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The Five Essentials to Rapidly Deploy a Marketing Database

A marketing database is one of the keys to successful marketing. The components and work-streams required to stand up a well-designed marketing database are well known, and captured in the mind-map shown at the end of this blog. However, despite well-defined practices and processes, rapid deployments often fail. To ensure success, they must have, in addition to everything else, these five fundamental elements:

  • Scalable Infrastructure
  • Reusable components
  • Expertise
  • Contained Scope
  • Partnerships
As an example, one of our clients, a large Northeast retail bank, needed a 12TB Marketing Database in 16 weeks with the following goals:
  • Create a single, unified view of the consumer – both customer and prospect – across business lines and channel interactions.
  • Integrate 29 highly variant data sets from multiple first and third-party data providers.
  • Be compliant with regulatory requirements like the FCRA.
  • Leverage familiar tools that do not require a huge learning curve.
  • Run their first campaign in 20 weeks.

Here is an elaboration of the five essential elements that helped us achieve these goals:

1. Readily available, horizontally scalable infrastructure platforms

This encompasses database, ETL, identity management, and scheduling platforms, to name a few. Clients’ needs are ever changing – you will never know all the requirements up front, and therefore must have software and hardware that will scale as their needs evolve. For this client, the system was built using a Hadoop cluster for the database, an Informatica cluster for ETL, and Merkle’s Connected Recognition (cR) platform for identity management.

2. Configurable, reusable components

We leveraged Merkle’s highly configurable Standard Assets that are easily customized to client needs – this includes data models, frameworks for ETL, metadata, and data quality, templates for requirements gathering and documentation, and finally reusable code modules. This standard methodology allows us to go to our clients prepared. Each component leverages industry specific knowledge and best practices.

3. Teams of experts

For each component in the development work stream, we used a team of super-specialized individuals, experts in their field, who are focused on new client deployments. For example, the business analysts and solution architects must have a deep knowledge of marketing for retail banking. The data integration team concentrates on ETL while the  cR team profiles data and configures business rules for identity management. These individuals tailor the assets to fit our client’s requirements.

4. Start small, grow fast

Stay focused on successfully delivering your “minimum viable product” – for example, a single line of business or a few very specific, clearly defined outcomes. We started with one line of business – home lending – and within months have expanded to include loans and deposit accounts, with more in the immediate pipeline. Campaign cadence started off as weekly, but is evolving to daily, and will soon move to real-time targeted audiences by integrating with other platforms like the DMP.

5. Be partners, not consultants

We stayed in lock-step with the client, understood their requirements, and were nimble in pivoting as their business needs changed. On the flip side, you must have a decisive, actively engaged client who is very specific about the outcomes. To keep your client engaged, give them access to the data as soon as you can, even if it not 100% accurate. As partners, they understand that the system is evolving. This is the only way you can be “agile.”

Forrester Research affirms that the ability to collect, analyze, and act on consumer data is a competitive differentiator for companies. Being able to rapidly stand up a marketing database, which serves as the repository for such data, is therefore critical to the success of marketing.

Below is a mind-map outlining the work-streams required to build a customer marketing database. Merkle’s Sharat Ramachandran defines it brilliantly in his blog post, Zen and the Art of Managing Workstream-based Projects.

Marketing database mind map

Building customer marketing databases in today’s omni-channel environment requires not only the right skill set, team, and tools, but five fundemental pieces to ensure success.