Sizing Up MCIF

Article excerpt

Pick database marketing software that fits your bank

Most community bank presidents and CEOs are already aware of the benefits of marketing to existing customers to improve their bottom lines. They know it's far less expensive to sell additional products and services to established customers than to find and develop new ones.

The key to exploiting opportunities within your existing customer base is to know your customers: who they are, where they live, their buying patterns and their propensity for making additional purchases. In response, modern technology delivered the Marketing Customer Information File, a marketing software tool that scours your computer databases for answers to these fundamental questions about your current customers.

For community bankers such as yourself, the challenge database marketing presents today is not whether to buy an MCIF system. It's determining which system is best for your bank. Nearly as many different database marketing packages are available as there are financial software vendors. Many MCIF systems are extremely sophisticated-hence their gold-plated price tags and voluminous operating rules. Others are relatively simple to use but are limited in what they can do.

So, how do you find the right software system for your bank? David Raab, president of Raab Associates, a bank consulting firm in Rose Valley, Pa., has helped hundreds of banks evaluate marketing databases. In his book "Guide to Database Marketing," Raab observes that "marketing databases are often purchased without a full understanding of exactly how they will be used. The challenge is magnified by additional factors: the number of options to choose from, high interest among senior management in the outcome and pressure to act quickly."

Complexity is a common obstacle bankers encounter in buying MCIF software. The employees chosen to evaluate significant software purchases should carefully judge the real world usefulness of complicated advanced MCIF features. Think about how your bank will realistically use the software. "Learn to walk before you run" should be your mantra when contemplating a marketing database program. Start with the basics, and choose an MCIF system that will easily grow at your bank's pace.

Consider these six performance criteria in selecting your MCIF system and vendor:

1 Ease of Use

Fundamental to the success of any system is the user interface, meaning how easy it is to operate. Today's computer users demand intuitive, point-and-click programs in an easy to understand Windows environment. Many established MCIF programs still use MS-DOS, making them more complicated than necessary

One area to carefully judge the effectiveness of a software system's user interface is in the program's query or filter section. Inherent in every MCIF system is the ability to select records based on specific criteria, such as all records from a particular branch. Users establish the selection criteria through queries.

Most MCIF programs on the market require users to create queries with complicated formulas and field names. These often require knowing far too much "computer speak." Well-designed programs guide users through queries with simple field names and descriptions in plain English.

Loading your bank's account records into the MCIF program is another task where easier is better. Because most banks rely on many different front-end systems, each with unique characteristics, the ease of merging information into an MCIF database is significant. Some MCIF programs require complicated interfaces that cause months of delays and additional costs. Look for programs with simple, flexible ways to gather and set up information.

2 Meaningful Output

Grade software heavily on how well it generates quality reports. As complicated as many MCIF profitability calculations can get, outputting results into useable formats can be just as difficult. …