12 Reasons Why You Should Clean Out Your Lead Database Today

By Jeremy Eisenberg - March 03, 2016

This morning I read a very interesting blog post by HubSpot on how they increased their organic website traffic by more than 50% by auditing their website and tweaking their technical search engine optimization.

And I couldn't agree more: Technical SEO is something we have to keep working on regularly. But most of us like to avoid thinking about it as it is a tedious and boring job weeding through the 301 redirects, backlinks, and 404 pages to present a clean and easy to crawl website to search engines.   

We will deal with it once and then push it to the back of our minds. We will deal with it one day — you know, when we have time... But it slowly decays. It becomes messy, unorganized, and therefore, less effective.

Well, your lead database is just the same.

You work so hard to generate new leads and fill your pipeline, but they slowly decay over time.


In the beginning of January, we sat down together as the 3P Creative Group marketing team and looked at our contacts with a fine tooth comb.

We started out by scanning them to discover any patterns, decided on a strategy, and then acted on them right away — which meant to either delete them, send them a reengagement email or sort them in special lists to better tailor our marketing campaigns to their needs. 

There are many good reasons why you should spring clean your entire database and get rid of dead weight, outdated contacts and re-engage with worthy ones. Below we have listed the 12 most important ones:

1) Prioritize Marketing Tactics

Get your audit off on the right foot, decide on what is most important to you and sort accordingly. Do you want to re-engage old leads before they become too stale? Or do you want to go after the newest and freshest? Do you have to register leads?

You might want to start with the ones that haven't been registered. Is there a time limit on the registration? Then starting with the ones that are expired or expiring soon could be your start.

Pro-top: Make a plan, and even a Google Drive sheet before you start, and don't be afraid to change course based on what you find as you go through your contacts.

2) De-Emphasise Marketing To Less Important Buyer Personas

More than two years ago, we focused on Interior Designers and Architects as one of our niches. I wrote three or four articles about the topic and each of them became instant hits! One of those blog posts was even featured on Houzz, a very popular social media marketplace website for interior designers, architects, and other home-related professionals — and it still generates hundreds of views every month.

We soon found that while we were passionate and knowledgeable about the topic, it was not the right niche for us.

So, we de-emphasized them in our lead nurturing program and we only send them general marketing articles and offers.

Another buyer persona we are not pursuing is other marketing agencies. We are often asked to share our success story with other new HubSpot partners and we offer many resources that help others grow. But, of course, we do not want to actively market to them. And why would we — most of our communication is irrelevant to them. So, again, we keep them separate.

If these old buyer persona's end up clogging up your database, consider deleting them or sorting them into lists where they don't receive email communication (a quiet list).

3) Stop Wasting Time On Old Leads That Don't Remember You

When going through your contacts you are sure to come up with leads that downloaded some TOFU offer, you never personally followed up with them, so they have been receiving automated emails for months or years. Every email gets delivered, so it is still a valid email, but they never click, or even open them. Chances are they are just deleting or ignoring your emails.

Want to grab their attention? Send them a breakup email, with a simple, direct, and eye-opening subject line. For example, "Sorry, we have to kick you off our list" or one that I received a while back "Do you still want our newsletter?"

The email went on to say that I hadn't been opening the newsletter, and to stay on I had to reply with "Keep Me." I actually was reading their newsletters, but not from that email account, so this was a great way for them to clean up, especially duplicate contacts like me.

If the contact re-engages, you can then sort them into more appropriate buckets, and if they don't, then let them go.

Pro-tip: In the breakup email, ask a question that will let you better sort them into the appropriate buyer persona. 

4) Re-Engage To Get New Business

This might seem similar to the breakup email from the previous section, but it is different. These contacts are not as old, or they have opened or clicked on emails. Or even worse, after their initial form submission they haven't received any marketing emails at all.

From your initial scanning of your contacts, this group should have a better probability of becoming a sales qualified lead (SQL). To re-engage them, instead of a general breakup email, try a more specific email. What did they download/sign up for? Which email(s) did they click on recently? Have they visited the website recently? 

After going through this group, come up with a few segmented emails that will not only get them to open and click on the email, but help them with their problem so there can be further follow up.

Pro-tip: Monitor this group closely for activity as they can become SQL's fast.

