Database Marketing – Quick Tips for Database Bliss

Database Marketing starts with a database.  Database tips for our friends in direct mailing marketing.

Here at CSG Direct, we’ve seen every type of “database” you can think of, from mailing labels copied into PDF files to multiple relational SQL monstrosities. We’re always dealing with new challenges and finding new solutions for making your database the powerhouse it can be.

So here are a couple of tips from our data team

Even though Excel is a spreadsheet program, it is one of the most widely used mediums for database storage. I can hear you now, saying, isn’t that the same thing as a database? Well not necessarily… “A spreadsheet is a computer application that simulates a paper accounting worksheet” Excel is designed to quickly handle financial calculations, numbers and formulas. Therefore when using it as a database, there are a few precautions one should take.

1) Sorting: “So let’s see if I’m in the database” you say and quickly highlight the last name column and hit the A-Z button at the top, you see your last name, figure “ok! Good enough” and hit save. This is one of the most common and most destructive mistakes that can be made in Excel. What just occurred is that all your other fields stayed exactly as they were, while the last name field was placed in alphabetical order by itself. Now everyone in the database has the wrong last name.

2) Numbers: Remember that Excel is a spreadsheet! It loves to perform calculations and “properly” format numbers for you. Quick things to keep an eye out for, would be: Account numbers being formatted oddly, east coast zip codes missing their leading zero, cash amount fields having differing decimal places, even phone number fields having math done on them (something like 775-852-9777 turning into -9854)

3) Line breaks: In the final stretch of putting the finishing touches on your Excel database, then you realize this record has a secondary address, so you just place a carriage return and put the secondary address in the same cell below the first. In an Excel Cell its easy to add a line break, the problem is that when exporting a database out of Excel most database programs won’t recognize odd characters within a field and either jumble the record or completely leave it out. When in doubt it’s always better to just add another column.

4) Coding: There have been many great looking spreadsheets out there with colors that dazzle, but remember that when you use cell colors to delineate between multiple tiers of a database, they won’t translate over into real databases. It’s always best to use a separate field and populate it with whatever alpha-numeric signifier you might need! That way when the database is moved out of Excel it’ll still be there!

Until next time… Keep the data flowing to CSG Direct Mail

4 thoughts on “Database Marketing – Quick Tips for Database Bliss

  1. Excel can be very dangerous when working with databases. Must be very careful. Good information for those who are unaware of the potential problems.

    Excel is a spreadsheet program
    Access is a database program

    Get it?

    • You just cannot blame the masses for working in Excel. Microsoft planned it that way. It is a GREAT program and I use it for so many things. I like that it speaks in math. It is a creative landscape for logical and mathematical people. Excel is a unique program where I feel I am truly collaborating with an intelligent equal. It is as smart as you are and it has millions of possible calculations at it’s disposal for you to pick and choose as you need. Love it. !!

      However… It is not built for database level record integrity and has been an accessory to the most errors in database management of any program I have ever worked with. But then again I said it was as smart as you are and some people are just not fully trained in Excel.

      • It is necessary to work in it as that is what many people do their work in. But it’s better to open it and export into a more friendly format.

        Just my experience

  2. Good to know! Seems like this can create costly errors if necessary precautions are not taken. I could just see now doing a mailer and having sorted it by the last name field in excel. Not only would everyone in that list get a mailer with a last name but mix in a variable offer in there and you can kiss that customer bye bye. QQ

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