Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Trouble With Databases

Over the past 9 years, has been in the business of providing projector and laptop rentals to the meeting and conference industry. Whenever we do business with someone, like all businesses, we add them to our database. Over the years, we have built up a very large database that in my mind has become a bit of a problem.

Way back in the 20th century, employees would stay at the same company for their entire careers. Today, it looks like people spend two to three years before moving on to another job. I know this, because every year our database loses 20-30% of the contacts.

As a result, our database must be constantly "weeded" and "pruned" (don't you just love the horticulture related jargon?). It takes a good bit of time, because you don't want to just dump data. You need to be sure that the person has really moved on. And if they did move on, you need to find out who took their place.

Finding out any information from most companies today is pretty hard. Yes, you can go online and search, but you really need to make a telephone call to confirm the data. If you send an email, it likely won't be answered. But telephone calls are a pain too because no one actually answers their phone. The let the voice mail do it for them. Then they don't return the call.

All this is very frustrating and costly to a company trying to communicate with the clients. This is the main reason why we no longer do mailed advertisings. Most of the mailings come back undelivered.

So on one hand, I hate my database. It has gotten very big and cumbersome. However, on the other hand, it contains very important information about the most important people: our clients.

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