Marketing databases are never turnkey

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Marketing databases are never turnkey
Marketing databases are never turnkey

If you've either decided to outsource your marketing database or you've inherited a database host, how are you going to ensure that the marketing database delivers?

Many marketers are unfamiliar with the more technical side of their world, lack the staff to dedicate to this aspect of marketing or prefer to focus on directing creative development. As a result, they provide only minimal oversight of their marketing database, delegating these responsibilities to their advertising agencies or relying on their marketing database vendor to “self-manage.” This is a mistake. Marketers must actively manage their database vendors — even when the finest vendors are deployed.

Implementing and managing a marketing database is a complex task. The level of service received from a marketing database vendor depends on five dimensions: the skill and experience of each assigned team member; the availability of resources for the project; quality control and team integration; prioritizing the marketing team's needs; and the approach to design and development.

Skill and experience vary widely among vendor personnel, and vendors are looking to assign everyone to clients. Clients must thoroughly evaluate potential team members and not simply accept the team assigned. Clients must also insist that resources be made available in a timeframe to allow the project to be delivered on time and on budget.

Database vendors need to make sure that their team members share project knowledge and communicate regularly. Deliverables must be thoroughly vetted prior to delivery to ensure that the right solution is delivered the first time. Marketers must reject deliverables that lack substance or accuracy and insist that the full team actively maintain a comprehensive knowledge of their business.

The marketing team's needs must be prioritized over the database vendor's pre-built solutions. Vendors are constantly looking for ways to reuse pre-built solutions to reduce their costs. However, marketers must verify that the savings is passed along and that their needs are not shoehorned into solutions.

Design and development are key. Vendors' technical decisions have a direct impact on what marketers will be able to do with the database once it is completed. On-the-fly build decisions can doom a database's longevity, so marketers must rigorously vet technical decisions prior to their implementation.

Marketing database vendors want to make you happy but need to be constantly reminded that you expect the best. When marketers proactively oversee the design, build and management of their databases and provide knowledgeable, direct and immediate feedback to the vendor, they drive improved performance, get the best team members and the best solutions. The result is better marketing performance and exponentially reduced costs from errors, omissions, and unnecessary corrective action.

David Bernard is managing director of DB Marketing Technologies, a marketing analytics and CRM consultancy. Reach him at or by telephone at (212) 794-6402.

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