Your contacts list is your greatest inbound marketing asset.

So when was the last time you made sure it was accurate? Are you sending your marketing campaigns to the right people? Or even real people?

One of my largest clients wasn’t sure, so they set out to fix it.


The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) has a vast list of contacts, ranging from members to non-members, partners to potential partners, and everything in between, covering all of Australia and New Zealand.

Their contacts are their lifeblood to keep their sales pipeline full.

And they recently embarked on a project to check and update every single one of them.



A “contact” isn’t just a name and email address. It’s their relationship to your business, their buyer behaviour such as buying history and intention, what they’re interested in, where they’re located… anything and everything that can help you tailor your messages to individual needs to get the best results.

A good list with lots of the right information is the key to marketing and lead nurturing: using what you know about the individuals who are interested in your products or services (existing and potential customers) to increase sales.

But all this information is useless if it’s wrong.


ALPMA are committed to getting the most out of the information they know about their members, partners and other people who are interested in what they do. But they knew they had some work to do to get all this information up to scratch.

To get the best results, they needed to go through each contact individually and check if their details are up to date, if they’re catagorised correctly and if they’re receiving the right material.

It’s a big job! But ALPMA are excited about the opportunities this “clean up” will give them:

  • Make sure they’re sending the right campaigns to the right people – improving engagement and conversion of their campaigns.
  • Increase the number of people who can receive their campaigns.
  • Start to implement “lead nurturing” based on what a contact’s interested in and how they’ve interacted with ALPMA so far.


We recommend regularly exporting and auditing your entire marketing list.

How often you should do it depends a lot on how many you have! A basic client list of a few hundred can be audited twice a year. A full database of over 10,000 can be exported by category (you do segment into categories, right?) to check one every month or so.

This is just a rule of thumb, but you’ll find an auditing schedule that works for your business.



The contact audit process can be simple or really complex. It depends a lot on the nature of your contacts and your goals for the audit. The following process is a basic structure to start from, but you’ll want to customise it for your system and needs.

1. Identify your objectives of having a tidy contact list.
Do you want to change what information you store? Segment your email marketing better? Find inactive contacts? You can structure your audit process based on what you actually want to achieve.

2. Export your list (the whole thing or just one category), including all available fields
You need to be aware of what fields can and can’t be reported on out of the system you use. You might be able to do your entire audit in one simple spreadsheet, or you might need to use a few and go back into your system to make some manual changes.

3. Find “deletions”.
Look for your inactive/old contacts or spam. Move these into a separate spreadsheet to delete later.

4.Check for missing information.
A spreadsheet export will let you quickly find any gaps and update the missing information, where possible.

5. Check for duplicates.
You can use Excel’s conditional formatting or sorting functions to highlight duplicates. TIP: Always look for duplicates on a few different fields, including email address, first name and last name. Most systems won’t let you enter an email address more than once, but the same contact might exist with multiple different email addresses, which you’ll be able to find by looking for first name or last name duplicates.
How you merge duplicates will depend on your system.

6. Check each contact individually.
This is the nitty gritty. Look for misspellings, wrong email addresses, old companies, incorrect categories or segmentation.

7. Highlight or record what’s changed.
You might need to make the same changes in other systems. It’s also handy when checking that the contacts have been updated successfully.

8.Take another export as a backup!
Do this right before you update.

9.Check for changes since your first export.
Some audits will take a little while. It might be a day, a week, or longer, but your data might change in the meantime! Use Excel to compare your updated data (that you’re about to import) and the export you just took, to check for any new data that you’re about to overwrite!

10. Import or update your data.
Depending on your system, this might be a simple re-import of your spreadsheet, or you might need to manually update some records.

11.Re-export the data again and double check your updates were successful.
This is really important. Did the import work? Has anything been missed?


A clean contacts list lets you market efficiently and effectively.

ALPMA can’t wait to reap the rewards of this huge project in 2016, but I know they’re not the only ones who can benefit from regular contact auditing.

How could you use your contacts better? And what process would you go through to tidy them up?

If you’re not sure, or just want a hand to get started, we’d love to hear from you.

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