Critical Database Maintenance Tips
A successful lead-gen program starts with a complete customer database.
Having a centralized customer database is one of the first and most important steps in starting a successful lead-gen program. However, if it’s missing some vital elements, your advertisers may not be getting the most comprehensive view of your customers that they should.
Most publishers equipped with a centralized database have one that integrates their print, e-mail and online customers, but some are forgetting to integrate newer touchpoints, like whitepaper downloads, webinar attendance and even contest and prize drawings.
“A lot of publishers have the necessary disciplines in place to track their legacy [products], but they haven’t applied the same disciplines to these newer creative solutions,” BPA Worldwide president Glenn Hansen told FOLIO: “They may have separate databases for these solutions—which may even be housed at separate vendors—but they haven’t integrated these databases together to see what all of the customer touchpoints are.”
Hansen says that as these types of solutions continue to grow in popularity, more advertisers will come to expect definitive data on them. Therefore, more forethought needs to be given. Not only do publishers need know how many people registered for a Webinar, for example, they also need to know whether those people actually attended the Webinar and how they found out about it in the first place—was it via an email announcement, and online ad or a phone call?
For this reason, Hansen says, BPA has begun testing its Brand Reach report, which breaks out and audits each media platform a brand occupies—showing total audience, unique users within each channel, and customers that interact with more than one platform. Publishers can drill down as far as they want—from magazines to live events to Web sites to Webinars and even whitepaper downloads.
“From our angle, in order for lead-gen to be at its optimal from a key performance indicator point of view, there needs to be some thought given to the database structure,” said Hansen. “This means populating the fields with information that can be used from a analytical point of view.”
5 Crticial Tips
There are a few finer points that should also be taken into consideration when getting your database ready for a lead-gen program, or even if you’re just in the beginning stages of building out that database. Wendy Talio, database director, Consumer Reports, gave FOLIO: her five must-dos to ensure that her company’s database remains clean and comprehensive.
PREDICT THE AMOUNT OF STORAGE NEEDED. You have to be able to predict and project the capacity you’ll need your database to have based on order and mail plan information. Make sure you have room on your server to store everything—promotion tables, for example, can take up a lot of space quickly. Look at how long it’s taking your tables to load every week, mail files to output and reports or queries to run. It may not only be a sign that you’re running out of room, this is important in terms to keep the database performing optimally.
MAKE THE DATABASE FLEXIBLE. The database has to be flexible enough that you can add new products and accommodate any changes in your business model. For example, products may be categorized by types such as single shot products, club memberships, subscriptions, and so on, but the business may want to be able to slice across those categories by media type such as books, music or digital. If the database is too difficult to modify, you’ll have problems aligning it with business needs.
KEEP DATA OVER TIME. When a database is first built, it tends to start with a snapshot of the current status of the customers, but if you’re keeping track of lifetime value, for example, then it’s important to keep your data over time. If you don’t have a time-sensitive table built into your warehouse from day one, take periodic snapshots. We freeze snapshots of our database on a weekly basis, so now we have two years worth of data to look back on, and we’re able to build longitudinal tables using those snapshots. If you don’t save the data, you’ll end up having to fudge reporting based on assumptions. Try to think ahead and save it now.
FOSTER A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY AMONG DATABASE USERS. There are many divisions and business units that are contributing to the database, and it’s not always in the front of their minds to get their responders into it. So if you’re responsible for the database, it’s up to you to foster the idea that quality is only as good as what they’re going to give you. I think sometimes people don’t realize that once the database is created that everyone who’s contributing to it also has the responsibility to maintain it.
CREATE PURGE RULES. If you’re reaching a point where you need to do some purging to make some space, it’s good to haves some purge rules. Are you going to keep three years worth of data and purge the rest? Is that purged data going to be dropped or archived? And don’t just purge data without at least having it kept in the summary field. That way it can be used for long-term analysis or regression modeling.