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Data Quality

Data deduplication

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Names, birthdays, email addresses, engagement behavior, and purchase history: the amount of data your company can log about its leads and customers is both a blessing and a curse.

Your customer relationship management (CRM) data allows you to set up highly targeted marketing campaigns and deliver personalized service, but it also takes up a lot of storage space, requires time to manage and analyze, and carries the risk of data duplication.

It’s not unusual for data to get copied from one file system to another, or for the same information to be entered multiple times. That’s why it’s crucial to deduplicate data on an ongoing basis to prevent redundant data from taking up storage capacity and—even worse—leading to errors and subpar sales and marketing outreach.

But what is data deduplication?

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What is data deduplication?

Data deduplication, also known as data dedup or dedupe, refers to the removal of duplicate records from your company’s systems so that only one unique instance of each piece of data is kept. In other words, data deduplication helps keep your data clean.

Data deduplication processes analyze volumes of data, identify data that is stored multiple times, and duplicates. In the context of the CRM, when duplicates are found, information from each record is merged onto the winning record to create one remaining record in the CRM.

In a CRM like Salesforce, there are many ways in which data redundancies can occur.

For example,

  • Record duplication
  • Field duplication between objects (e.g., tracking product of interest on the Opp level and on the Account level instead of just sharing the same field of info between both objects, but with one place to make the update —either the account or the opp record)
  • Records in your CRM that are also created asynchronously in other systems. Similar to the last point, this occurs when employees track the same type of record in different systems with some information being the same and some different. This points to the need for a system of truth and syncing of data across platforms to reduce redundancies and discrepancies.

Regardless of the cause, deduping your data is vital to ensuring the quality and integrity of your CRM data.

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The importance of data deduplication in data maintenance and quality control

Redundant data can harm your business processes and strategy in various ways:

  • It slows down your systems.
  • It increases the chances of mistakes—for example, multiple sales representatives contacting the same lead.
  • It leads to high data storage costs.
  • It makes data recovery more cumbersome.

In fact, we found that 48 percent of businesses report that duplicate data seriously impairs their ability to fully leverage their CRM system. Meanwhile, 60 percent of businesses cite duplicate data as the marketing department’s biggest obstacle when pulling campaign lists and 73 percent cite it as their biggest obstacle when evaluating campaign performance.

Data deduplication carries a multitude of benefits including improving sales and marketing campaigns, customer engagement, and overall ROI. Once data deduplication is completed, only one copy of each record is stored in your database, leading to improved data quality.

As a process, data deduplication can occur as data is being created (in-line deduplication) or modified, and/or as a background activity that is implemented to run on-demand or at defined, scheduled intervals (post-processing deduplication). However you choose to address duplicated data, it’s essential to have a deduplication plan or duplicates will overwhelm your business.


Validity DemandTools simplifies data deduplication by detecting, eliminating, and preventing duplicate records from misleading your sales and marketing teams and causing friction in your customer journey.

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How does data deduplication work?

Data deduplication methods work best when they are a consistent part of your daily business operations, as opposed to being considered a project to tackle only a few times a year. The volume of data businesses are responsible for is consistently increasing as more and more information is gathered each day. A strong deduplication routine is the only way to prevent duplicate records from clogging up your databases.

The three data deduplication techniques below ensure that the same data isn’t stored multiple times in your digital environments.

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Three techniques for deduping data

When looking to dedupe data, there are three types of methods that you can consider to find the best fit for your organization. These are:

  • On-demand: Using this data deduplication method, the user goes in and runs a data tool to find and merge any data duplications.
  • Automated: With an automated deduplication process, the user takes their trusted deduplication scenarios and sets them to run at their desired cadence.
  • Preventative: With this type of data dedupe, the user has a duplicate blocker in place that manages data as it comes in from end-user entry, web forms, storage system integrations, and list imports. It acts as a kind of filter that only lets unique records through, preventing data duplication from happening.

A well-rounded data deduplication approach will include all three techniques to ensure duplicates are identified and remediated as soon as possible.

For duplicate prevention, a duplicate key is assigned for each record. Each duplicate key is created based on the preset fields and matching algorithms used to identify matching records. Then, when another record is entered (or edited) with a matching key, the dupe is identified and is either blocked from entering the database, automatically merged with the existing record, or is sent to the system administrator with a warning to review.

On-demand data deduplication also uses a set of fields and matching algorithms to determine if data records are unique or duplicates, but only when initiated by the end user. When using this method to dedupe data, the duplicate key is not stored on the record. When initiated, on-demand deduplication scans the existing records in your databases and presents the user with a list of identified duplicates to merge. This is an extremely helpful technique for consistent data quality maintenance.

Automatic data deduplication occurs when the fields and matching algorithms used in your on-demand deduplication are saved and set to run on a schedule. Duplicate prevention is also a way of automating your deduplication strategy, but having both in place will keep you ahead of the duplicates that will inevitably try to make their way into your database. Match parameters can be shared between your duplicate prevention techniques and on-demand approach, making the setup of both much easier.

