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The Evolution of the Marketing Database: Part 1

They say that the only constant in life is change. Marketers, as much as anyone, know this to be true. After all, the seismic shift brought on by the digital revolution has opened up a wealth of new channels for reaching potential customers.

Most businesses know this – it’s why tools like social media marketing, video marketing, and SEO have become such big modern marketing buzzwords. What’s lesser known, though, is this: not only has the digital world transformed the tools that marketers use to reach audiences – it has also transformed the tools that marketers use to shape audiences, themselves.

We’ll be uncovering the depth of that transformation in this two-post series, The Evolution of the Marketing Database. In Part 1, let’s take a look at two of the most fundamental ways that marketing databases have evolved.

1. Data Collection is Different

One of the more noticeable shifts in database marketing has been the change in how data is collected. Simply put, it used to be much more difficult to construct a viable database.

Most people who market to seniors are familiar with this, since they’ve likely spent time in channels outside of the digital realm. Before the digital age, especially, contacts were expensive to gather. You could generally acquire data in one of two ways – through direct relationships, fostered in contexts like trade shows, or through purchasing a list. Both methods were expensive and time consuming.

More recently, data collection has involved gathering personal information (like names and emails) through website forms. This is a major step forward, and with a well optimized website, this method of data collection can yield great results. After all, unlike purchased lists, organically grown lists are entirely comprised of people who have actually demonstrated a vested interest in your product or service, generally by opting in on a website form.

The problem is, though, that growing a contact list through a website is dependent upon you drawing visitors to your site in the first place. Does everybody who would be interested in your product or service make it to your site? Unlikely.

The next step of data collection has gone a great distance towards minimizing the burden of data collection on you and your website, while maximizing the value of the data that you do collect. Today, instead of working to collect a specific list of contact data that you use for all of your marketing efforts, you can access an ever-growing supply customer data that’s already been collected. Welcome to the modern world of digital marketing, where tools like Google and Facebook advertising give databases more power than ever before.

2. Databases are Dynamic

The crux of the shift is this: today’s digital world has brought with it a huge change to the underlying concept of database marketing. Databases are no longer static; they’re dynamic.

Most people have traditionally thought of a database as, essentially, a box of data (which only makes sense). Like a box, it holds what you put into it, and of course that’s all you can get out of it, as well.

Today, though, that concept has become outdated. Think of a database as a huge distribution of data, services, and more, all of which can be constantly optimized to help you reach the right audience. Today’s databases expand past the confines of the data that you put in, and allow you to access audiences that you wouldn’t find inside your original box. They’re dynamic.

How did this happen? Well, it’s something of a long story, but it can be summed up in a few words: the Internet, Google, and Facebook.

All activity on the Internet is inherently quantifiable. As users do things like visit websites, view pages, and click links, they rack up data on their behaviors – and Internet giants like Google and Facebook have become experts at putting this data to use.

When we talk about modern databases, we’re talking about combining your own data with the vast expanse of online data that platforms like Google and Facebook provide access to.

It’s a combination that is extremely powerful.

The Process Behind Dynamic Databases

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have a list of 10,000 contacts. That’s a great place to start, but as we’ve mentioned before, it can be restrictive. You don’t want to be blasting those 10,000 people with the same message. And, if your database is the spring of your business opportunities, you’ll eventually drain your static list dry.

If you upload that list to a platform like Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising, though, your reach can expand exponentially through the power of lookalike audiences. Google or Facebook will use your data to target users with similar characteristics – outside of your static list. Instead of being limited to one spring, you’ve reached a much deeper source. Now, you have a breadth of options available.

Is your list pretty geographically centric? You can create a lookalike audience around a new city, and show your ads to users in that location who share similar demographic or behavioral patterns with your current customers.

Want to reach a slightly different demographic? You can create an audience based on your user data, but target slightly older users.

The possibilities are nearly limitless. So, what does the new normal of database marketing mean for your business?

Well, in short, it means more effective marketing. As the breadth of data that’s available grows, marketing clutter is actually reduced. All of that data leads to increasingly effective and informative retargeting efforts. The new normal means optimizing marketing for individuals.

How is this possible? Find out in Part 2 of our series on The Evolution of the Marketing Database.

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