Do You Feed Your Marketing and Sales Database Lifestyle and Social Media Steroids?

by David Johnson on March 22, 2010

Disclosure – I have no relationship with Equifax and this is not a personal endorsement of their products. This blog post is meant to communicate to all marketers, especially small and mid-size marketers, that there is far more to a marketing database than name, address, telephone number and email address. I’ve also tied in a strategy for list matching between a direct marketing database and social media communities that should increase your reach to relevant audiences, and generally put your program on steroids.

Your database is a strategic asset

Having a solid database is a critical, foundational element of any multi-channel marketing campaign.  Yet many small and mid-size companies don’t pay enough attention to the development of a high-quality prospect and client database that enables more precise client targeting and segmentation, and therefore, more effective marketing campaigns.  Database development should not be viewed as a tactical or one-time investment.  All companies should be embracing the concept of relationship marketing and invest in the continued improvement of their data asset to acquire and establish long-term, loyal client relationships across all channels.


I recently met with some folks from Equifax; you know, the credit reporting company.  At least that’s what I thought.  Well, it turns out there’s a lot more to Equifax than their traditional credit-reporting database.  So, following is a quick summary of my research on their non-credit Lifestyle Database product.  There are other products in the market aside from Equifax, however, I think the richness of their Lifestyle Database serves as a good example for the message I want to communicate in this blog post – TAKE TIME TO INVEST IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A STRATEGIC DATA ASSET TO ENABLE YOUR MARKETING AND SALES EFFORTS.

The challenge

All companies want to find a way to effectively communicate with their targeted audiences in a relevant and cost-effective manner.  Unfortunately, although many companies have invested in databases and CRM systems, most of them lack the discipline necessary to insure they are kept current and are appended with valuable information that enriches the quality of the data to enable effective marketing and sales activities.

How can this be?  My perception is that most companies do not view sales and marketing as an integrated process, nor do they recognize that database investments are “strategic”.  These companies are generally more tactical when it comes to marketing and sales, and are usually more concerned with volume, sending more emails and making more phone calls, not really recognizing that low conversions and poor results stem from a sub-par database.  These are the same companies that fall into the trap of then leveraging on-line or local direct mail and email service providers to get a campaign out the door in a pinch.  Personally, I’ve not had great experiences with any of these options.  Email bounce rates are generally high, and the “personal” and “firmographic” data is typically way off the mark.  Which means not only do these programs yield poor results, but they upset clients in the process, something no company can afford.

Possible solution

Based on my research, the Equifax Lifestyle Database may be worth considering as you develop your own strategic data asset.  They started with their core database of 300MM+ records and they appended it with census and other current demographic data.  They also aggregated self-reported Lifestyle information from 41MM consumers.

Data Types (click on the graphics to expand)

Lifestyle Data Details (click on the graphics to expand)

Data Availability (click on the graphics to expand)

Equifax then used the 41MM consumer Lifestyle Database to create consumer categories and profiles. The Lifestyle Database profiles are then matched up against common demographic profiles of the 300MM+ consumer database and the Lifestyle Database, to create a 300MM+ projected consumer Lifestyle Database that is highly statistically accurate.  So, if you want to send an email or direct-mail to self-employed, homeowners with a family household income that exceeds $200,000 with interests in sport and travel, you can be reasonably confident that you are engaging with the people who have the highest propensity to want your products.  If you are a B2B marketer servicing companies with less than 1000 employees, Equifax also has a database of companies that has been appended with firmographic data that may be useful in those marketing efforts.

Email and direct mail response rates are at historic lows

Because I am a huge believer in integration, before I would launch a campaign strictly through direct mail or email, I would look to see how I could extend the campaign to include other channels.  Why, because even when email comes from a trusted source, open rates are very low and direct mail is worse.  I would also argue that email open rates are even lower than you think, because companies like Vertical Response cannot differentiate between an actual “open” on you PC, verses scrolling down your Blackberry Inbox while you are on the road.  They both look like “opens,” but as you know, they are not at all alike.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times we received a ping from Vertical Response saying an email was opened, only to call the prospect/client and have them say I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Ever happen to you?

BIG social media idea

To increase the overall performance of the campaign, I would also suggest the Equifax database (or any database for that matter) be “socialized” against Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, friendfeed, etc. to identify who in the database is socializing with others on-line.  After all, each person that belongs to a social network has on average 100-130 friends, all having a lot in common…so let’s leverage those relationships.  It has been our experience that we achieve at least 20% hit rate when matching purchased lists with social media communities.  Meaning that if you were targeting 10,000 people, you should be able to identify and engage with at least 2000 of them socially, extending our reach up to 200,000 (2000 targets x 100 friends) – WOW!  You will also get far greater flexibility when it comes to developing relevant engagement strategies at the channel level (email, direct-mail, social media, mobile), and enables us to leverage on-line “influencers” and “advocates” far more intelligently during the learn, shop, buy and advocacy development process.  This represents a huge opportunity; let me know if you would like to lean more.

Bringing it together

If you’re not satisfied with the results of your database driven marketing activities, or you just want to be more effective in your efforts by eliminating unnecessary direct-mail costs as well as embarrassing inaccuracies in “personal” and “professional” information that could damage your brand; looking at the Equifax Lifestyle Database may be a good first step.  However, leading companies don’t stop there, they leap ahead of the competition by working diligently to continuously improve the robustness of their databases.  They track several client touch-points (CRM data, POS data, agency data, calls-to-action, downloads, social media/friends, etc.), providing them with 360* view of their clients over time, including unique insights on perceptions, attitudes, behaviors and preferences that lead to loyal relationships that drives results.


If you are committed to acquiring and establishing long-term, loyal client relationships across all relevant channels; my suggestion is to be committed to developing a serious database strategy, your rewards will be significant…

I hope this was valuable.  Please post all comments and let me know if you have any questions.

The following Equifax downloads are educational:

Beyond Demographics: Add lifestyle information to improve direct marketing results (MUST CLICK ON “WHITEPAPERS” TO DOWNLOAD

Optimize Database Marketing Results With 360° Customer Segmentation

Transforming to Customer-Centric Marketing

The Customer-Centric World Means “The End” for 
Traditional Advertising and Marketing

Channel Preferences: To Change or Not to Change?

Customer Data: Panning For Gold


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