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A dead database

what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect, That makes calamity of so long life;

What with emails and the world-wide Google-web, one doesn’t get much proper post these days. So anything that does make it through the letterbox stands out.

Especially when it as badly targeted as the letter I got at home yesterday.

Not only was it from Saga, the over-fifties-only company, in whose target demographic I am most definitely nowhere near (yet!), but it was addressed to a lady, let’s call her Doris, who last lived in my house in 1994. That’s a database that really, really needs cleaning.

It was a jolly friendly letter, telling the lady that “according to our records, your household insurance is due for renewal soon and we wondered if you would like to come back to Saga once again”.

This tells me that Doris probably once bought insurance from Saga. Assuming, for argument’s sake, that she did so the year before she sold the house – 1993 – it means that Saga is working off a database that is at least 20 years old. And assuming that our friend Doris was somewhere in the middle of the Saga demographic at 60 years old when she purchased said insurance, then there’s a very real possibility that she is in a home, gaga or even no longer with us. But, there’s also the very real possibility that Doris is fully in possession of her faculties and a prime contender for some new house insurance, developed especially for her age-group. Alas, she’s unlikely to know about it because the personalised letter is sitting at the bottom of my bin.

CRM – customer relationship management – is now a standard part of most of most merchants and suppliers’ marketing and sales lives. I can’t even count how many times I have written about merchants and manufacturers who that invested in new systems that come with a fancy-pants CRM element to allow them to manage their customer information better.

Well you can invest as much money as you like, but if you haven’t cleaned your database properly in the first place, all you’ll get is a more efficient, effective way of contacting customers who no longer exist.

There’s a statistic often quoted at marketing seminars about how much less it costs to get more business from existing customers than it does to go out and get new business, so it does make sense to keep targeting former customers. But doesn’t it make more sense to take a little time and maybe spend a little bit more money in ensuring that those names on your list are still relevant to you and your business?

Otherwise you end up missing those customers who, like Doris have “moved on” and irritating those who aren’t your target audience. Not by a long way. Well, longish.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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