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How to Guide


How to build a marketing database

How to build a marketing database

By Rachel Morgan, Planning Director, planning-inc.

Building a marketing database is one of the most valuable investments a company can make. Get it right and it can provide the foundations for improving customer understanding and increasing the effectiveness of your marketing activity.

The build process itself can however be difficult, time-consuming and expensive if not managed correctly. What then do you need to consider if you want to get it right?

1. Be clear on your objectives

Arguably one of the biggest reasons why a marketing database fails to meet desired expectations is due to not having clear objectives from the start. This may in part be due to having too many stakeholders involved in the early decision making process.

Whilst it’s vital to clearly identify the objectives and requirements of each business division and end user, having too many people on board can lead to excessive discussions, lack of focus and ultimately a database that doesn’t really meet any of your end requirements.

It’s essential that when building a database that it’s fit for purpose so start with clear objectives and prioritise requirements. As long as you build your database in a flexible manner you can always amend to new demands as you go along.

2. Review your customer journey

The first step for any company looking to adopt a more analytical and customer-centric approach to their marketing activity is to source the relevant customer data. In order to determine which data sources have the potential to enhance communications, companies need to sit down and map out the customer journey identifying where relevant data or data footprints are captured.  

A good place to start in mapping your customer journey, is to think about the times and places a customer can interact with your brand, and where you capture personal data.

For example, does a customer start off by visiting your website leaving a footprint via web-analytics software? Do they then register for your e-newsletter before going on to make their first purchase?  Do they put in a call to customer services or recommend your product/service to their friends?  Second and third purchases may follow, and even product or service feedback.

Also think about your communication strategies and if any data is captured as a result of these communications, for example, do you ask customers to complete a questionnaire as part of your welcome programme or do you send out surveys to your customer base? All of these interactions are key opportunities to capture relevant data to enable you to build a greater understanding of your customers.

Most companies will have access to numerous sources of customer data such as those illustrated above, but they are often held in disparate locations with little interaction between them.

Once you have identified all the possible relevant data in your business, you will need to prioritise what you want to access – a project to integrate every source may be unachievable and unnecessary.  Start by considering your business objectives and marketing strategy, and relate the data that you would like to acquire back to these objectives.

A Single Customer View (SCV) should be designed to pull each relevant data source identified in the earlier stages into a single database enabling the marketer to see and use all data collected at different touch points for an individual customer. This rich view of the customer can be used to plan and deliver personalised marketing communications.

For example, a database designed specifically to support eCRM could incorporate daily feeds of all online purchases, website browsing behaviour, email campaign response data (open/click/unsubscribe) and online account registration data, giving an all encompassing view of the customers’ online relationship with the retailer.

All these data sources are central to customers’ behaviour and can be used to execute highly targeted, tailored, measurable email marketing programmes driving incremental sales online.

3. Ensure a database is accessible and usable to multiple stakeholder groups

If part of the objective is to deliver end user access and customer visualisation back to the stakeholders, a desktop CRM platform such as FastStats could be implemented to act as the interface between the SCV and the end user.  

Such products offer incredibly flexible interfaces, designed to bring data and customer insight to the non-technical marketer for train of thought analysis, campaign design and build and customer reporting.  Look around and evaluate each product against your objectives to ensure it will meet your requirements and budgets, before implementing.
4. Don’t be afraid to get specialists involved

When necessary companies shouldn’t be afraid to get an independent specialist on board to either just consult on or manage the whole build process. When undertaken internally, the build process often falls under the IT department’s remit.

Whilst this succeeds in keeping the understanding within the business, IT departments often lack the knowledge and resource to successfully build a database that is fit for marketing.

Independent specialists should have both the marketing and technical experience to bridge the gap. Knowing the best way to work with data, and knowing how to identify and source the right data in the business is vital if you want to realise the benefits of your internal data.

Also during the early decision making process, they can be invaluable in guiding discussions and stopping you lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve in the first place.

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