Online Exclusive: The Database Tool Versus the Marketing Goals

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Database specialists tend to focus on their tools, whereas marketing specialists tend to focus on their goals.

Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain something in such a way a child can understand it, you probably don't understand it yourself." Marketers should consider this when assessing what they would do with a new tool. If they can't clearly describe how it will help them meet their goals, they probably don't need it.

Tools that could be useful in the future are useless today. The fact is that the only tools marketers need are tools that help them meet their goals. And most goals are short term: the next month, the next quarter.

For example, consider a typical company's plans to build a marketing database to improve customer communications. It consists of three major steps, in this order:

· Identify and gather data.

· Implement OLAP (online analytical processing).

· Analyze and segment customers and prospects.

Now for you marketers out there, a few questions:

1. If you had not analyzed and segmented your customers and prospects yet, what would you do with OLAP that would help meet marketing goals?

2. How much longer will it take to implement OLAP than it would to simply analyze the data offline?

3. After you have analyzed and segmented your customers and prospects, how will OLAP help meet your marketing goals?

4. What does OLAP cost compared to its expected value?

Granted, OLAP is a "cool tool." It's cutting edge. But is it necessary? Without a clear, simple explanation and a reasonable cost/benefit analysis, probably not.

Cool or not, an expensive unneeded tool is a failure. Unfortunately, there are many "cool tools" marketers can have. Typically, they are the tools that drive the cost of CRM systems into the millions and tens of millions, and then go unused.

It makes more sense to build a simple marketing database that does what is needed today but will be outgrown in a few years than it does to spend millions on a database that won't be ready for a few years and may not work even then. Figure out what you will use and build only that.

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