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How To Clean Your Dealership’s Contact Data

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What is the bread and butter of all auto marketing campaigns? The bedrock of all lead nurturing? The one thing that has the power to completely wipe out your customer service reputation if done incorrectly?

Contact data.

Data has the power to put you in first place or blow out your tires so you never see the finish line. Data must be properly entered and standardized company-wide. If you do not have “clean” data, then you could be sending messages to the completely wrong people. Some will get angry and send rather inappropriate messages back to your dealership. Others will simply lose trust and ignore all future messages from your dealership. Either way, you will lose potential customers and possibly gain some negative reviews.

Whether it is addressing an email to the wrong person or sending new Fusion offers to someone who just purchased a Fusion yesterday, there is no excuse for using inaccurate data. Even if your data is more than ten years old, it can be fixed. Trust us, a little Excel magic goes a long way.

Use Proper Cases

Avoid entering any data, especially names, in all caps. If you pull that data for an email campaign and use their names as entered, it could look like this:

“Hello HOLLY” or “Bonjour MR. THOMPSON”

What was meant to make the email feel personal now does the exact opposite. Through exporting and importing from your CRM, case changes can be fixed in an Excel or Google document. Here’s how:

  • Add a column next to the data you want to change
  • Enter the function “=Proper(select a cell)”
  • Copy that cell and paste it into the entire column to apply the function
  • Copy that new column of data and paste (values only) into the original column you wanted to change

Now you can say “Hello Holly” or “Bonjour Mr. Thompson.” For more instructions and photos of the process, visit this site.

Distinguish People vs. Companies

Whether the purchase was for business or pleasure, the contact information should be entered into separate properties. Using a generic “Customer Name” property is fine for “Holly” but not for “Thompson Construction.” Utilize a separate property for company names so that you can contact them appropriately.

For instance, a company would be more interested in tax incentives offered at the end of the calendar year, while individuals would be more willing to buy in the spring, when they get their tax refunds.

By separating the contacts into individual people and companies, you can appropriately market to each audience and measure your success with each demographic. It’s a small addition to your data entry system, but it’s well worth the effort in the long run.

Establish Naming Conventions

With each new salesperson comes the potential to create new, unique labels for your customer properties. Do not let this happen! There is plenty of room for creativity at the dealership, but data entry is not the place.

Establish naming conventions so that everyone uses the same labels when entering data. It is easy to accrue a myriad of different labels over the course of your dealership’s existence, so make sure to conduct a data entry audit at least once a year.

Finding and fixing any incorrect or outdated labels is only half the battle. You also need to communicate the correct labels to new and existing staff. Perhaps half the staff was using “Contract Date” to determine a sale, while the other half was using “Purchase Date.” This might seem minor. But when trying to count the number of sales for a given period, the person pulling data may only use one of those labels, not realizing the other exists.

If you want to measure results down to the day and/or model, you need to have an accurate and easy way to find that data. Clean data will give a factual picture of the health of your dealership, as opposed to a rough estimate.

Eliminate Dormant Contacts

On average, vehicle owners re-enter the market every two to three years. If you have contacts who have not purchased from you in five or more years, then it might be time to break off the relationship. You can either update your contacts by making a clean cut for anyone who has not purchased after a given date, or you can give them a chance to stay in your system. We typically opt for the latter.

How do you get dormant contacts to interact again? Send them a “Dear John” letter. Whether it is via snail mail or email, send them a letter stating how you haven’t heard from them in a while and then ask if they would like to keep receiving messages from your dealership. Give them the opportunity to “opt in” or “opt out” of communicating with you.

Depending on how you are sending the message, the break-up process can consist of one to three opportunities for contacts to opt in or out. If they did not respond to any of your messages, go ahead and consider them dormant and stop marketing to them.


These contact data-cleaning techniques only scratch the surface. If you need help with a particular data piece, feel free to contact us. We have experience working with several different CRMs including ADP, Reynolds & Reynolds, VinSolutions, and DealerSocket.

Happy cleaning!


Want to learn more about using data? Get our new eBook, Delicious Data: Market using big data and personal data with these delicious recipes.

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