Databases go beyond marketing to drive communications

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Richard Tooker
Richard Tooker
Marketing databases came into being in the early 1970s. Although much has changed in the way databases are built and maintained since that time, the basic reason for creating them has remained consistent. Integrating data from multiple sources and making that data available for marketing purposes through the use of campaign management and analytical applications creates a very useful and effective marketing environment.

At first, marketing databases were used almost exclusively to produce selections for direct mail and for relatively high-level customer base analysis.

As the technology improved, the uses expanded. In recent years, the applications for marketing databases now encompass the Internet and, increasingly, drive reactive marketing, such as communications triggered by some marketing-related event. The customer takes an action; the database senses it and responds.

But the real sea change in the use of databases is just now beginning to happen. More and more, non-marketing information is being included in databases to enrich the level of analytical information about a customer that can be used to better understand the whole relationship. That new information can be used to drive communications and contacts that have nothing to do with marketing. Instead, smart marketers have come to realize that the customer's interactions with the company, which may have more to do with delivery of the service than marketing, are part of the whole customer experience and can be used to nurture the relationship. Here are three examples:

In a financial services relationship, the customer may have a problem using the company's Web site and contact online support multiple times for help. Multiple support contacts within a short period of time may signal a level of consumer frustration that can put the relationship at risk. Similarly, the customer's investment portfolio may have shrunk even more than everyone else's during the recession because of bad or delayed decisions, whether or not that was the result of bad advice from the company.

In a healthcare relationship, the member (customer) may be diagnosed and treated for an illness that requires constant attention and further treatment for a long period of time, like diabetes or a heart attack. A retailer may discover that a mail order customer always returns merchandise. Catalog or Web site sales just don't stick.

In each of these examples, it is important that the company respond to these operational or clinical triggers quickly and aggressively to help manage the overall customer experience.

That approach to the use of non-marketing information, perhaps more than anything else the company can do, can keep good customers on the books.

Richard Tooker is VP and solutions architect at KnowledgeBase Marketing. Reach him at richard.tooker@kbm1.com.

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