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Data Management — Niches and Nightmares

February 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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RIDICULOUS AS it may seem, database management has been making national news in 2008. Unfortunately, and more precisely, data mismanagement has grabbed some headlines.

For the second time in a little more than a year, the good citizens of Wisconsin have seen their personal information—in the form of social security numbers—left flapping in the breeze of a government mailing. Printers in both cases found themselves sharing in the blame, and the expense, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars for credit monitoring services out of recipient fears concerning identity theft.

The threat, real albeit extremely remote, underscores the importance of the role third-party data manipulation services play in successful mailing campaigns. The stakes are extremely high, and the damage to one’s credibility as a vendor of these services can be severe.

There is a lot at stake for ample reason. Postal rate increases and changes in mailing standards sent shock waves through the direct marketing industry in 2007 which, when coupled with companion increases in paper and other consumables, tempered enthusiasm for the mail marketing channel. Tempered, but not completely dampened.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is projecting healthy annual growth rates in a number of vertical markets between 2005 and 2009, led by healthcare and pharmaceuticals at 10.9 percent. Insurance checks in at 9.4 percent, followed by technology (8.7), automotive (7.8) and business-to-business (7.4). Seven other popular verticals, including telecommunications, retail and hospitality, range between 5.5 percent and 7.4 percent.

Clearly, opportunities exist for those vendors that avail themselves of the latest mailing and database software geared toward providing marketers with optimum payout for the creative, efficient and accurate manipulation of customer information. It all begins with a database of customer information provided by the client to its printer/mail service provider. What that vendor does, or doesn’t do, with the information is what separates the success stories from the tales of woe.

Where There’s a Need

Datamatx, based in Atlanta, prints and mails transactional documents, including bills and statements, for a number of industries. Harry Stephens, president and CEO, notes that his utility customers lack the ability to store and present data graphically. For them, Datamatx may create graphics to represent customer usage over a period of time. Stephens also works closely with customers to devise ways to increase quicker payments from recipients.

For customers looking to promote products or services, Datamatx has entered the world of transpromotional printing through the use of marketing messages placed directly on end-user bills. “Techniques such as highlight color and graphics can be combined with variable messaging pulled from customer data to transform traditional bills and statements into powerful communication tools,” he points out.

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