B-to-B Insights: Think Small Data
- Customer Name: Sounds basic, but you’ll be surprised to see how many records on your file are anonymous. The number can easily reach into the thousands and represent up to 5 percent of your housefile. If you plan to mail your catalog into a large company without a customer name on it, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and throw that catalog into the trash. You’ll save the postage and improve the return on investment for the mailing.
- Customer Title: A title isn't to stroke the ego of your customer, it's to help the mailroom route your catalog if your contact leaves the company.
- Company Name: You may be mailing into a multitenant office building. Without a company name, your piece can easily get misrouted and end up with the wrong company.
- Department Name: Once again, this data field helps direct your catalog if your contact is no longer with the company. In addition, you can use this field as a file suppress. For example, you may have many records in your database for accounting departments. These records pay the bills and may even place orders. However, unless you're selling office or accounting supplies, the accounting department usually isn't responsible for deciding to place an order. Mailing to them isn't helping either your top or bottom line.
- NCOA Updates: When you mail your catalog, you pay for a NCOA update. Too often the update file never gets applied to your existing database. This is probably the single most common mistake for database managers. If you go six months without updating your data with NCOA changes, you're probably fine. If you go 10 years, you've got a mess.
- Company and Address Linkage: Linking multiple records within one company can help you better mail to that company. If you mail too many records at the same time into one address, however, you may end up having your entire bundle of catalogs pitched into the recycling bin. Of course, you can have multiple records at one address identified in your merge. However, if you can first identify them in your database, you'll have more control over your contact strategy for that company.
- Record Consolidation: Duplicate records are a scourge. You diffuse your sales history for every duplicate customer record, which can mean that you'll miss mailing customers who would otherwise benefit from an additional marketing outreach. In this vein, you'll find that catalog request history doesn't get appended to customer records. It's often assumed that customers who request catalogs are new to file. In fact, new-to-file catalog requests are usually in the minority. Most of your catalog requests are coming from customers. If a customer requests your catalog and has already purchased $10,000 of your product, wouldn't you want to know about it?
- Data in the Wrong Field: If you haven't stepped record by record through 1,000 records within your database, do so immediately. If you have data in the wrong field, that record is possibly getting lost in the merge as unmailable. Some data processors have protocols to identify data in wrong fields, but even the most sophisticated algorithm often misses the mark.
Data hygiene projects aren't sexy. You may not see them make the quarterly highlights of a board report. However, the results will be something to crow about.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.