.

It’s almost as if companies forget that CRM systems start out as empty boxes. They don’t come loaded with all the prospects and customers you need in order to run a successful business. You have to go get your own contact data. It seems like these systems should include a warning that says, “Contacts Not Included.”

While it’s true that it takes a lot of effort to build and manage contact data, you can make the work easier in a few key areas by adopting the following three ‘data disciplines.’ Adopting these disciplines will reduce your organization’s level of effort so you or your employees can spend more of your time and energy working on your customer relationships instead of working on your data.

Data Discipline 1: Automating Contact Data Entry

Automating contact data entry saves your employees time and ensures that your data is accurate and complete. The key to automating contact data entry is to lower the barriers to data entry for your employees. Start by mapping out all the ways your employees interact with customers and enter contact data. For example, your employees probably need to enter data when your company gets a new lead, signs up a new customer, or receives an email from a customer.

The next step is to let technology do some of the heavy lifting. For example, your salespeople can use a business card scanner linked to a low-cost data entry resource to enter the data from business cards. You can also use a card reader API to automatically transfer business card information into your system.

Another option is to use a contact data API to pre-populate the fields in forms your employees have to fill out during these key events. For example, if your salespeople need to collect a first name, last name, job title, company name, email address, phone number, and social media profile links to create a new lead, use your contact data API to fill in the job title, company name, and social media profile links (if the data is publicly available or in your database already based on the email address). That way, your sales reps only need to enter some of the data and your API can fill in the rest. There is an added benefit here for the customer experience as well because your salespeople won’t have to ask as many customers to provide all that data if it’s already available.

Tip: You can also apply this discipline to your customers. Any time you ask a customer or prospect to fill out an online form, you can pre-populate the form fields with data you already have and make the experience easier. You can also use pre-populated forms to ask customers to correct information you have that isn’t accurate so your database stays up to date.

Data Discipline 2: Use Public Data for Smarter Customer Segmenting

One of the reasons to collect contact data is to group your prospects and customers into segments based on characteristics such as geography, gender, age, or social influence. The problem is that grouping or segmenting your customers has to be based on the data you have, and that equates to a lot of manual effort or risking your customer experience by asking customers for a lot of seemingly unnecessary information.

You can obtain more data and lighten your organizational workload when you use a contact data API to search for public information about the people in your database and use the public data along with your own data for segmentation. Public data can help you jumpstart your customer segments because you can match many data points to basic demographics and firmographics. For example, public data can help identify distinct patterns by age, gender, job level, location, company size, and even social interests and influence.

You should refresh your public data segments frequently so you can add new contacts to your segments. You should also refresh often to identify changes in contact information. For example, the average person changes jobs every 3 to 5 years, so up to 33% of your database could have a new job title, company, or geography every year!

Tip: Make sure you adhere to all data privacy laws, regulations, and best practices. Clearly disclose how your company uses customer data and offer your customers an easy way to opt-out of the collection and use of public data about them.

Data Discipline 3: Customer Profile Sharing and Collaboration

Your contact database is an asset, but it can also become a competitive advantage if your business can acquire the discipline of sharing and collaborating with contacts. Use a contact data API to connect all your contact databases together across your organization. That way, all the data collected or updated by any person or department in your company can be accessed and used by any other person or department. For example, when a customer support representative collects information about a customer during a support interaction, that information should be synced to the CRM used by sales so any sales representative can potentially use the same contact data to renew a contract or up-sell the same customer to a new level of service.

Tip: Give your employees the ability to manage their personal and business contacts collaboratively by encouraging the use of a company approved contact management application.


These three data disciplines – automation, segmentation, and collaboration – not only lower the costs of building a customer data asset, they also help create a more informed, customized, and personal customer experience. Stick to these disciplines over time, and you’ll be paid back with a wealth of data and insights you can use to get more out of your CRM system investments. As you refine and socialize these processes within your organization, the quality of your customer data will increase, and so will the opportunities to apply these insights to leads and potential buyers.