Make Sure You Use Your Data Properly

By Apr 28, 2011

Years back I had a job as a marketing director at a business-to-business cataloger. They mailed, without great results. They couldn’t figure out why.

When I came into the company the first thing I did was look at the data and how it was being pulled. I was told they were mailing to customers who had lapsed between three and 12 months or longer. Obviously, this wasn’t working.

I requested a full printout of exactly what segments were being pulled line by line into each category they mailed for every campaign. Wanna know what I found? Nothing was being pulled correctly. (But you knew that already, right?)

The marketing folk were spending meeting after meeting coming up with incredibly targeted campaigns with special offers, stickers, envelopes, etc. Too bad the data folk were sending those targeted campaigns to a totally different audience than the marketing folks anticipated.

If you are sending a “we haven’t heard from you in three months” message to someone who either just ordered or never ordered, the chances of them being responsive are pretty low. This lessens your customer service credibility and makes the customer feel as though you have no idea who they are, and that certainly doesn’t entice them to buy.

Taking the time to do some internal data profiling and determine what is really going on under the hood will serve you well now and into the future. Whether you are using your own in-house personnel, or housing your customer list with a service provider, a yearly look is a worthwhile pursuit for all involved.

All it takes is one initial data layout blunder to be saved, labeled incorrectly, and reused for subsequent mailings to cost you literally thousands and thousands of dollars.

Another aspect to consider about your own in-house file as well as rental files is the concept of mergers and acquisitions. With a meshing of data, databases oftentimes become a blurry mess of confusion. Reconciling several data systems can be a challenge. You may have a file tagged as a customer in one and as a prospect in another. Taking the time to at the least de-duplicate your file to reflect the most current purchasing and activity information will lessen the possibility of a data debacle.

Let’s take a moment to examine this from the rental file perspective. If you are a marketer who regularly rents managed files—which after all are nothing more than customer or subscriber data— you need to keep a close eye on the company you are thinking of using for their data. What’s gone on with them? Have they merged, have they any major overhaul that would affect their data?

All of the aspects you would keep a close eye on for your own data, you need to think about with this other company. When you are renting a customer file with specific segmentation you need to be darn sure that what you request is what you are really getting. And if they have indeed merged in the last year, you need to ask who’s file you are really receiving the original company, their new “owners” or a mix of both? Even hotlines are not going to help you if you don’t know where the data originated in the first place.

As marketers most of what we do is based upon reaching a specific audience with a message crafted for high response. Be sure beyond any reason of a doubt that who you are trying to entice really is who they say they are!

Carol Lustig is marketing director for Sonny’s Enterprises, a direct marketer of automotive aftermarket products.

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