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Management Trends

Database Marketing is an Art Form

by BMA Knowledge Base, Business Marketing Association

February-March, 2007
The current evolution of database marketing has been, for the most part, technology-generated.

More tools are becoming available as a result of the decreasing costs of additional computer power and the ever-increasing information available on customers and prospects. Today, database marketing is a realistic proposition. So realistic that it will change the way we communicate and interact with our customers and prospects forever. However, it will be only the skillful and artistic implementation of database marketing tools that will allow marketers to successfully manage their individual relationships of individually differentiated customers.

The principles, methodologies, and technologies of database marketing truly are scientific. It’s proven that retaining customers is much more cost effective and profitable than finding new ones. It’s also proven that by creating and maintaining a constant dialogue with each individual customer, information will come to light that will allow marketers to sell more products to the same customer. This is because marketers will be identifying and solving their customer needs from information recorded from each dialogue or interaction.

Jeff Peterson, executive director of the Foil Stamping and Embossing Association, has extensive experience in database marketing for the finishing industry. “Having a database marketing program in place can be very helpful for finishing organizations, both in relation to customers and potential customers. It can be very useful to keep history on jobs that the finisher knows will repeat, to follow up with the customer as the job approaches. The information the finisher has on its printing customers will help the finisher with follow up, and with new potential jobs as well.”

“From a finishing standpoint, fields that can be worthwhile in a customer database include specific details on the sheet size a printer works with, its status as a sheet-fed or web printer, and the types of markets it serves.”

Because of the diverse environments that marketers operate in, implementing all of the database marketing tools, methodologies, principles, and disciplines is truly a skilled art form. Like a craftsman or artist who skillfully uses a combination of many different tools to create his masterpieces, marketers have many database marketing tools from which to choose in creating their marketing masterpieces. Artistic ability is necessary to combine the appropriate tools to get the desired results.

What You Need To Know
The first step in identifying what database marketing tools would be the best to create and refine your marketing masterpiece is a needs analysis of your environment - from a technical, informational, and marketing perspective. In this process you identify basic database marketing requirements based on your specific needs - such as the functional needs of a system and any technical constraints that must be imposed. Typical areas to address include intended use, file size, data complexity, data sources, update frequency and procedures, what data elements to prioritize, in-house support, user skills, nontechnical services, customization, and consulting.

As craftsmen and artists possess different levels of skills or expertise, marketers are no exception. Some already are power users of database marketing tools while others never will be. The level of end-user marketing sophistication must be addressed upfront in your needs analysis and realistic expectations must be set before implementing a solution.

“A print finisher can start a database marketing program slowly and build on it,” says Peterson. “Having a database program that will allow the users to include specific fields that relate to their specific customers is the important part, besides the general address, phone, email, etc. The sophistication of the system can grow slowly as the finisher begins to use it more and more.”

Once you’ve completed a needs analysis of your environment and have set realistic expectations, you’re in a position to decide what database marketing tools would be best suited. Also, consider which marketing staff members are best suited for working with which tools.

More important than what tools you might use, is how you use them. Today’s selections include software and data tools; usually some combination of the two is most effective. To what extent you use the combination is totally dependent on your own particular business and marketing environment. Since the marketing environment is dynamic, constant calibration is necessary when combining different tools to achieve the desired results.

Enhancement data is another tool marketers can use. Typically, marketers maintain customer, transactional, and promotional data on customers and prospects. Enhancement data - like demographics, lifestyle, business-to-business data, and more - will allow you to enhance your customer and prospect information to identify new opportunities or reinforce current marketing programs.

Business-to-business marketers can implement information from such sources as American Business Information (ABI), which allows you to overlay information such as company size, industry, affiliated subsidiaries, franchises, and more.

In summary, database marketing is truly an art beyond science. The artistic implementation of the tool occurs only after constant evaluation of your marketing programs. Since database marketing produces measurable results, ongoing evaluation is a natural byproduct. And it’s this constant evaluation of your marketing programs that leads to the artistic implementation of tools, leading you beyond the science into the art of database marketing.

The BMA serves the professional and educational development interests of business-to-business marketers and their partner suppliers. Headquartered in Chicago, the BMA supports 22 chapters in major business centers throughout the United States and has membership in Canada and Europe. For more information, visit www.marketing.org.