The secret to CRM & Marketing data management?

If you’re a reader of marketing data consultancy Marketing Improvement‘s informative email newsletter, you may remember an article entitled “Decouple The Data – the secret to CRM & Marketing?”. In the piece, marketers are encouraged to take a copy of data from core applications and use it for campaign execution in a more flexible tool. It’s a common and compelling approach but it has drawbacks that I felt were somewhat glossed over.

It’s certainly the case that marketing departments are “always experimenting with new ideas, new sources of data and new segmentation” and as such need the kind of flexibility and lead times which corporate IT systems cannot offer. In fairness, the demands made by marketing campaign managers sometimes make me cringe, but this is a dynamic discipline which must be able to respond to events. Consequently, adding a new field or even a value to a look-up list can become necessary at short notice but which could represent months on an IT development road map. Marketers can’t wait!

Marketing Improvement’s solution is to “decouple the data”, taking a copy from central systems and setting up regular data feeds to a marketing database. They do make it clear that such a system should not exist in isolation, but this is to simplify the issue. How frequent will the update feeds be? Who will provide them? Can you easily make changes? Will you be sent just new and amended data or everything? Who will load this data? How will any changes made in the marketing database (such as privacy updates or address corrections) be sent back to the central system?

Implementing a stand alone marketing database is often the right approach, allowing Marketing to get on with its job unhindered. But think carefully before abandoning an existing corporate system that with a little effort can be coaxed into meeting your needs.

When Sales ask why a key contact didn’t receive the mailer that just went out and you have to start explaining arcane data processes, you may reflect that you don’t have the best solution!

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