BTB: The All Powerful Database

Consumer databases have come a long way in a short period of time. Business-to-business marketers can take advantage of having had the way paved for them, and build on the foundation that has been established in the database realm.

Just as BTB merges and consumer merge/purges share a basic framework, there remain significant differences in the logic and outcome of the application of that logic. The same can be said of the database environment used to house and maintain data received from the sales and prospecting efforts of both consumer and business marketers.

What they do have in common is crucial to the success of each; to capture and store data, to identify and develop a contact strategy with their best customers for incremental sales and to facilitate the conversion of their prospects into customers. The differences are in the initial setup of the databases and the amount and type of information captured and retained by the BTB marketer.

In “Journal of Direct Marketing,” Vol. 11, No. 4, Mary Lou Roberts provides the following definition of databased marketing: “Databased marketing is the application of statistical analysis and modeling techniques to computerized, individual-level data sets. It is used to support the development of cost-effective marketing programs that communicate directly with the identified customers and prospects, and to track and evaluate the results of specific promotional efforts. Databased marketing implies planned communication with individually targeted customers and prospects over an extended period of time to promote repeat purchases of related goods and services.”

Whether consumer or business orientated, the ability of any marketer to capture and then use current, relevant and contact based information is the key to the success of that marketer in his given industry. Only in an environment that supports and takes into consideration all the elements of customer and prospect activity can true relational marketing efforts be successful.

If you look at all the various uses of a customer/prospect database and the amount and depth of the information available to support and enhance each of the following categories, you can begin to understand the importance of setting up the BTB database so each category can maximize its inherent contribution to the overall marketing and decision-making process. These functions are always apparent in total, or in part, in any marketing and sales organization: distribution channels, customer/prospect acquisition, customer service, product management, promotion/circulation, sales, customer promotions, relationship/events marketing and market research and analysis.

Each particular function carries with it powerful information resources to be used in both tactical and strategic decision-making situations. Whether you choose a simple spread sheet analysis of any of the above marketing functions, or multiple selections for more complex quantitative or multi-variate regression analysis, the data you collect, maintain, refresh and report on is of the utmost importance to your success. Furthermore, the ability to share and cross-reference the information will allow your entire sales, marketing and customer service divisions to operate with maximum information availability. The more informed your service and sales forces are, the better they can adapt to the customers needs of today and expectations of tomorrow.

A BTB database must contain the most effective way to contact your customer. Consider that to reach a typical consumer you only have to capture his current address. Sophisticated and widely available address integrity programs such as NCOA, LACS, DSF and ACR all assist in keeping that address up to date for that customer. In a business environment, there are additional address elements to be considered and fewer available techniques for list hygiene. The least is the number of address lines dedicated to an address.

Name, title, company name, building or suite number, mailstop, department, etc., all can be found in one form or another on a business record. What if the company has multiple locations and you have customers at each one? Keeping track of information at the individual level will be paramount if you want to continue to market your products to the people that have the power and authority to purchase. You may need to link corporate (central) purchasing to individual customers (ship to's) for certain campaigns, but not others. Do you want to remind your best customers — high frequency, high dollar — of what they purchased last year? How about teachers returning to school? The relationship you create with your customers is tied directly into how you maintain that customer and his/her transaction information. A database configuration that supports multiple avenues of purchasing — and those address ramifications — is the key to successful BTB database marketing.

Many companies are facing budgetary concerns that directly affect the area in the company that is least understood — IT, MIS or whatever you choose to call it. Convincing management to appropriate the large dollar amounts necessary to build, maintain, staff, analyze, segment and update a marketing database is a tough task if not everyone is on board with the how and why of using the wealth of information stored in this type of environment.

Outsourcing may be the answer to this budget line item and you can negotiate with your outside vendor for all the bells and whistles you may need or think you want at this point in your database creation or expansion. To isolate and categorize size and growth patterns of certain customer segments while supporting the different marketing channels — retailers, dealers, distributors, direct, Web — is a large undertaking for most business as they become familiar with relational databases.

You may have the expertise inhouse to define the type of information you need but not have the personnel to mine it from the database. By outsourcing, you have access to the people who know how to mine the data and advise you in the use of the data. Additionally, incremental relationships between your service provider and other service providers may prove to be beneficial to the overall effectiveness of not only the database itself, but to independent programs such as telemarketing, lead generation and management, fulfillment, etc. Your database is the fulcrum on which all aspects of a closed loop sales system is balanced.

Building a relationship with your customers not only is good business but it's a crucial business practice. It requires a commitment on your part to deliver to your customer quality service, product, pricing and support. It means that your entire organization participates in the complete satisfaction of the customer. By building a comprehensive and integrated database to warehouse this information, you can have the information available to all the various departments within your organization.

A good database provides the right information to the right people at the right time. There is no framework for information capture and dissemination that can't be made better and more usable to an organization. Building your database the right way is the only way to stay on top of the game. You can bet your competitors are doing just that.

Maysel R. McGown is director of new business development at LCS Direct Marketing Services, Clifton, NJ.

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