Integration's the Word
At the DMD New York Conference & Expo last month, chances were you could close your eyes in the hall outside of the session rooms, spin around a few times and the presentation you had stumbled into would be about integration of some sort: channel, data, operations, etc. Integration has officially replaced CRM as the new buzz word in the direct marketing world.
That's a relief, because it suggests a return to more reasonable business objectives. At the least, integration is less of a slippery concept than CRM, which after several years and significant investment money, companies are still hard-pressed to define.
Data integration is definable, yes, as Acxiom's Scott Hambuchen says in his article in this issue, "First Steps Toward Data Integration," on page 38. But like CRM, it's not a software program you can buy off the shelf, plug in and leave to do the heavy lifting. Only those data integration initiatives with a well-thought out plan that includes the buy-in of both management and employees will succeed, says Hambuchen. His most important advice: Realize that the "single view" of the customer you shoot for will be a moving target, requiring you to think carefully about what your company is willing to invest in time and resources to achieve this insight and then act upon it.
For what good is integrated data if you don't do anything with it? To get you fired up over the possibilities of what customer data integration, or CDI, can mean to your direct marketing program, we've got three real-world examples of companies engaged in various CDI projects for you to read about in "Adventures in Data Integration," on page 35. A major insight from all three case studies: Not one project coordinator described the CDI process as ending with his or her project. Everyone recognizes data integration as a continual process that fuels the future of his or her business.
Personally, I'm excited about the range of opportunities data integration ventures will create for more advanced direct marketing efforts. While, like direct marketing expert Emily Soell, I've never hankered for a relationship with the manufacturer of the aspirin I buy, I think it's great that the direct marketing companies I do business with soon will be able to recognize me as a good customer and treat me as such.