Database integration key to marketing strategy

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An integrated database should be at the center of any sound b-to-b marketing strategy. However, in many companies, customer information often sits in database silos in various business units. In order to target customers with relevant messaging, there must be some connection between the silos.

"It’s a major problem for marketers," said Michael Zammuto, CIO of Inktel Direct, Miami, a provider of outsourced direct marketing services. "The larger the client, the more separate their data tend to be, so bringing it all together gets more difficult."

Part of the problem is that marketers are trying to process more data then ever before. In addition to the information they can now collect on their Web sites, many marketers gather and store customer data in various information technology systems or software. These include customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, enterprise marketing management and business intelligence systems.

Some marketers blame the lack of integration on corporate politics, while others blame a lack of leadership. "The owners of the data streams are very myopic," said J. Robert Lieber, a partner with New York-based ad agency LLKFB Inc. "The direct guys are doing direct marketing. The e-mail marketing guys are doing e-mail. The market research guys are doing that. Who’s pulling all that together? Most CMOs I know aren’t dealing in the data realm. The data never come together to tell a story. Someone in leadership needs to come along and make it a priority."

Mary Lou Kolodziej, director of consulting and education at NuEdge Systems L.L.C., a Waukesha, Wis.-based marketing automation provider, said that although economic realities may slow the process for now, she sees a gradual cultural change toward integrated data. "There’s more of a mandate to share information across channels and silos," she said.

Marketers have a number of choices for specific integration tools. For example, there’s the Information Quality Suite software application released last month by Firstlogic, LaCrosse, Wis. Firstlogic is a data quality software company that specializes in database cleansing and standardization. Its upgraded software includes comprehensive data integration features to meet client demand.

Other companies, such as Acxiom Corp., Ascential Software and Meta Integration Technology Inc., provide utilities and services to convert data to a common platform to allow it to flow between various business applications and programs.

In addition, database management specialists are now working together to assure the compatibility of different data processes within an organization. For example, CRM provider Unica Corp. maintains relationships with database marketing companies Acxiom, Harte-Hanks Inc. and Experian.

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