It’s important to note that no data is deleted until pertinent information from the losing record has been moved onto the winning record (the record that stays in your database), preventing data loss.

However, database management can be tricky, as duplicate records regularly occur within a business’s database. It takes proactive effort and planning to dedupe data and carry out a successful merge process.

Your business should prioritize an exact plan for merging duplicate records that fully details instructions for all impacted subsystems. Below are some helpful questions to answer before implementing record deduplication and merging:

  • What subsystems will be impacted by merging?
  • How does your team want the merge process to function in your platform?
  • How many steps will be involved in the merging process?
  • What conflicting data points should be kept between duplicates and why?

See how Akamai deduplicated their Salesforce data 300x faster with DemandTools. 

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When should you perform data deduplication?

The short answer is: always.

Keep in mind that data deduplication doesn’t have to coincide with a system implementation or data migration to be successful or useful.

Your CRM is always expanding as end users and list uploads add and update records in your CRM daily. You must meet your input level with the same level of deduplication. It needs to be frequent and ongoing.

Data deduplication works best as a continuous process to help maintain and guarantee the quality of the data you’re working with.

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On-demand data deduplication

Many organizations will start by cleaning up the existing records to get an understanding of the considerations they need to make as they manage this movement and consolidation of data. Once they have a set of on-demand scenarios in place identifying and merging duplicates based on their unique needs, those same principles can then be used to fuel their hands-off preventative approach and automation.

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Preventative data deduplication

Instead of starting with on-demand deduplication, some organizations put their preventative solution in place first and set it to report the identified duplicates. This empowers them to see how the data being entered is causing duplicates and how best to prevent them without actually merging or changing the data.

Starting with an on-demand or preventative approach can be decided purely by preference or need.

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What are the benefits of deduplicated data?

Data deduplication plays a critical role in an effective data management strategy. Below are some of the benefits of data deduplication:

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Deduplicated data decreases costs

Deduplicating data immediately cuts costs in vital areas of your business ranging from system administration to employee churn.

  • Data storage costs: Storing large volumes of data costs a lot of money, as many CRM systems will charge companies based on the amount of records stored. Deduplicating your database prevents it from being bloated with redundant records that needlessly drive up data storage costs, while also freeing room for new data to enter. In other words, data deduplication helps you minimize the storage capacity you need.
  • Data verification costs: When it comes to data verification, it is always a best practice to dedupe data first to prevent paying for the same record to be verified multiple times.
  • New hire onboarding costs: In a recent study, Validity found that 71 percent of CRM users from over 600 organizations surveyed would consider leaving their current role if additional resources are not allocated to a robust data quality plan. Trimming your database of duplicates makes the entire system easier to use—boosting employee satisfaction.
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Deduplicated data improves bandwidth and recovery efficiency

With less duplicate data to drag them down, your systems will run faster and your team will be able to operate more smoothly.

And if you ever need to perform a recovery, the data transfer will complete in less time since you’ll only be restoring unique, quality data and no duplicate files.

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Deduplicated data improves sales and marketing campaigns

Deduplication helps to increase the accuracy of your organization’s insights, which means you have better information to base your strategies on.

When your database is filled with redundant information, it derails your sales and marketing efforts. For example, if one of your customers has their information inadvertently added more than once as a lead in your system, it can mean that they receive duplicate messages or worse, have multiple sales reps contacting them, creating confusion and friction in the customer journey. This can seriously hurt their opinion of your organization.

Multiply this experience across your customer base and your brand reputation will only be harmed by your sales and marketing campaigns rather than improved.

Data deduplication removes this threat and instead provides your sales and marketing teams with the most accurate data possible—it increases data productivity and ultimately improves your brand’s overall operations.


of companies say unstandardized and/or duplicate data is their marketing department’s biggest obstacle when evaluating campaign performance

*(source Validity research State of Data Health 2022)

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Deduplicated data increases return on investment

Implementation of effective data deduplication will always have a high return on investment (ROI) for your business—right from the start. By eliminating redundant data, you’ll be able to decrease your overall storage costs, data verification costs, and marketing costs on direct mail campaigns, which might have previously drained your budget and resources.

Data deduplication also streamlines data processes as accurate, high-quality data is readily available for your teams, which will reduce downtime and increase their trust in the data. When employees feel confident that they’re working with up-to-date, accurate data, they’re able to work more efficiently and create new strategies to improve your organization.

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Data duplication: crucial to successful data management

Data deduplication helps you save storage space, speed up your systems, and run your operations more smoothly and with less risk of error. Removing duplicated data should be an ongoing process in ensuring data protection and quality, not just something you do when moving from one file system to another, or when your storage capacity needs grow too big.

To learn how Validity DemandTools helps teams maintain a clean, duplicate-free CRM database, schedule a demo with our team today!