Yesterday I discussed what true personalisation of marketing communications means. To do this, of course, requires great data, maintained remarkably well. There’s no real shortcut. Some companies consider “cleaning the customer database” to be going through it and deleting all the names who are no longer of interest, for whatever reason. In reality, cleaning the customer database should involve making sure every field in every record is accurate. And there should always be two databases: one where every record is complete and perfect, and the other where it isn’t. That way, you’ll never run the risk of trying to personalise a mailing using imperfect data. I often fill in web forms with my full name (“Christopher”), as that’s what they ask for. But nobody calls me that (except for my mother when she’s a bit irritated with me), so even the most brilliantly-constructed semi-personalised letter from that company in the future will fall down on the first line if it starts “Dear Christopher”, which nobody who knows me would write.
If your data isn’t good enough, it’ll never be possible to segment your database so that recipients only get relevant information, never mind making your communications look like they were written just for each person. I’m sure you’ll agree that your customer and prospect database is the most important marketing asset you hold, alongside your company website, so do give it the love and attention it deserves. And if you do have missing data, unavoidably, do you have a note of this so that you can take it into account when you segment or personalise your mailings?