Enhancing your data

Your database is one of your most valuable assets, but extracting maximum benefit from this asset requires work. It needs to be regularly updated and enhanced. Objectives need to be set for both data quantity and data quality and, as Andrew Guy writes, your task will be made a whole lot easier if you use a single view.

By Andrew Guy

When embarking on your 2005 marketing campaign, the obvious temptation is to go to your usual sources of external data and trust to a better year this time around. The best strategy is to do the opposite and focus initially on internal data sources, a task which itself can be complex if you don’t have a single view of contacts across your portfolio.

Where this applies, the first step should be to quantify all available data (magazine, event and online) and select what to add to your marketing universe. Two common problems will be the variety of fields in each file, and the ease with which recent information can be overwritten by out-of-date address, phone, fax and email contact data. One solution is to create a hierarchy of all files based on their recency and to merge them into a small number of files before importing each to a copy of your current dataset. Remember never to work with the live database for major projects such as this, and consider making a back-up after each import if working with a small number of large files.

Issues with existing B2B and B2C data sources

The primary complication for B2B data will be the need to relate the older demographic codes and descriptions to those within your live database. One solution is to consider developing a cross-portfolio demographic coding system, through which, for example, business code 10 would always denote a certain business type. Response codes could also be created for typical profiling questions including job function, purchasing role and products purchased.

One of the most difficult challenges would be to attribute response codes to questions with ranges – for example company size, where 1001-2000 and 2001-4000 conflict with 1001-2,500 and 2,501-5000. In this situation, it’s probably best to retain those ranges with the largest volume of responses. Uniform response codes for DPA questions are also invaluable and should obtain consent for communication at business rather than product level. The same principle applies in B2C marketing.

If establishing one coding system across your business is impractical, a simplified version might be created for all products within a particular market sector, though beware losing opportunities to precisely target relevant individuals for cross promotion, one of the additional benefits of a single database.

In the B2C media sector, lifestyle and readership data forms the basis for much of the segmentation conducted. As in B2B, harmonisation across a portfolio would benefit analysis. For example, a publisher with titles in gardening, interior / exterior design and cookery would find significant potential for cost effective cross-promotion if able to collect and share responses via a single database.

Within both B2B and B2C, it’s possible to develop an inexpensive universe-wide marketing solution which allows rapid analysis across multiple variables, yet can be managed by the circulation / marketing team rather than needing costly IT expertise. If not in place already, this is the single most important step to maximising return from existing data sources.

Gap analysis

Once in a position to carry out detailed analysis of your data universe, it’s good practice to document your findings, perhaps in a format similar to the contact table shown. What’s important to note here is the introduction of a specific goal for the number of contacts on the database in each market, and that the progress towards that target is quantified each month.

Contact table
Contact Totals1 Dec 20041 Jan 2005

1 Feb 2005

Target universe% achieved Feb 2005
Market sector 1





Market sector 2


Market sector 3





The market table shown can be used to analyse the number of contacts within any geodemographic category, in this instance how many individuals within market 1 can be contacted by email, and it’s now that the benefit of a single marketing database starts to become truly apparent, since conducting this exercise each month across multiple databases for every market would be time prohibitive.

Market table
Market Sector 1Contact universeVariance

Var. %

Phone numbers% with emailTotal var. emailVar. %
1 Dec 0416,500--9,29556.3%--
1 Jan 0517,2507504.3%9,69556.2%4004.9%
1 Feb 0516,900-350-2.1%9,54056.4%-1550.2%

When considering objectives, it’s essential to obtain consensus as to the criteria to be measured and the targets. Equally important is the fact that this isn’t just a collection exercise and a balance must be achieved between expenditure on data, and the marketing and fulfilment costs which then derive from using that data.

Acquiring and overlaying external data sources

In B2C, geodemographic classifications such as CAMEO or PRIZM are commonly used, allowing marketers to profile consumers based on the locality in which they live, whilst consumer surveys allow segmentation based on an individual’s hobbies and interests, the most important area for consumer publishers. Response-generated databases can be accessed via media partnerships and hopefully form the basis of your current data.

