DATABASE MANAGEMENT — DATA INTO DOLLARS
“We’ve offered database management services since the 1960s,” confirms Ty Vincent, president and CEO of Vincent Direct in Columbus, OH. “At that time, we typed a series of file cards for our clients and managed their information manually. The technology has evolved over the years and we now offer very sophisticated database management and in-house programming.”
Although Vincent Direct has been offering these services for a long time, one could argue there has been no more important time to provide database management services than in today’s market.
“We are no longer just a printer,” Vincent advises. “We’ve become a direct marketing solutions provider. We operate as an extension to our clients’ marketing departments, even providing creative design and writing. We manage the entire direct marketing communications process from concept to delivery.”
Key to Communication
Jim Neumann, vice president, marketing solutions group for Transcontinental Direct’s U.S. operations, feels that data is the foundation of one-to-one communications. Therefore, having sophisticated capabilities in database and digital asset management allows Transcontinental to offer its clients more expansive services as a marketing services provider. The company can provide more strategic value and capabilities around targeting and messaging in addition to printing, he contends.
“It becomes a clear differentiator for Transcontinental versus other printers when we can combine sophisticated database and analytic capabilities with the printing expertise we have to move beyond an operational relationship to one where we are working with our clients as a partner in their marketing and communications strategy,” Neumann explains.
Transcontinental’s database management services have roots back to 1985 when Marketing Communication Systems (MCS) was formed as part of the company that eventually became CC3 (which was acquired by Transcontinental in 2003). Originally more of a data processing operation, the database management services have expanded over the years and it now builds and hosts marketing databases, providing campaign planning and execution.
“Database management services allow customers to focus on core business functions while taking the worry away from database maintenance and management,” stresses Elaine Beitler, president, Bowne Marketing and Business Communications. “Database management services are a critical component of Bowne’s product and solution offerings. As an outsourced solution in the variable document production space, our customers require a time tested, secure process for management of their digital assets and data streams.”
Customer concerns around security of content continue to increase, Beitler reports. In regulated markets like the financial services and healthcare markets, processes ensuring the protection of data are required to support both regulatory and corporate requirements. In markets that are less regulated, customer concerns about data security are very similar—primarily because of competitive reasons.
“The Bowne brand is well recognized for its high levels of data security,” she assesses. “We implement numerous processes and safeguards to ensure data security, from the physical production plants to the technical infrastructure managing the customer data flows.”
Likewise, Vincent Direct has developed comprehensive processes and procedures for data storage, security and deletion. The process includes IT security systems, security cameras and in-house security personnel, Vincent reveals.
“Our policy includes detailed procedures to ensure that our clients’ data remains secure,” Vincent says. “Database access is monitored through a password system and we hire a third party to conduct self-imposed audits to ensure security. We also provide secure FTP sites for uploading data.”
While maintaining a secure environment for customer databases is of extreme importance, it is not the only challenge when offering these services.
“Customer data is only valuable in support of marketing if it is actionable in driving relevant communications. Many clients focus too heavily on compiling all available data versus looking at what data is most important for better marketing and focusing on optimizing the cleanliness and use of that data,” Transcontinental Direct’s Neumann points out.
Transcontinental works with its clientele to build an incremental strategy on data compilation and enhancement to keep the focus on marketing versus data compilation.
Another common challenge, according to Neumann, is access to data in order to more effectively analyze and target customers and prospects for marketing initiatives.
“Marketers today, more than ever, understand the power of data in the marketing planning component of campaign management,” he says. “But many are frustrated by still being reliant on static reports or internal IT resources to deliver information.”
The challenges in providing database management services are both tactical and strategic, adds Bowne’s Beitler. “From a tactical perspective, the initial challenges occur when a customer needs changes after data integration processes have already been defined and executed,” she contends.
“We solve this issue by keeping in constant communication to assess their needs and then change our integration process accordingly. From a strategic perspective, Bowne provides high-end data mining services that help customers fine-tune their direct marketing efforts to continually improve their marketing return-on-investment.”
Neumann, of Transcontinental Direct, concludes that the ability to do sophisticated variable data digital printing is directly attributed to having strong database management and hygiene capabilities.
“Without the ability to manage data in a consistent and accurate manner, printers risk being left behind as variable data printing applications expand,” he predicts.