When populating your marketing database, you may find useful information in unexpected places. Here are some internal data sources that you should consider harvesting:

1.  Sales contacts.  Field sales and inside sales teams are likely to have the most accurate and current information about customers and prospects. This is an extremely valuable company asset. However, salespeople are often reluctant to give information up to the marketing function for various reasons. In fact, it is often hard enough to get them to enter key data into their own sales contact management system. Persuading sales teams to participate requires some combination of carrot-and-stick strategies.  

2.  Billing systems. The marketing database can receive critically important data from accounting systems, primarily relating to purchase history. Billing systems can also tell you how, when and if customers pay for data that give valuable insight to account preferences and credit worthiness.  Just be careful of the contact-level data from these systems, which is likely to be from a person in an administrative function, rather than a decision-maker. If you associate this contact with large order values, you may be focusing on the wrong party for outbound marketing communications.

3.  Operations and fulfillment systems. Operations systems provide valuable data about a customer’s channel preferences and communications needs. Whether the customer is most comfortable communicating by mail or phone, or through a sales resource like a field rep or a distributor this is information that can predict behavior as well as indicate the best channels for campaign communications. The customer’s preference in shipping method may also be useful.  For example, someone who consistently requests overnight delivery may be signaling some additional needs, not to mention providing an indicator of the cost to serve the account. Finally, operating systems supply frequency data, which can give insights into customers’ purchase patterns and preferences.

4.  Customer service systems.  Information about problems and customer service contacts provide much value.  Complaints are generally recorded by type, using a coding system, and a complaint code may give insights into the nature of the customer and the relationship with him or her.  Marketers are very likely to discover that a customer whose problem has been resolved will turn into a very loyal buyer.  But avoid importing open-ended comment fields. Comments are meant to be read. Marketing data is meant to be selected, counted, compared, analyzed and exported.  In short, open-ended comments do not belong in a marketing database.

5.  Website data. Your Website is a fertile environment for generating names of customers and prospects. It’s a good idea to include a registration request at your Website, with a motivational offer like a white paper or case study download to convert anonymous visitors into contacts with whom you can maintain an ongoing relationship. If you are conducting e-commerce, your Web data will be an even more important source of information for your marketing database. 

6.  Inquiry files. A prospect who has indicated interest in more information or perhaps a sales call is a prime prospect for further attention. Inquiry files are fed by the results of marketing campaigns of all types, like direct mail or print advertising, trade shows and seminars, or Internet-sourced contacts.