Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why Data Warehouse for B2B Marketing?

"Data warehouse" is another one of those words that is used with ubiquity but is probably truly understood by few. For B2B marketers, it is becoming a more and more critical concept. What is a B2B marketing data warehouse? I'll take a shot at a clean definition. From Wikipedia: "A data warehouse is a computer system designed for archiving and analyzing an organisation's historical data, such as sales, salaries, or other information from day-to-day operations." (link). Another interesting definition (from same Wiki): "A data warehouse is the main repository of the organisation's historical data, or its corporate memory."

So what purposes does a data warehouse fulfill for a B2B marketer?

1. Single version of the truth on performance. A common problem for marketers--which I have perseverated on for hours on this blog--is a perceived lack of accountability for marketers. A marketing data warehouse functions as the best source of data in the company. It also has the advantage of being time-fixed; that is, you don't have records changing as users enter new data--the picture of the data is fixed in time.

2. Single view of the customer. CRM systems are myopic in that they look mainly at customer interactions; ERP / Financials focus on financial and accounting data. A marketing data warehouse can integrate operational systems' views into one unified, de-duped view of each customer.

3. Key for data enrichment. Enriching data in operational systems is cludgy and almost always causes problems. Say you want to add D&B data to your records. It's far easier to send a data warehouse query to D&B for matching and then re-append this back into your warehouse. If your reps need the data too in CRM, this won't be a problem--this data in your warehouse should theoretically be as clean or cleaner than in any of your operational systems.

4. Use it for direct marketing analytics. The data warehouse is ideally suited for modeling because it is fixed and clean, and merges all possible relevant data sources in one place. A data mining solution like SAS EM or Clementine can easily sit atop a marketing data warehouse and run models all day with very little additional data. Lists can be generated directly from the warehouse and then exported out to Marketing Automation or SFA.

Here's an interesting factoid: it seems to me that most marketing data warehouses are custom. Why is this? Isn't there a standard architecture that could be used for all marketing data warehouses--a master set of tables where needed elements could be turned on and off on demand? There are some companies out there that do this, and Siebel-Oracle has an option that is pretty good. It'll be interesting to see where this goes in the future.

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