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Q&A: Mark Wright, Targetbase president and CEO

Mark Wright, president and CEO of Targetbase, a database marketing technology services company, discusses why it’s important for marketers to be able to read customer sentiment on social networks. He also predicts that data collection abuse will ultimately force legislation. Targetbase was recently named in the “leaders” category in this year’s Forrester Research‘s Wave assessment of US database marketing service providers.

Prior to Targetbase, Wright served as president of MacLaren McCann Direct and Interactive (now MacLaren MRM). He also held positions with Wunderman Worldwide and Rapp Collins.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): What are some important issues that database companies need to consider these days in order to successfully serve clients?

Mark Wright (Targetbase): You need understand that consumers are not all about your brand. Consumers are different and will engage with your brand in very different ways. If you understand that, the more relevant you’ll be. You’ve got to get into their lifestyles, their attitudes, their wants and needs, and then you’ll have a more impactful relationship. You’ll also make more money. Also, CMOs need to have a customer advocacy perspective. Have a passion for who’s interacting with consumers. Today, I’m not sure CMOs can recognize their best customers. Do they know when these customers stopped shopping with their brand? They have no idea.

(DMN): Will database companies ever figure out social listening? How has social changed data collection?

Wright: We will definitely figure out social listening. We’re already starting to get some signs that we can get reads off it. However, marketers aren’t in control; consumers are. Marketers are inviting themselves into social. Social influence for brands is the most important variable in terms of how consumers engage brands. The way consumers are enabled through technology they’re now able to engage hundreds of friends and opinions in real time. Consumers used to have to get on a phone and speak to someone one at a time. Now, within minutes, they can have feedback from 10 to 15 of their closest friends.

(DMN): Will Congress pass online privacy legislation? How will privacy issues change the database industry?

Wright: I hope there won’t be legislation. We need to be careful as marketers. With direct, we invaded consumers’ mailboxes. With digital, we’re invading their personal lives. That type of abuse will create backlashes that we’re afraid of. If we do what we did on e-mail to people on their phones, we’ll get pushed back and we’ll create a much more restrictive legislation. We’ll go from opt-in to opt-out very quickly.

(DMN): As technology has changed, has the type of information database companies collect changed as well? Is traditional demographic information still important?

Wright: Demographic information is constant. Age, income, geography and family situation are still very important. Today, consumers vote with their fingers. So if you want to engage you must establish where they like to engage and engage where they are. You can no longer communicate how you like to communicate. You’ve got to pay attention and come back at them when they want to be engaged.

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