Success in the banking marketplace requires differentiation, uncompromised service, an acute understanding of prospects and customers, and targeted marketing to spread the word. The days of waiting for the customer to come to you are long gone. Today's smart banks utilize new, proactive strategies and tools like never before.

[Expanded Picture]One such tool that already may be in place, yet is often overlooked or under-used, is your organization's database. Forward-looking bank marketers have used databases effectively, in one form or another, for over a decade, particularly in the commercial banking area, Today, with PCs, notebook computers, modems and the advent of easily customized software, there is little reason not to implement a system. Still, most banks fail to take maximum advantage of this powerful marketing tool.

Any bank, large or small, can reap substantial benefits from its marketing database. When done right, a well-conceived and well-implemented database offers its users many benefits:

* The ability to quickly select and segment prospects for marketing campaigns, direct mail, specialized promotions or product launches via level of interest, standard industry code, size, sales volume, employee count, location, job title and so forth.

* The ability to track prospects and clients and produce trend analyses on their buying patterns, time frames, rollover dates, loan renewal dates and more.

* The means to accurately identify new or added products and services that could become important profit centers.

* The ability to objectively monitor your calling officers. Who needs more training, or a transfer? Who is truly effective and why.

Designing the System

A well-designed database identifies opportunities and provides concrete, accurate and timely information that can facilitate marketing and help set strategy.

First, consider what you want to learn from the system. A year from now, what information would you hope to access? You cannot get out what you do not put in. The two most critical keys to an effective database are determining the information you want to track, and having the system to manage it.

By considering the end product first and working backwards, one can identify the relevant fields needed to track trends. And, equally critical, even if the data input is accurate, it must be kept current.

Another consideration is software. Most off-the-shelf database and contact-management programs can easily be customized to your specific needs. Many quality packages sell for under $150 per user, so design and developmental costs are minimal. As these packages differ in ease of use, sophistication and flexibility, however, it is critical to carefully study your needs and consider who will use the system before making your final decision.

We've all heard of cases where a project was sabotaged because key managers were not consulted at the outset to ensure they would "buy in." To facilitate quick and sure results for a new database system, involve key area executives in initial strategy meetings, and include them in all subsequent correspondence. Once they see the financial and competitive benefits that flow from a well-designed database, they will champion the idea and delegate departmental responsibilities to their direct reports, ensuring that key objectives Rte met. In addition, should other day-to-day matters interfere with database implementation, senior management can step in to quickly get the project back on track.

By seriously embracing database marketing, aggressive banks are beginning to capture new commercial accounts, build relationships and reap the benefits of a tested and proven road map to move ahead of the competition--and stay there.

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