The average Salesforce implementation can store anywhere from 5 to 5 million contacts and leads. At most companies, those names, email addresses and positions enter the database from a variety of sources – sales representatives, lead generation applications, marketers, board members, to name just a few. As the number of people using the CRM increases, so does the amount of duplicated information. In other words, the more successful your Salesforce implementation is, the bigger your duplication problem becomes.
Why are duplicate contacts dangerous? Because ithey give your team bad data - the exact opposite of the CRM’s intended goal. When associates log activities, they could be associating them with the wrong record. When running reports, accounts and leads can be miscounted or over-represented. Employees would essentially be plunging down a rabbit hole to find the right record, wasting precious time and CRM goodwill. Worst of all, your information will quickly become outdated, and that could affect your bottom line in a myriad of ways. Optimizing Salesforce, in other words, means keeping it lean and clean.
Salesforce itself, like many of its counterpart CRM systems, has inadequate checks built into the platform to solve this problem. You can find a basic merge tool for some fields, which allows you to line up two records, pick which data should trump the other and then put them together. However, it is impossible for Salesforce to spot those duplicates itself. For leads, there is a basic search tool for dupes, but it tends to be both ineffective and unused.
That leaves you with two choices as you start figuring out how to de-dupe your records:
Export your entire Salesforce database to a spreadsheet, find the duplicate records manually through some ace Excel filtering, and then manually merge each duplicate using Salesforce’s own merge tool. Sounds like a lot of fun, right?
Plug a paid de-duplication tool into Salesforce, which will allow you to filter and set parameters for duplication to be cleared on an ongoing basis.
Whichever option you choose, it needs to go hand-in-hand with a conversation about how often de-duplication needs to happen and how will lead that process. If you have a Salesforce administrator onsite, is that the only person responsible for periodically cleaning your data. If there’s no dedicated CRM manager, have you fully allowed for the time investment it takes to both train someone on how to clean the data and have them do it on a regular basis? Depending on how you use your CRM, you may want it to be tidied weekly, monthly, bi-annually or on an ongoing basis.
Choosing a CRM de-duping tool
If you go with the sensible – and time-efficient – second option, you’ll soon notice that there are three main types of de-duplication tools out there.
The first flags duplicate entries as you enter them. So, for example, as you’re entering in Mark Zuckerberg’s email address, you’ll get popup notifications that the contact “Mark Zuckerber” already exists in your database. This method can be very ineffective if you’re having several different users enter data into your database. Most people are more likely to just close the notification window instead of manually taking the de-duplication step that it indicates. It essentially leaves your users in charge of de-duping.
The second type of de-duping tool is one that goes through the database automatically on a constant basis. It becomes more like a CRM’s administrative system, always working in the background, regardless of users engaging with it.
The third, and most effective type of de-duplication tool out there does both of these things simultaneously. It’s a solid method for ensuring that the de-duplication is happening constantly and intelligently.
Of the tools in the last category, Cloudingo is our favorite. We evaluated nearly six different tools, and of these, only Cloudingo and Ring Lead made it onto our short list. Traditional tools like CRM Fusion and Informatica were out of the running from the start, because the former needs to be installed on individual machines and the latter is a huge, expensive product that does far more than just de-duping.
Cloudingo and RingLead, on the hand, were the only two that were both affordable and that allow for de-duplication based on parameters set in any field (not just name or email address.) Cloudingo stood out as the only one that allows for mass and automatic merges based on preset parameters and that keeps duplication notices upon entry off by default.
Regardless of the tool you choose, the need for a de-duplication aid is clear. If your Salesforce database contains anything over 500 individual contacts, you should have a process, tool and timeline for keeping that data clean.