A unified database is every publisher’s dream. Publishers usually have multiple silos of data. Print subscriber data is usually at a fulfillment house or in some sort of in house fulfillment software. Digital edition subscriber data can often be spread across multiple platforms and sometimes publishers don’t have direct access to it. Email newsletter subscriber data is usually in Mail Chimp, Constant Contact or some other email platform and
often even individual newsletter subscriber data is siloed within the email platform. Event attendee data usually resides in a spreadsheet in the marketing department and data on voters for editorial “best of” lists is often in the editorial department. And if you sell other products you have another set of data that could be anywhere.
It’s very common to see publishers who have a very complex data siloing problem with their various audiences. The problems this creates is that it handcuffs your ability to market to your audience in an effective manner and you have no way to identify your best customers. And as we all know, it’s easier to generate more revenue from your best customers than it is to go out and find new customers.
In order to find out who your best customers are and to open up the very profitable cross marketing pipelines between your products you need to create a unified database.
A unified database can send your audience marketing ROI skyrocketing. Two medium sized city magazines have each acquired over 100,000 new customer email addresses over the past two years by utilizing a unified database strategy.
Before you jump head first into creating a unified database there are several considerations you must make. Spend some time thinking about your strategy and how you will use your unified database up front. There’s nothing worse that building a unified database and then hearing “We can’t do that because of how we set up the database”. Planning is paramount.
Here are 5 things you should do to help you plan an effective unified database.
1) Normalize Your Data
Since you’re going to be collecting data from a wide variety of sources, you need to make sure that your data is normalized. Think about your data in a spreadsheet. Each row is one data record and each column is one data field. So your columns should have names like FirstName, LastName, etc.
It’s always better to keep your data as broken down as possible. It’s much easier to combine data then it is to break it up once it’s in a database. So for example you would have the first name in one column/field and the last name in a separate field. You would also have one field for the address number and street, i.e. 123 Main Street. But have separate fields for City, State and Zip. It is also standard practice to keep U.S. State names in a database by using their postal codes, i.e. NJ, PA or CA.
2) Pick A Data Field To Act As Your Key
In a database there is always one key field that is unique to every record. For your purposes in a publishing database you should key on the email address. Email addresses are all unique so that makes the email address the perfect key field.
Not only is email a great way to communicate with your audience, it’s a great way to keep your data records accurate. Once you make the connection from a user’s email address to their postal address you can communicate with your audience easily and cheaply.
4) Consider Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is a process that delivers marketing messages to your prospects based on their actions. So for example, if you have a prospect who signs up for a second food themed email newsletter, your marketing automation platform can send them a food themed print subscription offer when ever they sign up even if it’s 3:00 AM over the weekend.
A good marketing automation platform will also allow you to trigger marketing actions based on prospects interactions with your website.
Marketing automation is a huge advantage for publishers who want to sell more and collect more email addresses.
Even though it’s “automatic” marketing automation is not set it and forget it. You need to develop a strategy to build your workflows aka sales funnels and they need to be monitored and tweaked on a regular basis.
5) Develop a Strategy
Great marketing tools are definitely important, but without a solid strategy, tools are worthless.
When you finally are ready to make your move to unify your audience data you are opening the door to marketing success. Your strategy is the road map to that success.
Before you build your unified database, you need to think about how you are you are going to use your data. What do you want to accomplish with your new marketing tool. Spend a few days brainstorming with your team about how you want to take advantage of this powerful new asset.
Get crazy. Even if you think there’s now way we can do that, put it out there and discuss it with the team. You’ll be surprised where it might lead. This is no time to be timid.
You also need to have someone in charge of on going strategy development. Like I said before, the is not set it and forget it. You need to be constantly testing and evaluating. There’s always a more efficient way to market and you need to test to find it.
Follow these 5 simple steps before you start your unified database and you’ll have 100,000 new email addresses in no time.