Database Marketing Then and Now

Database Marketing Then and Now

From ancient marketplaces to corner stores, sellers have known about the importance of information. Collecting data to understand customers’ needs better and improve lead generation isn’t a new concept. The completeness and quality of the data is, though. Today’s database marketing has the power to transform how you do business; to see how, let’s take a look back at the beginnings of database services for marketers.

The Dawn of the Database

The first computerized relational databases were developed around the time the first Star Wars movie appeared in theaters in the latter half of the 1970s, but these early prototypes were largely an academic exercise. Relational databases changed the way people used computers, allowing users who weren’t extensively trained in programming to store and retrieve information. These early databases normalized data across multiple applications, making it possible to relate formerly isolated pieces of information. By standardizing interfaces, the earliest databases laid the groundwork for systems that could communicate with each other as well as with their users.

The Digital Age of the 1980s

It wasn’t long before relational databases moved out of academic applications and into business, where they were instrumental in the success of some of today’s technology giants, including Apple and Microsoft. SQL, or Structured Query Language, became the lingua franca for relational databases. The applications for commercial sales and marketing databases were clear to marketing visionaries who were already using computers to store and retrieve data, but they didn’t yet have the technology to integrate contextualize information within a larger framework.

The next great challenge developers faced was how to make database services fully interactive, a goal that coincided with the boom in internet growth.

The Start of the Modern Database

E-commerce, company websites, and more interconnectedness brought seismic shifts in the marketing world during the 1990s. Never before had marketers had such open access to their audience or such a clear vision of the value of information. Twenty years ago, the Harvard Business Review published an article about interactive marketing and where it was headed. At the time, the article still focused on print media, phones, and fax numbers, but it wasn’t hard to see how important internet communications would become to marketers at the turn of the next century. The predicted move from broadcast marketing to interactivity was already occurring, and database management was central to the process.

Into the New Millennium

Email’s ascendance as a marketing tool was already happening in the 1990s, but its rise increased exponentially in the 2000s; today, it’s a core component of data-driven marketing, allowing marketers to communicate with leads one-on-one instantly. With it have come data enhancement techniques that marketers just a few years earlier only dreamed of having, giving marketers the power to build complete account files from just a few pieces of information.

Analytics and modeling give modern database marketing considerable predictive power. This is the age of insight: Everything your leads do is now integrated into a larger picture of behavioral and contextual cues. Marketing automation lets you redefine customer care while making everything from lead generation to nurture programs more efficient. You’re able to make real-time decisions that optimize the effectiveness of every marketing activity. It’s thanks to those pioneering data scientists in the ‘70s who believed marketing technology mattered.

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