Is your marketing database a lemon or limousine?

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David Bernard
David Bernard

Databases are the engines of your sales and marketing organization. They are what your CRM programs run on. They need regular tune-ups. Left on their own, mistakes go uncorrected and costs climb, until finally someone notices and heads roll.

Companies that outsource their marketing databases, consequently, often wind up changing their database vendors about every five years as a means of fixing the broken infrastructure. These migrations are costly, both in terms of time and budget dollars, and would likely be unnecessary if the vendors were audited on a regular basis.

Careful, periodic audits save all organizations money and improve marketing performance. Audits detail the cost-saving enhancements you need to improve data collection, data management, processing and ETL, database design, data quality, vendor-to-vendor interfaces and vendor integration.

A comprehensive audit that produces a better designed, better integrated and more cost-effective database that actually delivers on brand objectives includes the following three steps.

First is discovery. Through review of company documentation and interviews with internal client and vendor stakeholders, you can evaluate the current state of the CRM architecture, with special focus on the database. This evaluation not only includes marketing programs, databases and interfaces, but also brand marketing strategy.
Second is assessment. Using the output of your discovery work as a launching point, drill down into the operational elements of the CRM architecture, including operational process, marketing program design and execution, databases and reporting, through a combination of site visits and interviews.

Third are recommendations. Develop a final deliverable containing comprehensive documentation of the assessment, detailed recommendations based on client requirements, and a phased plan for implementation based on prioritization.

To most effectively assess your company's CRM architecture, follow the flow of information from start to finish:

In touchpoint data collection it's important to note the consistency and integrity of how each vendor or channel captures data directly from customers, including questions, answers and business rules. Data collection anomalies can hinder the accuracy and value of the marketing database. Each day that anomalies are permitted to exist is another day that potentially flawed data enters the database.

It's also important to monitor structure, quality and validation of data that flows between vendors and databases for updates, fulfillment and/or tracking as interface reliability is essential to flawless execution. Interface design can affect the efficiency of operations, while interface validation ensures that only the proper records are processed. Improperly structured/managed interfaces can continually put the utility and accuracy of the marketing database at risk.

Ease of use and integrity of the marketing database's structure/data model is key, as are cleanliness, integrity, accuracy and utility of the data stored within the marketing database. Difficult-to-use data models can encourage improper reporting and querying. Improperly structured data models can cause errors that impact campaign execution. Also, data anomalies, as a result of legacy information or inconsistent validation, are an obstacle to reporting and querying and can potentially effect campaign execution

Next, reporting accuracy is essential to proper program management. A flawed reporting process can introduce inaccuracies into reporting output. Further, functional limitations and performance issues can limit how programs are designed, executed and measured.

Finally, the vendor landscape including team structure, skills and inter-vendor relationships between a client's project teams and each vendor can make or break you. The highest level of service for a client is best obtained when vendors are aligned and empowered to deliver their core capabilities.

By properly delving into and resolving issues within each of these five areas, you will know exactly what needs to be done to lower costs, improve functionality and manage a marketing database that actually delivers on brand objectives. Even more, you will know in what order to address issues based on corporate prioritization.

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