Having a centralized database can give you the ultimate view of what print products your customers are gravitating towards, what events they’re attending, what whitepapers they’re downloading, and how often they’re visiting your Web site. While all of this information comes in handy for internal marketing purposes, it becomes even more valuable when starting a lead-gen operation.

But what customer information is critical for creating a fully realized lead? And how should the database be set up and maintained?

“You want to do everything you can to collect as many insights about the customer as you can,” Cheryl Dahlquist, database marketing services director, Meredith Corp., told FOLIO.” You want to make sure you capture what they’re purchasing, where they’re coming to your Web sites from, whether they’re signing up for newsletters or not and whether they’re using your customer service lines. You can benefit from every customer interaction.”

Meredith’s centralized database was set up over 30 years ago with a main purpose of organizing and running circulation efforts. Since then, the company has realized that the database also has benefits for advertisers and other marketers.

In order to make the leads viable for advertisers, the company utilizes a third-party data provider to overlay information, such as demographics, age and income. This step is critical, Dahlquist said, but having the right staff of people is what makes the whole operation run smoothly. “It’s important to have a staff of people that are analytical,” she said. “They are the ones that can work with the data to find the best prospects for an advertiser.”

The sales and analytics teams work together to come up with the right set of solutions based on the needs of the marketer or advertiser. The company also has a business intelligence/IT resources group that helps manage the updating of the database.

“It’s all about making sure you have a process in place where you’re collecting data on every interaction, but that you’re also learning something from that information,” Dahlquist said. “Sometimes databases are built with all of this raw data, but nobody’s interpreting it into something that’s actionable.”

Three-and-a-half years ago, Hart Energy Publishing, LP, which publishes b-to-b magazines and newsletters that cover the oil and gas industry, created a centralized database that housed all of its data from events and e-newsletters to print publications and prospects.

“The database brings together several different ‘customer files’ so that the staff has a single view for each customer that will reveal the products they’ve purchased, the conferences they attended, etc.,” database marketing manager Phillip Beltz told FOLIO:. “It creates a record for each individual, which is compiled from the ‘all products’ records. Those two record types are then linked together.”

Each single record in the database has an ID number, which gives the staff the ability to trace that customer across a number of product and event records. In other words, one ID number can pull up the individual record as well as 12 others depending on how many products or events the customer has interacted with.

The database has allowed the company to get deeper into the list rental game, which has recently generated some substantial revenue. Between 2007 and 2008, which was the first full calendar year that Hart began renting its lists, the company saw its revenue triple. Currently, list rental revenue is up 35 percent from last year.

Beltz says that the key to success is the company’s advanced house holding. “It gives us the ability to select the most accurate records for each individual,” he says. “In other words, if we don’t have the accurate phone number for someone on one file, we can pull the accurate information from another.”

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