• December 1, 2005
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Cleaning a 75 Million Name Database

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With 75 million customers, Meredith Corp., a provider of magazines, books, television broadcasting, and integrated marketing, was bound to have duplicate and inaccurate customer information in its customer database--a problem, especially when trying to cross- and upsell products. The problem becomes magnified when considering how many products the company owns. The Meredith Publishing Group, for example, features 17 magazine brands, including Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, and American Baby, along with another 160 special-interest publications. Meredith's marketing department utilizes the database for a multitude of functions: cross-/upsell, reactivation, list mail, and as a data source for integrated marketing partners to attract advertisers. Originally, Meredith's database was housed with Acxiom, but five years ago it converted, bringing the database in-house. When the contract with Acxiom expired, Meredith went to market and put the contract up for bid. "We went back to the market a little more knowledgeable about our needs because we had been running the database with Acxiom for about three years," says Chuck Howell, director of consumer marketing for Meredith. "We needed a vendor that had the linkage technology necessary to improve our data integration processes. We pitched Acxiom and Experian in a head-to-head competition." The two companies "came out fairly even on the test," Howell says. "It really came down to which company had a bundled approach and better price. We got that with Experian." It also helped that Meredith had a long-standing relationship with Experian for data and list processing. Specifically, the publishing company turned to Experian's Truvue to link individual sources of information and variations of customer and prospect identities together. Also, it developed a link between the database and Meredith's Web site to improve customer Web experiences by enabling quick access to account information. Truvue combines linkage technology with customer ID functionality so companies can unite disparate databases. The application also provides an ongoing database maintenance process, so Meredith's customer records are continually updated with the most recent and accurate information. Finally, it strengthened the publishing company's prospect environment by capturing promotional history and eliminating additional duplicates, an important function in the publishing business due to the constant search for potential advertisers. Meredith needed to improve each segment of the customer life cycle, so Experian installed Truvue ID, which provides the company with the ability to "append a persistent ID in real time," Howell says. The publishing company can immediately identify a customer on the database for retrieval of account status information. In conjunction with Truvue, Experian also provided a customized suite of data-hygiene tools, ranging from USPS to Experian proprietary tools, to maximize address deliverability. After converting to Truvue in April 2004 and going live in January 2005, Meredith achieved a 6 percent reduction in duplicates within its customer database, decreased mailing costs by increasing address deliverability, and improved data linkage on an individual and household level, thus allowing for better targeting and modeling of potential customers and subscribers. Last, it has increased database usage by integrating marketing partners to develop trade areas. "Collectively, we looked at each part of our business model and uncovered many benefits to having everything under one roof," Howell says. The Payoff By implementing Experian's Truvue linkage technology, Meredith has:
  • achieved a 4 to 6 percent reduction in the number of duplicates on the Meredith database;
  • decreased mailing costs by increasing address deliverability and eliminating duplicates; and improved its customers' Web experience by linking the site with customers' account information.
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