Blinded by Science?

By Massey, Anne | Marketing, July 16, 1992 | Go to article overview

Blinded by Science?


Massey, Anne, Marketing


... then here's the antidote. Anne Massey demystifies the likes of |z scores', |psychographics', |geodemographics'and |de-duping' in a bit o translate the jargon of consumer targeting

One of the first things journalists are taught is that if they don't grab the attention of their audience within the first paragraph they're unlikely to have an audience by the second one. This is why this feature could not begin with the words "database marketing".

If it had done, most readers would have stopped at word two. Because those words warn all but the most ardent IT (Information Technology, to the initiated) fans that they are about to be blinded by science, bored by technical jargon and preached at with the kind of fervour only the convert can aspire to.

And that's sad because it's where the most exciting things in marketing are happening. You don't need to know how it's done or mess with any of the boring technical bits. You can just sit back and bask in the reflected glory that tighter targeting will bring.

Lots of talented people have been beavering away to make targeting simple to use - on your own PC, on your own desktop, at the touch of a button.

The snag is these dedicated people seem to talk in a foreign language which makes all this simple stuff seem incomprehensible. Terms like de-duping, geodemographics, psychographics and z-scores mystify. So let's cut through the jargon and tell it as it is.

Your own customers

Many companies already hold lots of customer details and the direct marketing gurus agree there is no better list than your own.

For example, banks will know their customers'credit-worthiness, whether they have a mortgage and if they use credit cards. Shops will have an account holder's payment track record and know what type of goods they buy and how often.

But having records and being able to get at them in a usable form are two different things. Companies which have learned how to manipulate and enhance the data they hold are often the ones which are succeeding despite the recession - because they really know about their customers.

A database marketing consultancy can give advice on how to collect, store and retrieve this information. Some clients prefer to use a bureau for this - to avoid the capital cost of installing computer or PC equipment.

Many of the, large charities - which are among the biggest and most sophisticated users of database marketing - started off by using bureaux to store donor records. Several admit this stage was invaluable in taking them through the learning curve. However, most have now installed their own PC-based systems to give them instant access to the data and cut costs.

The move to PCs is the most significant recent advance in database marketing. Anyone can learn to operate a PC-based system quite quickly. Usually, only really major installations need an in-house PC boffin.

The secret is to install the right system and the best way to find the appropriate one is to ask advice from companies already using PC-based data for similar jobs.

Or, if you plan to overlay your information with that from other sources, say list brokers or geodemographic or lifestyle marketing companies, it is sensible to buy compatible kit.

If you don't have all the information you need about your current customers but do have names and addresses, you can collect more by incentivising them to fill in questionnaires or by overlaying your data with some gleaned from other sources.

If you have no information at all, you can run promotions or competitions to attract responses from customers. But beware, a carelessly worded question will illicit the wrong reply. For example: "Where did you buy this?" might be answered: "Manchester", "Tesco", a supermarket", "on holiday" etc.

You might already know your customers are likely to be male, aged under 25 and relatively well off, or that they have a specific hobby or interest. …

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