Freeform Data Are Not Exactly Free
The Professional Title categories may be considered as optional by some marketers (especially when it is about B-to-C marketing). But I found an important variable, such as Offer Type, is in freeform in many databases. That is a shame, as it is a result of lack of planning or sheer laziness. If a field called "Offer" is recorded like "15% discount offer for 2014 Labor Day weekend blowout sale for total purchase amount over $250," it is hardly a data variable. Try to find out which customer would prefer flat dollar discount vs. free shipping with it. Unfortunately, such freeform data are not uncommon and, at times, I saw literally thousands of offer types in one database. The first thing that I do in a situation like that is ask about the company's HR policy regarding hiring interns. Someone has to comb through that mess and make sensible variables out of it. And I'd rather train the interns, rather than waiting for the marketing department to come up with a plan to fix its practice spontaneously. That would be like waiting for clinically diagnosed hoarders to cure themselves on their own.
But I would still ask the marketers about their long-term and immediate marketing goals and their channel preferences, and collaborate with them to come up with a uniform Offer Code. As there are only so many ways to lure customers into stores and websites, thousands of offer types can be categorized into the following groups:
- Flat Dollar Discount
- % Discount
- Buy 1, Get 1 Free
- Free Shipping
- No Payment Until …
- Interest-Free Loan
- 3 Easy Payments of …
- Free Gifts
Indeed, the word "Free" is used freely here, and I heard that it is one of the most powerful words on the Internet. Too bad that there is no free lunch, and that "no-payment-until" date will come around soon enough.
Stephen H. Yu is a world-class database marketer. He has a proven track record in comprehensive strategic planning and tactical execution, effectively bridging the gap between the marketing and technology world with a balanced view obtained from more than 30 years of experience in best practices of database marketing. Currently, Yu is president and chief consultant at Willow Data Strategy. Previously, he was the head of analytics and insights at eClerx, and VP, Data Strategy & Analytics at Infogroup. Prior to that, Yu was the founding CTO of I-Behavior Inc., which pioneered the use of SKU-level behavioral data. “As a long-time data player with plenty of battle experiences, I would like to share my thoughts and knowledge that I obtained from being a bridge person between the marketing world and the technology world. In the end, data and analytics are just tools for decision-makers; let’s think about what we should be (or shouldn’t be) doing with them first. And the tools must be wielded properly to meet the goals, so let me share some useful tricks in database design, data refinement process and analytics.” Reach him at email@example.com.