Each of these sources has its failings (for example the fact that not every UK consumer completes a lifestyle survey) which has now led to the advent of commercially available databases combining these three data types into a single marketing database available for rental. These are usually available on a net name basis, thus avoiding duplication, though it’s advisable to test as with any new data source. Typical costs start from £80 per 1,000 names though selection costs (usually £10 per 1,000 per selection) should be factored in before making a commitment.

Consumer telephone numbers can be appended offline or online, though a match rate of perhaps just 30% should be expected due to the recent increase in TPS registrations and ex directory numbers. Certain online suppliers allow marketers to quantify the net volume of numbers that can be appended before committing to the order, which is a sensible approach. Many email data suppliers still insist on handling the transmission, though a select few are now prepared to release the data to a secure 3rd party but will naturally track usage through dummy contact names. An even newer innovation offers B2C marketers the opportunity to append opt-in consumer email addresses to their existing database from an available universe of eight million.

Strategic alliances with associations, clubs and societies continue to be much prized, and exchanges with related consumer organisations also represent a means by which to enhance existing data sources for minimal financial outlay, though the costs in time to manage these relationships should not be ignored.

In B2B, sourcing data for niche markets continues to represent the major challenge. Notable personal objectives have included identifying chromatographers across Europe, and constructing a database of the people responsible for the paint shop within car manufacturing and assembly plants worldwide and many far more challenging examples doubtless exist.

At a very general level, a database of all actively trading UK businesses (around 1.5 million of them) can be leased from many sources costing £10,000 or less pa. This includes business type, market sector, turnover and staff numbers with one or more key contact names. Functional contact data for financial, IT and marketing staff is also readily available. If correctly documented, each of these sources can add non-requested one year controlled circulation to your publication, whilst business and function demographics sometimes can be inferred. Check with your audit bureau.

Maintaining your data

It’s useful to set targets for the recency of contact data held within a marketing database, for example specifying that 60% of it should be less than 12 months old, 20% 1-2 years old and 20% reverified no more than 3 years ago. Since business directories often update only a third of their details each year, a 60%/20%/20% ratio is quite respectable without being excessive.

Enhancing a central marketing database with the latest individual product data at least quarterly should be the first step. Publishers with a large subscriber base or significant one year registered totals will refresh a significant portion of their marketing universe in this way. Similarly, attendee data from events you organise should be imported immediately after the event, including people who pre-register or buy tickets but don’t attend and also those who contact the call centre, whose data is often held on a separate system. All fields should be imported to keep the demographic profile current, particularly lifestyle and purchasing intention data which can change regularly. This will leave Y% to be refreshed in order to meet the recency objectives agreed upon (e.g. 60% < 12 months old) and promotional avenues to achieve this can then be considered.

The first medium should perhaps be an ezine, a product which media owners are uniquely well positioned to introduce due to the editorial content they produce and the volume of opt-in emails they usually generate. As well as providing a regular communication vehicle, ezines obviously generate revenue, though the space is often sold as a package to encourage on-page display. This is now set to change, since at least one service supplier now offers to sell the ezine ad space to major corporates outside the print title’s traditional advertiser base and then to distribute the ezine free of charge in return for a share of the ad revenues. The ezine is likely to become the preferred database update vehicle for many media owners.

Another recent arrival is voice messaging, a medium through which consumer publishers in particular can update an individual’s contact details and renew a paid subscription over the phone without the need for an expensive outbound call (text the word MAG to 07967 484231 for a demonstration). Other CRM applications include customer surveys and cross-selling and can provide insight for future campaigns if fed back into the central marketing database. Compliance with DPA legislation will also enhance the accuracy of a marketing database.

For as long as data continues to be the primary asset of every media business, marketers must maximise the return from their existing sources, whilst exploring new data products and media through which to maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers and prospects. In that order.