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How to Deal with Data Decay and the Increasing Amount of Unreachable Contacts

Beth Thouin
Unsplash data decay post header image

As a small or mid-sized business, you rely on your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to provide reliable data for your sales and marketing efforts. But your CRM data may not actually be as up-to-date as you think it is. 

According to Radius, only 70-75% of CRM data is accurate on average. This suggests that a quarter (or more) of your current contacts may be unreachable. That means that right this minute, as you read this post, your leads and customers are getting stale! 

Read on for everything you need to know about managing those unreachable contacts and best practices for keeping your CRM data in tip-top shape so you’re not losing out on potential business. 


Why Data Decay Is a Critical Business Challenge 

You’re likely wondering why your contacts are becoming stale. This gradual deterioration of data is called data decay. While estimates range for how quickly data decay happens, a conservative estimate is 30% per year.

Hubspot data decay estimate graph and table

Data decay is the result of several factors:

1. Contact Information Errors

First, it can be as simple as collecting the wrong contact information. Or, the right information was provided, but it was entered into the CRM incorrectly or without all the details. An IntroHive report found that 88% of CRM users enter incomplete contact information.

IntroHive CRM infographic showing stats

2. Employee Turnover

Another standard cause of data decay is job changes/employee turnover. In some industries, such as tech, where turnover is high, the rate of data decay can be as much as 70% per year

3. Business Changes

Finally, data decay can happen due to business changes. On average, 34% of companies change names each year. Businesses get sold, mergers happen and other major shifts occur. These changes can compromise the integrity of the data. 

Data decay stems from disconnected or changed phone numbers, inaccurate business addresses and invalid emails — all which makes leads unreachable. 

Most importantly, as an SMB, this decaying data kills efficiency and costs you money. According to ZoomInfo, an unreachable contact in your CRM costs you a whopping $100. Even more alarming, 40% of business objectives fail due to inaccurate data. 

ZoomInfo data decay costs infographic section

Specific Strategies to Deal with Unreachable Contacts 

If you have a CRM, you’re likely dealing with the challenge of decaying data and unreachable contacts. As a small business owner, you probably feel that you don’t have the time or resources to manage or update this information.

The good news is studies show that a 5% increase in data accuracy can result in a 10% increase in return on investment. Investing time now will lessen the impact of data decay and positively impact all of your sales, marketing and customer service initiatives. 

Here are four strategies to get started with managing your decaying data. 

1. Eliminate Manual Data Entry 

Manual data entry is only as good as the human doing the entries. The fact is, humans are, well, human, and they make mistakes. 

In addition to human error, the frequency with which you do your data entry can also have a significant impact on decay. Every second your data awaits entry into the CRM, it is deteriorating. If it takes days, weeks or even months to get entered, it’s costing your business. 

The best way to tackle these issues is to eradicate manual data entry anywhere leads or customer information is collected. Cloud and mobile technologies are easy to use and can replace forms and sign-up sheets. For example, at your next event, try capturing lead information using an iPad so it’s directly entered into your CRM. 

SmarterCX cloud stat

2. Stop Collecting so Much Data 

Naturally, we want to have as much information on our customer base as possible. As a result, we have a tendency to collect too much data. The more information we collect, the more data that can become stale. 

With sales and marketing efforts, carefully consider if you need to collect so much data or if there are items you can eliminate. 

Let’s look at collecting new leads as an example. With a new lead captured through your website, do you really need their name, title, company name, website, email and details on their company? Many times, one or more of these items can be eliminated and collected further on in the customer’s journey if necessary. 

Number of form fields graphic

3. Don’t Buy Lists of Leads

Purchasing lists of leads is a common practice for many companies, but one that can result in a number of problems – especially when it comes to data decay.

Many email service providers don’t allow the use of purchased lists. Using these emails can negatively impact your email Sender Score, which is like a credit score for your email. Your Sender Score is used by mailbox providers to determine if they’ll accept your emails. Too many “bad” emails can result in your emails not being delivered at all. 

SenderScore web graphic

If you commonly purchased lists in the past, you may want to reallocate that marketing budget towards a more targeted campaign. Focus on acquiring leads and growing your email list using other methods, such as content marketing, social media and search engine optimization. 

4. Ensure the Quality of Your Data 

When it’s determined there’s a problem with data, there’s often a push to research and then update the data on an as-needed basis. This approach is time-consuming, with inaccurate B2B contact data wasting 27.3% of sales reps’ time or 546 hours per year for a full-time employee.  

Data quality services help ensure your contact database is up-to-date by validating the information as it enters your CRM and spot checking it over time. The Network of Record™ offers the most comprehensive, up-to-date source of U.S. B2B data, including job title, job function and direct contact information.


Understanding how data decay may be impacting your small business’ CRM is the first step towards addressing the challenges it presents. By implementing one (or all) of the strategies outlined above, you can help ensure your contacts are accurate and up-to-date, which has a long-term, positive impact on everything from productivity to profitability. 




Image Credits
Feature Image: Unsplash / Samuel Zeller 
Image 1: via Hubspot
Image 2: via IntroHive
Image 3: via ZoomInfo
Image 4: via SmarterCX
Image 5: via QuickSprout
Image 6: via Sender Score