Databases Are Key

Mass marketing doesn't cut it any more in the cable business, which is why executives on the corporate and field level must work in tandem to create customer databases, according to a panel at the CTAM Summit last week.

During the session, "In Sync: Coordinating Corporate and System Database Marketing Initiatives," Cox Communications Inc. executive director of marketing services Mike Melton said there are a number of reasons why databases are important to facilitating target marketing.

For example, he noted that while in the past cable has sold a single product — video — with mass appeal, the industry is now: focusing on profits, not market share; encountering a mature market for that core video product; facing competition from direct-broadcast satellite; and selling niche products like HDTV.

In that environment, the day of expensive and wasteful "spray and pray" mass marketing is over, according to the panelists.

Carla Simonet, Comcast Corp.'s senior director of national marketing sciences, said it is corporate's job to create databases as a tool for local marketing officials out in the field.

At headquarters in Philadelphia, Comcast now has a database that includes 65% of its markets, according to Simonet.

In fact, Comcast's merger with AT&T Broadband "really helped us accelerate our time line" for creating that database, Simonet said.

The benefits of a central database are that it can be efficient and flexible as well as robust and scalable, according to Michelle Thompson, manager of database marketing for Comcast's Mountain Division, which includes Seattle, Portland, Ore., Denver and Dallas. The database incorporates billing, demographic, census and DBS information, as well as "propensity models," she said.

Tony Maldonado, vice president of Cox Communications of Arizona, said databases are necessary because "we try to leave as little to our gut as possible."

One thing that Cox learned in Phoenix is that value-added offers, like giving two Arizona Diamondbacks baseball tickets to new subscribers, don't help sales. Such offers just confuse consumers, Maldonado said.