Granular data lead to precision marketing

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Unisys Corp., the technology services company, takes database marketing to its logical conclusion in its latest marketing campaign.

The Blue Bell, Pa.-based company launched its "Security Unleashed" campaign last month. Although the effort includes branding advertisements in publications such as The Economist, Fortune and Washington Technology, the centerpiece of the campaign is a database marketing initiative: a highly targeted mailing to a few hundred key prospects.

Unisys is sending each of these executives an issue of Fortune with a faux cover wrap featuring the recipient's own face. A personalized headline appears on each cover trumpeting how the executive's selection of Unisys has helped his or her company. "We're really trying to take that [marketing] spending to the customers who are of the most value to us," said Ellyn Raftery, Unisys VP and general manager-worldwide marketing.

A review of Unisys' business revealed that its top 50 clients generated 80% of the company's revenue, according to Raftery. "We're not trying to influence the masses," she said.

Unisys' targeted, highly personalized mailing is an extreme example of database-driven marketing, but it is representative of a larger trend.

"Database marketing is becoming more and more prevalent," said Shawn Etheridge, VP-information products at Prism Business Media.

Database marketing has grown for two main reasons. First, electronic technologies such as the Internet and customer relationship management software have grown in prominence and sophistication, and are enabling more-precise targeting. Second, top management is demanding improved return on marketing investment, and database marketing appears to be measurable (always) and effective (often).

Growing database marketing

Companies large and small and in a variety of industries, from high tech to industrial, are increasing their investment in database marketing tactics.

At Makino Milling Machine Co., which is based in Tokyo and has its U.S. headquarters in Mason, Ohio, database marketing has become central to the machine tool marketer's selling strategy.

In 2006, Makino cut its advertising expenditures by 50% compared with 2005, according to the company's marketing manager, Mark Rentschler. "We've cut our trade media placement dramatically," he said.

The company didn't cut its overall marketing budget, however; it just moved its media expenditure into producing webinars and other efforts designed to boost Makino's database. Additionally, the print advertising Makino did run promoted the webinars and helped, at least indirectly, build the database of potential customers.

Makino worked with its agency, Cincinnati-based HSR Business to Business, to develop its database marketing efforts. "It's creeping into every aspect of what we do," Mike Hensley, HSR's VP-executive director of planning and integration, said of database marketing. HSR refers to database marketing as "business relationship marketing," or BRM.

Database marketing is not entirely new at Makino. HSR has produced a biannual custom magazine for the company for more than a decade that reaches 16,000 prospects in North America. What's new are the emphasis and the investment. It doesn't hurt that database marketing is yielding positive results, including a doubling of the company's e-mail contact rolls.

"It's been extremely successful," Rentschler said, adding: "The sales staff tells us that the leads that we produce are some of the best they've ever received in terms of quality."

In 2007, Makino plans to expand its database marketing plan beyond its direct sales force and include its distributors.

In addition to using HSR to help produce its webinars, Makino also collaborated with Gardner Publications' Modern Machine Shop. As database marketing grows in importance, business media companies have seen the value of their subscriber files escalate. They've also begun to put more effort into maintaining their databases for their b-to-b marketing customers.

The Deal LLC, for instance, has put significant effort into "data hygiene"; investing in appending other lists, such as Dun & Bradstreet information, to its own data; and in telemarketing to ensure the names and information on its lists remain accurate and current.

"In the last 10 years, we've done a better job of adding or appending third-party data onto lists," said Prism Business Media's Etheridge.

Prism has also attempted to make its data available in interesting ways, particularly on the Internet. For example, the company's subscription based Web site, (the EW stands for Electrical Wholesaler), provides electrical distributors with building permit data and up-to-date access to other information on potential customers.

Many forward-looking business media companies have moved into buying databases that are full of the information their advertising customers crave. Randall-Reilly Publishing, for instance, acquired Equipment Data Associates in 1998. Equipment Data Associates aggregates UCC-1 filings, which are government documents that are necessary when a company finances the purchase of industrial equipment.

This information is coveted by b-to-b marketers looking for owners of a particular kind of equipment that uses their products.

For instance, advertising agency Origin in Evanston, Ill., has a client that makes ink for large digital presses. Using a list from Equipment Data Associates, Origin was able to help its client target the few thousand companies that would be candidates for using this specialty ink.

"If you're doing this, you send them a highly targeted mail piece and have local sales staff follow up with a phone call. If you're marketing correctly, you keep a list of who bought and who didn't. You go back to these same people and keep doing it until you beat your market to a bloody pulp," said Paul Frankel, Origin's president.

In its database marketing effort, Unisys is using a variation of this strategy. In addition to targeting its key prospects with the Fortune cover wrap, the company used out-of-home executions placed near the office buildings of its targets. Media shop PHD scouted nearby bus stops, coffee shops and restaurants; it also purchased time on office building elevators equipped with televisions. Unisys also created personalized microsites for the targeted executives.

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