When it comes to database marketing, the standards keep changing. First came quarterly updates, then monthly; and the bar is being raised again. Technology has allowed database marketers to break through the time barrier and get updates to their databases in real time.
The obvious benefit of having your database updated more frequently is higher returns on investment, the ability to provide better customer service, more accurate market research and the opportunity to better segment and reach your audiences. But there is a myriad of other interesting advantages that make real-time updating important for Internet marketers, direct marketers, large and small businesses, even call centers.
For starters, real-time updating allows companies to measure their marketing effectiveness. Imagine you just spent $500,000 to advertise your product on television in the New York area. Of course, in the last five seconds of your television commercial you splashed your phone number on the screen and said, “Call for more information.” Great. The phones are ringing off the hook. Here's where the real-time database comes in.
Let's say 2,271 potential customers called. Half of the callers placed an order and the other half asked for more information. For every customer who wanted more information, you spent another $3 mailing your detailed brochure. Within a week you received order forms from 76 percent of those mailings. You put the rest of the names into a file for telemarketing follow-up.
Every type of contact with your company is continually fed into a relational database. As customers progress from being a television ad responder to placing an order, the database is instantly updated. You can now track exactly what it takes to close the sale and how much you spent in order to do it. With real-time updating, you have a measurement tool to make a decision whether to run the same television spot next week, scrap it or revise it to include details your callers asked about.
The same scenario is true with any marketing effort. Take the Internet, for example. On a given day, 1,782 people visited your Web site. Some visitors requested specific literature, others were directed to the nearest retail location, and some engaged in e-commerce. A real-time database keeps you informed of every contact with your company and who contacted your company.
No matter where your customer contacts come from, (the Internet, radio advertising, direct mail or call centers), with a real-time database you have immediate feedback to make adjustments or to justify your marketing expenditures. You know where you're spending your dollars wisely.
Now let's leverage real-time updates in an untraditional environment, like a call center. Suppose you're an insurance company with an inbound telemarketing department. Right now, with call center automation or sales force automation, a database will immediately pull up a profile of the person who has just called your company. Your telemarketing group easily can see if this person is married, has kids or has a mortgage of $150,000, for example.
With a real-time database applied, you'll know immediately if the customer just had another baby two days ago or just went bankrupt last week. You instantly have the information you need in order to route your caller to the right specialists or to be able to suggest the appropriate insurance products.
If your company sells insurance to other businesses, you can immediately see what type of industry the business is in or how large it is, so the call can then be routed to your small business group or to your construction insurance department, for example. Again, with a real-time database, you'll know if a new business has just been formed or if there has been a recent address change to an existing business customer.
Real-time updating provides the tool that immediately makes the content in your database more valuable. This technology is available today and it's fast becoming the standard for all businesses and marketers, not just database marketers and list managers. You can start using real-time databases to instantly obtain full information about a person or business, track and measure your marketing progress, and, best of all, maintain and build a relational database from multiple data feeds.
Sheldon Zaslansky is president of Walter Karl Companies, Greenwich, CT, a division of infoUSA.