By Ian Hitt, managing director, Epsilon International

Many CEOs think client data arrives on its own, costs nothing to source and has little or no value. Most marketers will know they’re wrong. Good data is an important corporate asset and can have a high monetary value. In fact a marketing database is one of the first things a liquidator could sell if the unthinkable happened.

Consider one of our clients — an airline — that recently conducted a thorough audit of its client database. The airline emails 1 million customers a week, an activity which correlates to around 200,000 transactions per year — a 2.2% conversion rate. The company calculated that this alone contributed an extra US$6m to its bottom line every year — in aviation terms: a brand new Boeing 737.

However, many companies still neglect their databases; lumping its maintenance among other low priority intern jobs. Therefore it’s time to treat data with the respect it deserves, and this means ensuring it’s well-maintained

So how do you optimise the value of your database?

There are a few key points to follow.

1.Volume is important but data quality is paramount. Every record has a value and the whole list needs to be viewed as part of the corporate asset.

2.Customer relevance is key, and marketers need to understand consumers in order to appropriately segment them and track their behaviour over time, so that they receive market information which is relevant to them.

3.Emails and resulting data should be collected as a matter of course. There are numerous opportunities to collect emails from customers and it’s surprising how many companies don’t prioritise this activity. Emails should always be as personal as possible. It doesn’t take much effort to have one-to-one communications with thousands, or even millions of customers.

4.Ensure compliancy. It sounds obvious but ensuring your email collection policy is compliant with data law is even more important when you remember that the ICO has the power to fine you up to £500,000.

5.Understand the specific channels and offers for each customer segments. It’ll not only enhance conversion rates but will also keep costs to a minimum.

6.Protect data and treat it with the same respect as an accounts book. You cannot afford for it to be lost, like various disks of private information have from top organisations in the past!

There’s no smoke or mirrors involved. Email database best practice involves cleansing data, using it intelligently, enriching it continuously and following a clear and measurable strategic plan. Done regularly, it can be as easy as updating the telephone numbers in your mobile phone.