More than ever before, businesses are flooded with information. Purchase histories, demographics, credit data, direct mail info, behavioral characteristics, and a plethora of other customer information are being amassed in different silos throughout every business organization. The problem, however, is that the data is not only being collected from various sources and channels, but is being saved in various forms and places as well.

These separate silos of data are a source of nightmares for multi-channel marketers. The facts and figures are clear: the only way to create and maximize a true multi-channel environment is to break down these silos and integrate the data elements.

While most companies realize the critical importance of de-siloing their data warehouses to achieve marketing nirvana, the complexity of undertaking a relational database engineering project of this magnitude seems daunting and expensive.

Email Addresses to the Rescue

Recently, however, I have talked to clients who have used simple email database enhancement programs to accomplish their previously unattainable data integration goals. By using email addresses as the key, these clients have been able to merge substantial portions of their postal and email databases and realize a new 360° view of their customers.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Removing and updating problematic data – email addresses that are absolutely not going to get delivered – is the first step needed to de-silo one’s databases. This email hygiene and correction process will help the marketer sort through and organize the email portion of the data so that it can eventually become the key to unlocking the links with the data in the other silos.

De-duping is the next stage of the process. But when you de-dupe your email database, you need to find a way to refine and standardize the addresses so that otherwise unrecognized duplicates can be identified. Here’s an example of what I mean:

jumpshot (note the extra space after “jumpshot”)

While these are not exact duplicates, it’s an email address that probably was entered by the same user but was entered incorrectly twice.

Basketball, anyone?

With your email files now freshened and de-duped, email addresses can become the strategic data element to create the elegant connections between your disparate clumps of related data.

Consider this example: You know the email address for customer number 1001: You also know this customer downloaded a 20% off in-store coupon for size 17 basketball sneakers. By performing a reverse append on your email-only database, you can add name and postal info to this email address to get: Michael Jordan at 123 Elm Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

Matching that additional information back to your postal database, you might find a record for Juanita Jordan, who bought a Prince tennis racket and a child’s bicycle helmet, and Jeffrey Jordan who bought an indoor basketball hoop, both also living at 123 Elm Street. And a richer picture of the lively Jordan family has emerged!

By performing an email append to your postal-only database, you can add guaranteed deliverable email addresses to this file. This will further enable you to match back to your original email-only file so now you can merge/purge your records accordingly.

Two Benefits for the Price of One!

As luck would have it, a real-life email append client’s project actually inspired these de-siloing thoughts. The client wanted to append email addresses to a large postal database of high-value customers (matching email addresses to name and postal records) but was worried about paying for email addresses that they might unknowingly already have in their database.

The obvious first suggestion would be to de-dupe their email-only file against the email append matches to avoid having to pay for these matches.

After further thought, however, they decided that acquiring the duplicate emails would provide the data element that would allow them to begin to break down their silos and create a data flow between their postal and email-only databases. Suddenly demographic and purchase histories in one group could be unified with their online behavioral data in the other group, using the duplicate email addresses they found as a key.

While the process has been oversimplified here, the insights our client gained were a great first step and allowed them to make huge strides towards developing a single in-depth view of all of their customers.

The Golden Keys

Oftentimes, seemingly intractable problems have surprisingly simple solutions. Marketers appreciate the fact that email addresses are an invaluable communications asset. But many have neglected to realize the strategic role accurate email addresses can play in integrating their marketing databases.

So, if you are looking to de-silo your databases, minimize wasted marketing costs by avoiding sending duplicate and triplicate campaigns to the same households, and maximize your revenues, find a sophisticated email database provider who will unlock your door to riches with their golden keys: accurate, deliverable email addresses.

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