In a publishing or information services company, every department has data. A lot of it. It is different formats, with a range of collected demographics, and each wants to store and use it in a variety of ways.
Typical departments can include:
- Audience development (for the magazine and e-newsletter lists)
- List Services
Each of these departments has a different view of the database, but those individual views may not be what are best for the entire company database. If there is no central communication, I envision the blindfolded people around the elephant: each with a completely different view of the animal but no one grasping how complex the animal is.
When reviewing options for how to best house your customer information, it is critical to have someone looking at the STRATEGY of how you want to capture customer data, maintain it, use it in the future. You need that over-arching view as you consider technology options for what is best for the entire organization.
This is not an easy task today. Online customers drive how much information they will offer about themselves to interact with your sites, your offers, your products. This can be at odds with the information that advertisers are demanding. Without a strategy, it can be cumbersome and frustrating for internal staff AND customers, who are continually asked for unnecessary data about themselves and sent offers they have no interest in.
There are some database management systems that have incredible front ends for data capture, but the back end of the system is not as nuanced as many business-2-business firms require today. There are other systems that can store and massage your data, but the front end for data capture is severly old-fashioned.
Be sure to involve an experienced database manager at the front end of your development process. She can help decipher the needs of the various departments, ask targeted questions to potential database firms, and help determine which systems might work best for your company today to market smarter and maximize revenue. And tomorrow.
This article was written by Cindy Cardinal, President of CC Communications Inc. A consultant for 18 years, she works with a variety of media companies handling project-specific and on-going audience development and database management work.