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How to Build the Customer Record in a Data Driven Marketing Database

The customer is the star of the show and you need to make sure customer information is in a data driven marketing database. At the most basic level, a customer is usually defined by a name and an address. Creating a customer record means matching names and addresses from different systems.

You want to match the Elizabeth Smith of 123 Main St. who registered online to the Elizabeth Smith of 123 Main St. who signed up to receive your quarterly newsletter. Sounds simple enough, right? The problem is that the data is rarely that clean.

Clean up addresses in a data driven marketing database

Elizabeth may have registered as Elizabeth Smith online two years ago and mistyped her address as 123 Mane St. She may have more recently requested the newsletter be delivered to Elizabeth Smith at 123 Main Street.

It’s no problem for you to recognize that St. and Street are a match. It’s also fairly obvious that Mane is a typo and means Main. But you don’t have the time to sort through all your address data. You need a computer to recognize this for you. And explaining the obvious to a computer is anything but simple.

Luckily this problem has been solved for you. Commercially available software packages will standardize your name and address data for you. They actually use the official U.S. Postal Service address database to identify invalid addresses. You can even purchase services that will perform these functions as data is being entered into your systems. When a customer registers on your website, the software will not let them enter an invalid address.

The USPS website lists software packages that it has evaluated and approved. Choosing the software that’s best suited to your needs is more an IT function than a marketing function. The software is system specific. It depends on your database and operating system environment. But the good news is that you may be able to get your IT department to pick up the tab in its budget.

Address standardization and validation are essential to building and maintaining a useful customer database. Software packages that perform these functions come with various bells and whistles for various prices. You may not need the high-performance sedan of software. But you can’t afford not to have the basic model.

Update addresses in a data driven marketing database

Even after your name and address data have been standardized, you still have a potential problem: Customers move. The customer’s address may not be current in all of your company’s systems. In other words, you may have several different addresses that are associated with the same customer. If you’re not careful, these different addresses can create the impression that you have several different customers.

Fortunately this problem is also easy to solve. The Postal Service maintains a database of address changes. This National Change of Address database is more commonly known by its acronym NCOA. Many of the companies that offer address standardization services also perform address updates using this database. Using an NCOA service is standard practice in database marketing.

Once you have your addresses standardized, validated, and current, you’re in a position to create a central customer record. You have identified the star and are ready to get on with the show.

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