The Value of Research
When choosing a database to use for your marketing, you are going to consider a variety of factors – cost, customer service and compliance being among them. However, the key factor most marketers should be asking themselves is, “is this data any good?” and if so, “why?”. Will it add value to your marketing strategy and contribute to your revenue generating activities?
There are several types of database available to marketers, each acquires and manages their data in slightly different ways. There is the subscription-based model, which is made up of subscribers to a company’s products or services. These have most likely completed some kind of questionnaire upon subscribing and this facilitates selectability further down the line. There is also the ‘aggregated’ data model, whereby a list is constructed from a variety of sources into a single-purpose database with common selection criteria. The third main type of data source is the ‘researched’ database, whereby the data is specifically collected in order to fulfil single purpose and provide a resource to a target market. It is this ‘researched’ model that we at the IBIS Worldwide Academic and Library File adhere to.
IBIS began as a research-based database covering the UK higher education market over forty years ago. As publishing sector requirements have changed, so has the IBIS file, now covering the global market (with the exception of the USA). From the beginning, IBIS believed in the value of research – having permanent multilingual staff with a specific goal in mind, to ensure maximum possible coverage of each institute in terms of identifying who taught there and what subjects they covered on each degree course. By having the human element involved in research, we could assess and analyse each institute and its lecturers and provide as accurate a level of coverage as was possible.
There are several key steps in doing this that enable IBIS to keep on top of changes to the higher education market and ensure the data is accurate enough to make a difference to your campaigns.
- Identify an institute
- What faculties make up this institute
- What departments are contained within each faculty
- What courses and modules are taught within each department
- Who teaches each course
Historically, initial contact was made personally and data was often provided directly from the institute itself or from official literature (prospectuses etc) and renowned reference works that listed these institutes and provided information about them. The advent of the internet made research far easier in providing information about new institutes, changes within them, contacts to create links with and provide basic information. This is however, just the building blocks of a research strategy. What the research literature tells us is just part of the picture. To provide a really accurate picture and increased granularity of the data, you need the input of the academics themselves. This is where technological advancements have really helped. In the past, we would have sent out written invitations and questionnaires to academics, which would have proven incredibly expensive to do globally. Now much of this can be done automatically via email, which allows us to do far more questionnairing.
Our process is as follows:
Once a new contact has been identified they are ring-fenced without going anywhere near the IBIS database. The researcher will have looked at each individual and noted what subjects they cover in their teaching. No assumptions are made (for example, if someone is teaching molecular biology, they are not automatically coded up for similar subject areas such as cell biology) … we only add what we know.
Release to Database
It is only once research has been undertaken, a contact identified and profiled, a questionnaire sent asking for permission to add them to the database and confirm and/or amend the details we hold on them, that we can allow customers to use this data for their marketing purposes.
It doesn’t matter what the cost, the level of customer service or amount of data we you can provide a customer, what matters most of all is the quality of said data. The only way to ensure quality is to focus on the research process from start to finish. A marketing database could run into the millions in terms of number of contacts and have 100% market coverage, but if the selection criteria are not adequately matched to the individual contact, it simply will not be effective marketing-wise.
The IBIS Worldwide Academic and Library File was created and designed ‘specifically’ for the use of academic publishers in their marketing. Everything about it in terms of available selections has always had the customers’ marketing needs front and centre. The subject areas covered accurately reflect what is being taught and studied in higher education and whilst there may always be some gaps (as we try to catch up with areas of research as they filter into the syllabus), we are constantly striving to plug them.
The collaborative nature of the research process helps greatly with this, as the research team can deal directly with individual academics, answer their questions and create accurate and meaningful profiles for each one. The more accurate the profile of the academic in terms of whether their subject areas truly match their interests is key to this. As is, recency – its no point having a perfect record if that person is no longer at that particular institute. IBIS is updated on a weekly basis with new contacts, but it doesn’t stop there. Opt-outs and hard bounces to our email campaigns are flagged up on a daily basis, combined with a regular process of re-questionnairing ageing data on a rolling basis. Between what WE do and what YOU do with your email campaigns, the data is as clean as it could feasibly be. Every opportunity to clean and update the data is taken.
No matter what kind of database you manage (or use as a customer), many of these steps have to be taken to ensure you have a viable and useful product that will add value to your customers’ business concerns. We’ve always believed that the key to providing this is by proper and effective research – done by professionals (not transient, temporary staff) who know what the end result of their work should be and are proud of the accuracy of their data. Hopefully, you the customer can see the results of all this effort and appreciate the work that goes into it.