The Mystery of The Incomplete Explanation Part 1

Sometimes in relating information The Detective and I forget that giving a couple of bullet points is often insufficient to fully explain an important concept (or concepts!). Case in point. If you are an observant reader you might have caught the link to an article in Time Magazine that we sent out over the weekend just past. If not, fear not! We realized belatedly that perhaps we could have or should have expounded a little bit more on some of the key points; at least given an example that fits in more with our readers. After all, the article was talking about databases with hundreds of thousands of names, perhaps millions. How could that possibly relate? Let The Detective give it a try:

“Watson, do you think perhaps we were a bit, shall we say, vague in how some of the data mining techniques mentioned in that article could actually apply to the smaller list owner?” asked The Detective as we sat enjoying our brandies.

“Funny thing, I was just considering that,” I replied.

“Very well then,” launched The Detective, “perhaps we should give a slightly longer explanation a go. Let me start with the first point: too many databases.”

“Even a relatively small business could have too many databases. In fact, too many could easily be two, depending on the data that is stored in each of them. Take as a simple example a business that deals with consumers rather than other businesses. It would be quite easy for them to have two databases: one for email through one of the many systems out there, and a direct mail listing, perhaps a mailing list database or document they can merge.

By merging the two data sources, or more simply, picking and choosing items that can be used to properly segment the list, such a business could easily send highly targeted emails as well as direct mail to a potential customer base.”

“What types of items could they, as you put it, ‘pick and choose’ pray tell,” I asked, intrigued.

“Elementary, dear Watson. The simplest in this case would be zip code. If the business is local, then  they probably know the neighborhoods and thus the zip codes of the more affluent residents. Given that information included into the Email list, one could send an offer for high-end merchandise, knowing they would not irritate those who have less interest or capability to pay for such a purchase,” answered The Detective.

“Brilliant, sir!” I exclaimed in spite of myself.

“Another simple example would be if they have tracked the purchase history of their customers, perhaps in an accounting system. By adding an indicator of a high volume purchaser to their email program, they could also target special offers for such loyal customers!” finished The Detective.

“I think that gives a much better idea of what was meant by too many databases, sir. Now perhaps the others?…” I encouraged.

“All in good time, Watson. All in good time.”


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