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Database Management : An Elementary Approach

March 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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Keeping It Safe and Secure

Doug Hammerseng, vice president of sales for GLS Companies, notes that about a dozen clients had requested information regarding the handling of their data and its security. After investigating options, GLS decided to opt for the SOC 2 reports.

“We were trying to figure out, from a sales perspective, what...would grab a prospective client’s attention,” he says. “Security breaches have garnered a lot of media coverage, and we knew that it was a growing concern. (SOC 2 audit standards) formally puts us out there in front of the market.”

Data security is only part of GLS’ value proposition. The printer serves an advisory role with clients at the genesis of a campaign, leveraging past experiences to provide guidance on messaging and market targeting. Multichannel integration, including QR codes, PURLs and Websites, augments the essential, traditional direct mail-based address hygiene functions such as CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certification, NCOA (National Change of Address) and Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) tracking services.

“With postage being the largest part of direct mail campaigns, we do everything we can with customers’ files to optimize their postage,” says Steve Lasher, GLS’ head of mailing operations. “That includes looking at drop-shipping entry points, meeting critical in-home dates and doing LTL (less than truckload) directs, where we enter the mail into the SCF (sectional center facility) to coincide with the sale or event. We work closely with customers to help plan their campaigns.”

To what degree does guidance play in the role of database management? Are printers custodians or advisors? Take Colormark Inc., of Kansas City, MO, which now considers itself a marketing solutions partner that offers assistance at the concept and design phases of a client's project. Data development and leveraging tools are vital elements to the printer's tool belt but, as database manager William Mitchell points out, comfort and confidence go a long way with the direction clients take.

“As a company, we still see a disconnect with our customers in them not getting art directors and creative people together with IT or data people way upstream in the process,” Mitchell remarks. “It’s common to see a customer with fantastic data and no idea what to do with it; and, on the other hand, a customer with a great campaign idea and horrible data.”

Those frustrations may come with the territory, but they are a mere bump in the road. Tiffany Edwards, cross-media platform database manager for Colormark, notes the printer does client presentations that illustrate how data can be used to improve response rates. The printer works with them on a one-to-one basis, reviewing their data and suggesting how it can best be leveraged. Colormark will also make suggestions on new data than can be collected to gain even better penetration with their recipients.

“By being able to have these kind of conversations, clients turn to us for guidance on new projects and what kinds of capabilities we can help them with to drive their response rates up,” she says. “By looking at their situations and suggesting solutions that make sense for them, a trust is developed. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to use a PURL and we will tell them that, even though it may mean the project cost comes out to less. In the long run, the relationship that is developed is more important than the short-term sale.”

Colormark performs CASS, NCOA and de-duping duties, and Mitchell points out that clients usually send in multiple data file formats, which must be merged to create usable data. Data accuracy, more than security, is critical.

“Ultimately, the accuracy of the data is only as good as the instructions or the information given to us,” he says. “We ask as many questions as we can up front and our data experts know what to ask to get the most efficient, accurate outcome.”

Japs-Olson Co., the pride of St. Louis Park, MN, is a commercial printer and direct mail specialist with customers who have a strong understanding of database marketing and personalization, not to mention solid segmentation and analytics knowledge. Michael Murphy, Japs-Olson president, says his firm's value proposition is in using software and imaging systems to create the complex levels of customization that his clients require.

“We have many production platforms that are optimized for the level of customized message and quantity,” Murphy says. “We will suggest a certain press or format configuration if we feel that it will be beneficial to their program.

“Many times, customers are used to a certain workflow and do not understand that, with minor changes, we are able to reduce their cost and time to market. The more we understand our customers’ objectives, the more we can bring our production expertise to create the best workflow.”

Data security is a priority for Japs-Olson, which takes a layered approach that includes physical, operational, auditing and disaster recovery. Murphy notes there are specific elements of verification to ensure the security of customer data. As for printers expanding their database management capabilities, it’s important to keep abreast of the evolving nature of marketing programs.

“Every segment of our customer base is developing more targeted messages through customization and personalization,” he states. “As our customers change, we must add data management and database expertise to facilitate these new marketing programs. We will all be required to develop bigger, stronger and more sophisticated data management systems.” PI


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