Simplify Database Builds for List Rental

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Assume for a moment that when you build a database to put on the market for list rental you're buying a new car. Your needs and your desires may be different, but you don't see why you can't join them somehow. After all, are dream and reality so far apart?


The answer depends on your finances and your ability to research the qualities of cars you desire. You know you can afford quality and some luxuries, but a Bentley or Ferrari is probably not in your picture. But a Mercedes C Class or BMW 3 Series might fit, providing you the value, luxuries and price that meet your lifestyle.


In building a database for list rental, data owners and managers traditionally face a similarly tough choice. Endure the time and expense of hiring someone from the outside to bring data sources and components together into one marketable format with the demographic selections and options that would entice brokers to pitch it to their customers. And put that database in a format that's easily accessible for an in-house or an outside list management team to provide counts and orders for customers. Or try to build the database in-house in an easily accessible format. That choice commonly reduced the likelihood they would get what they needed in the time frame they wanted to go to market.


It can be overwhelming for data owners who truly do have valuable marketing data to sell.


As list marketers, from managers to computer service bureaus, we've been partly responsible for that conundrum, making database builds designed for list rental more complicated than our customers have required. The data need to entice someone to test it for their direct marketing campaigns and need to be in a format that is easily accessible for the list manager to provide counts and orders to customers.


The list owners we support don't need to be technical masters or marketing geniuses, they have other things to do. Our job is to provide them the technical and marketing expertise minus the headaches.


However complicated that may be for us, our purpose is simple: Put together files using quality data manipulation techniques that combine client data enhanced with standardized demographic selections allowing for valuable selectivity. And ensure the data are easily accessible for sales and marketing efforts.


To do that, we have to decide what our goals are, which means we have to understand our customers' goals. Most of the time people have more data than they need to put into a build that's for list rental. So we have to ask, "What do we expect from this database?"


The next thing to do is ask what data or business requirements we need in the database to get those results without too much trouble. The difficulty of building a database in-house from a list owner's experience, apart from the large amount of time it can require, is combining the huge variety of fields, or information from different departments or businesses, in an easy-to-access computer format for counts and orders.


If you're not an expert in database builds for list rental sales, that's a big challenge. In reality, the steps to build a database for a marketing staff's internal use or for external list rental sales are the same. You always need to combine marketing and technical savvy.


The prep work is the most important aspect of the database build because it addresses that original question: What do we want from this? Processing names and records is really the easy part.


If you're pulling together information from many databases, then your information comes from many sources. You have to work field by field, relying on a crystallizing definition. In effect, you have to put all your apples in the same bucket. The most important thing is to normalize the data, or standardize it.


For example, one data owner wanted to set up a list rental database with about 300 sources, of which roughly half were consistent. But the other half had to be analyzed and categorized according to the sales and marketing goals established for the database. The proper information could be drawn in simple requests from all the sources to increase counts and generate maximum revenue for each selection.


Take business-to-business files with job titles. You might find 1,000 titles, but you have to put them into categories so you can quickly isolate the people you're trying to reach. If you want to reach all the vice presidents - the assistant VPs, the associate VPs, the senior VPs and so forth - you might want to look at having the category of just vice president. When you get too tricky with selectivity, you water down your file and prevent potential list renters from buying the most names from you and, more importantly, reaching the maximum amount of people. By combining similar job titles and responsibilities you sell more names.


One publisher with five sources of names wanted to build a database for both list rental and its in-house marketing staff to use for its own sales and marketing initiatives. The publisher had been struggling to accomplish its objectives because of internal IT staff resources and the time it was taking to examine the fields and set up this dual purpose marketing database.


Data elements across the multiple sources included product information, credit information, referrals, bad debt and job functions. The publisher decided to outsource the build using IT staff as the project managers and internal champions for driving the project forward. The sources of names were standardized and combined. Data that were not needed were removed, and the file was then enhanced with an outside, compiled consumer file for further demographics and better targeting.


The file was then put into an easy-to-use Internet-based count and order access format. The publisher got what it needed for list rental sales with its list manager, and the marketing staff got what it needed to further sales efforts. Best of all, they got what they needed in about a month with a savings over trying to perform all of the functions in-house.


In short, customers and list marketers have to decide what they need and want. By taking the research approach, and by investigating expert companies, the tools they have and what they offer to solve problems, both customers and list marketers will enjoy win-win situations.


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