5) Re-Segment Your Database

Remember pro-tip #1, ask a question to help you better define your buyer persona? Well, here is why — segment your database better. Depending on the question you ask, you might come to discover a new buyer persona type, i.e. your product or service is being used in a way you didn't intend, (like Play-Doh was originally a wallpaper cleaner, not a fun toy for kids...and adults too). 

This new segment can lead to new marketing campaigns to attract even more of this buyer persona. Conversely, you might find that one of your buyer personas is not as interested as before. So this could either be a sign to stop marketing to them, or even better, figure out why they have become disinterested and change it. Either way you go, keeping the status quo is a waste of your current resources.

Pro-tip: After you have further segmented your database, analyze where your best and worst customers come from, and allocate your resources appropriately.

6) Find Gaps In Your Marketing

Even if your re-segmentation didn't find any new buyer personas, it might have helped you realize you might be ignoring one of your buyer personas. If you are getting leads from one buyer persona but they don't further engage, maybe it is time to create new content for them, or update existing content. You might have had the definitive guide they were looking for, but if it is from 2013, it is out of date.

Finding the gaps and filling them in with fresh and updated content will result in higher quality and quantity of your leads.

Pro-top: Performing an audit of your offers at the same time you go through your contacts can help to identify marketing gaps.

7) Add To Your Quiet List

Along with the additional questions and segmenting, you will find that competitors and potential partners have filled out a form. You shouldn't be actively marketing to them, so you can put them on a quiet list where they don't receive emails from you. 

In the future, you can market to them, for instance if you are running a webinar, conference, or looking for strategic partners.

Pro-tip: Add competitors, partners etc. as choices in your buyer persona field in your marketing software.

8) Align Sales & Marketing (Smarketing)

Chances are you've heard of smarketing. If not, it's a term for when you align your marketing and sales. While your marketer is going through the contacts, talking with the sales team can really help to find out:

  • Which leads are the best?
  • Which leads weren't ready yet (and why)?
  • What were the biggest problems and most frequently asked questions your leads had?

The answer to these questions can help you to better segment the leads into buyer journey stages as well as discover content to create and promote.

Pro-tip: Have your marketing and sales team agree on the terminology they use to better communicate. For instance, marketing might consider a MOFU form submission as an opportunity, but sales calls that a lead.

9) Leads That Have Matured

This takes a bit of poking around on the lead's website, but it could well be worth it. We had a lot of leads that downloaded our beginners guide to inbound marketing, but weren't ready to have a conversation with us.

Since then, they changed their business model and started to embrace inbound. They started blogging, increased their social media posts and have seen significant ROI. Now they ready to take it to the next level.

Pro-top: A crawling tool like Screaming Frog can help you determine quickly how much blogging and landing pages they are publishing.

10) Reducing Your Contacts Can Reduce Your Costs

HubSpot and other marketing automation software base their price on several factors, one of those being the total number of contacts. While it might not seem like a lot at first, after years of building up low-quality leads, you could be draining thousands of dollars from your marketing budget every year. 

Depending on how aggressive you want your cleanup to be, delete instead of putting to a quiet list.

Pro-tip: Add a new field when you go through your contacts called "Contact Review Month/Year" and make it a No/Yes response. Do this each time you go through your contacts and after a couple of years of leads not becoming customers, delete them.

11) Fight Database Decay

According to Marketing Sherpas, email databases decay (B2B) 2.1% every month, or 22.5% a year. So yes, more than 1/5th of people that took the time to fill out their real information on your site, stopped caring within a year. 

Take this as a time to weed out the non-contributors and keep your database from being bogged down.

Pro-tip: Make a smartlist of leads that haven't engaged in a long time, and delete.

12) Fight Being Flagged As Spam

HubSpot is very serious about their sender score, and you should be too. The more emails you send out that can bounce, get reported as spam or unsubscribed can lower sender score. If you reach the HubSpot threshold for this score, you could lose the ability to send emails through HubSpot.

If you are sending out emails on your own or through another service, you risk that most of your emails don't get through, even to leads that want to see it.

Pro-top: If you are afraid to delete contacts without sending them at least one email, use a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact to send to the higher risk groups in batches.

When was the last time you went through your leads?

We would loave to hear from you about your previous experience spring cleaning your contact database. What did you learn? Of do you have any questions about how to do it? Just let us know in the comments below. 

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