Mobile navigation


The big idea

Over the next six issues of InCirculation, Gary Olive of Qbase Data Services will be exploring some of the key themes underpinning a successful approach to database marketing. In his first article, Gary looks at the essential first steps along the road to setting up a marketing database.

By Gary Olive

Gary Olive’s data series 
May/Jun 2004The big idea - first steps in setting up a marketing database.
Jul/Aug 2004Data audit – what you have, what you need, how to get there.
Sep/Oct 2004Data protection - key to a sound strategy.
Nov/Dec 2004Database solution – DIY or use professionals.
Jan/Feb 2005Tactics and strategy - using the database to build business.
Mar/Apr 2005The great unknown - blue skying.

Let’s be positive. You have decided that a marketing database is going to help you solve all your problems, whether it be a sharp decline in subscription renewals, a drastic reduction in new sign ups or difficulty in achieving the targets for growth in market share that are being set for you. But how do you go about turning your thoughts and ideas into action, with tangible benefits, that will ultimately turn into a positive contribution to the bottom line?

Must have vs. like to have

Knowing the difference between what you need from a marketing database and what you want is critical, as the two are not necessarily the same, often becoming confused with each other. The key function of a marketing database is to pull disparate sets of data together and allow you to look at your customers in a more informed way. Consequently, the database should be built around your needs. If you need, for example, to improve retention rates for subscription customers then a prime function of the database is to present your data in such a way as to facilitate strategies and communications that will help achieve your retention objectives. In so doing, you will be able to make and take decisions based upon what your database shows you with a high degree of confidence.

In most cases your database will also be able to provide what you want in the form of ‘bells and whistles’ extras or the ‘Wow!’ factor. This is the icing on the cake and is essentially what the database can do, through its functionality, to make your life a little easier. It is a case of sorting the ‘necessities from the niceties’ and it is a golden rule to bear in mind when you start to look at the different database software solutions later on.

Essentially, knowing what you need provides the basis for a robust set of objectives - the goals that the marketing database must help you and your business achieve for it to be considered successful. The database itself will not create these objectives and strategies that are founded on the approach of ‘We’ve got the marketing database! Now what do we do with it?’ are doomed to be costly failures.

Your objectives should be tangible and measurable and wherever possible include a financial benefit. Ideally balance short term, easy win objectives with those that can be realised over the medium to long term. Be realistic and don’t be pressured into establishing objectives that you are not comfortable with. It is extremely unlikely that your marketing database will be self financing by the end of year one, so avoid setting this as an objective. However a set of percentile improvements in customer acquisition or retention activities in year one should be easily achievable, each of which will provide a real financial benefit. Detail that benefit. If a 10% improvement on retention through targeted, more timely, communications is your objective, and each 1% of improvement will add £20,000 to your bottom line, tell your story and let the reader do the maths. If you have not previously considered the wider applications for the marketing database, and how it could impact on your business as a whole, perhaps now is the time to do it. Now we see the birth of a big idea - an excellent way of achieving one of the most important objectives of all – securing buy-in.

Securing buy-in

Ideally you will have identified, approached and secured a sponsor for your idea from within the senior management team. This is essential if you are to obtain the funding that will be required to give shape to your idea. Preparation of your business case is paramount not only to provide your sponsor with a clear indication that you have thought the initiative through, but also to ensure that any critics within the organisation can be silenced quickly and diplomatically. To drive the initiative forward you will need to take ownership of it and be prepared to make presentation of your case to key audiences from within your business.

These will undoubtedly include senior financial and technical personnel so it is important that you tailor your presentations to suit these particular individuals, by giving focus to aspects of the marketing database that have the most relevance to them. There are plenty of useful ‘industry’ information sources that can help you to provide substance to your case. Do not hesitate to use them. And do not be afraid to contact specialists in the database marketing arena for advice and guidance.

Remember, you are looking to secure buy-in to your idea from a number of different quarters within the business. The more fitting the marketing database is to your needs the greater is the opportunity to realise your objectives and the more sound the business case you put, the greater the chance that your big idea has of becoming a reality.