Silos are made to be broken

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More than ever, businesses are flooded with information. Purchase histories, demographics, credit data, direct mail info, behavioral characteristics and a variety of other customer information is being amassed in different silos throughout every business organization. The problem is that these data are being saved in various forms and places as well. Separate silos of data are the stuff of nightmares for multichannel marketers. The facts are clear: The only way to maximize a true multichannel environment is to break down these silos and integrate the data elements. But the complexity of undertaking a relational database engineering project of this magnitude seems daunting and expensive. Recently I've talked to clients who have used simple email database enhancement programs to accomplish their previously unattainable data integration goals. By using email addresses as the key, these clients have been able to merge substantial portions of their postal and email databases and realize a new 360-degree view of their customers. Removing and updating problematic data—email addresses that are absolutely not going to get delivered—is the first step in “desiloing” your database, organizing the email portion of the data and unlocking links with data in the other silos. When you dedupe your email database, you need to find a way to refine and standardize the addresses so that otherwise unrecognized duplicates can be identified. Here's an example of what I mean:
  • [email protected] com (note the extra space after “jumpshot.”)
  • [email protected] (note the typo “cmo.”)
  • [email protected] (correctly entered at last)
These near duplicates were probably entered by the same user, but incorrectly twice. With your email files now freshened and deduped, addresses can be used as a strategic data element to create the elegant connections among disparate clumps of related data. Consider this example: You know the name, company name and address for Michael Jordan at Jumpshot Co., 123 Elm Street, Los Angeles, Calif. 90017. By doing an email append on this record, you can identify the recipient as [email protected] You then would realize that the customer with this email address downloaded a white paper on “The 'Sole' of Your Marketing Program: Selling Today's Athletic Shoes.” Matching that information back to your postal database, you might find a record of Dennis Rodman requesting information and shipping requirements, and Larry Bird placing an order. Now, a more complete picture of the business potential of Jumpshot Co. has emerged. The process of performing an email append to your postal database will give you another great communication channel and further enable you to match back to your original email-only file so you can merge/purge records as well. As luck would have it, a real-life client's project actually inspired these desiloing ideas. The client wanted to append email addresses to a large postal database of high-value customers (matching email addresses to name and postal records) but was worried about paying for email addresses that the company might unknowingly already have in its database. The obvious first suggestion was to dedupe the email-only file against the email append matches to avoid having to pay for these matches. After further thought, however, the company decided that acquiring the duplicate emails would provide the data element that would allow it to begin to break down its silos and create a data flow between its postal and email-only databases. Suddenly, demographic and purchase histories in one group could be unified with their online behavioral data in the other group, using the duplicate email addresses they found as a key. The insights our client gained were a great first step, and allowed it to make huge strides toward developing a single in-depth view of all of its customers. Marketers appreciate the fact that email addresses are an invaluable communication asset. But you can also realize the strategic role accurate email addresses can play in integrating marketing databases to achieve accurate, deliverable email addresses. Suzanne Shaughnessy is a senior account executive with email appending company FreshAddress Inc. ( She can be reached at [email protected]
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