Speaking directly: The essentials of database marketing

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.When Skip...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.

When Skip Andres, founder of The National Centre for Database Marketing, coined the phrase ‘Database Marketing – The Revolution’ in 1988, it was, perhaps, mere hype for his annual conference.

Certainly, there were incursions into pockets of corporate America where marketing databases were being used quite successfully – sophisticated direct marketers, financial services firms and airline travel rewards programs, for instance.

However, generally speaking, business was too good, and computing power too costly for most organizations to bother with foreign concepts such as Lifetime Value and rfm.

A few years and one recession later, there really is a revolution in marketing thinking as managers scramble for more efficient use of limited resources, both capital and human, and as computers make the storage and manipulation of information relatively fast and inexpensive.

Evidence of today’s real revolution can be found in the Sept. 5 issue of Business Week, with its seven-page, cover story: ‘Database Marketing: A potent new tool for selling.’

Success stories

The article is rich with success stories and applications.

How Blockbuster Entertainment uses a customer’s movie rental history to suggest other titles, why American Express analyzes ‘mountains of data’ from its cardholders, and what Yuri Radzievshy does with his list of 50,000 Russians living in the u.s., for example.

In many ways, the Business Week article represents a turning point for the art and science of database marketing since it has given the subject so much publicity.

Awareness of the phrase ‘database marketing’ has probably increased one hundredfold, and many business people, struck by the logic of information-based promotions, hastily devise plans to replicate the success of others in their own organization.

This rush of enthusiasm creates the immediate problem of bridging the information gap between the enticing article and what one really needs to know about building and using marketing databases profitably.

Free presentation

Regular readers of this column will know that Arthur Hughes (author and internationally renowned speaker on the subject) and I conduct an intensive, two-day seminar on database marketing at Toronto’s York University, four times each year

Some important elements of this two-day program have been condensed into a 90-minute presentation entitled ‘Database Marketing Essentials,’ which is being offered, free, to Strategy readers on Oct. 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

If you are curious about what database marketing is really all about, where the opportunities and pitfalls are, and how it might fit with your strategy, this presentation would be worth your time.

Database Marketing Essentials will not make you an expert, but it will provide you with a useful framework for discussion with your boss, colleagues or clients.

If you would like to attend this presentation, simply fax me a note (see fax number below) or your business card (enlarged for readability.)

You will receive your registration confirmation and other details by mail. There is a limit of two persons from any one organization.

David Foley is a marketing consultant and an instructor in database marketing at York University in Toronto. He may be reached at (905) 940-8784; fax (905) 940-4785.