You Know Your Database Needs Refreshing When ...
You Know Your Database Needs Refreshing When …
July 5, 2005
By Michael Mathias
The great promise of database marketing is the ability to connect the right offer to the right person at the right time to stimulate a desired behavior. In practice, however, the best strategic thoughts are often completely diluted by the time they arrive at the point of execution. This dilution can be caused by many factors, but a leading culprit is not having the proper database infrastructure to leverage. Worse, the infrastructure itself, combined with the processes around it, could actually be an enormous constraint.
Databases are dynamic, but also entropic by nature. Left unmaintained, even the best customer or prospect database will degrade and become less useful over time. Often short-term objectives, such as hitting a fast-approaching deadline or testing pilot strategies, are in conflict with longer-term objectives that ensure relevant data is created, stored and made available for easy access and future analysis. It's the quick "work-arounds" that might actually do the most to render your database useless over time. Some of the most common marketing initiatives that can cause a database to need anything from a refresh to an overhaul include the addition of new data, new promotional ideas, new channel execution or response, and new users.
And, so, you know your database needs refreshing when …
New Data Is Introduced
There is always new data available to the database marketer and, assuming that there is some process in place to determine which data is actually valuable to the enterprise, the introduction of a new set of data might necessitate the review of business rules, calculations and access rights. Oftentimes data is either not actually loaded into a database and is treated as something "offline," or it is loaded into temporary space where information is not defined and standardized, and subsequently lost over time. This undermines the very reason to have a database.
New Promotions Are Implemented
A reoccurring problem with marketing databases is executing testing outside of the database without a plan to capture relevant learning for future use. Pilot programs, when successful, can roll out very quickly, and it is imperative that the selection and segmentation plans, model scores, promotional codes, and response information get appropriately connected to the database.
New Channels Are Utilized
Along with new promotions, capturing marketing data across all channels becomes critical in evaluating future marketing communications to prospects and donors. Gone are the days where a donor is exclusively considered an online giver or a direct-mail respondent. The interplay of these two channels, along with any others available, create opportunities for better-tuned contact strategies.
New Users Have Access
As database marketing becomes even more important to nonprofit organizations and fundraisers, new users will inevitably line up for access. A marketing database needs to support different levels of users with either more granular or rolled-up data. This effort presents tough choices on how to deliver the data to the users and often warrants an evaluation of what is really valuable.
Finally, your database could need refreshing when it starts to look like the closet in the basement that you're afraid to open. Getting old, useless data out of your database is as important as getting new data in. Many marketers over-indulge on available data without knowing its predictive or descriptive value. Having an understanding of which data is not only valuable but also actually used in marketing decisions is a hurdle that is emotionally tough to get over when there is so much data available. By doing so, however, your database can stay current and flexible to adapt with changing marketing demands.
Keeping your database fresh needs to be native to the way marketing is done, not an afterthought on a "to-do" list that never takes priority. A small investment in planning up front is the best way to ensure that data is ready to drive your marketing program.
Michael Mathias is the senior vice president, client management services, at Merkle Inc., a Lanham, M.D.-based database marketing firm. For information, log on to www.MerkleNet.com.