Does Your Business Need an ESP That Supports a Relational Database?

Are you looking to grow your business with the help of targeted and timely email campaigns? Then you likely need an email service provider (ESP) that supports a relational database. In this blog, find out whether a relational or flat-file database best meets your organization’s email-marketing needs.

What Is the Difference Between Flat-File and Relational Databases?

A flat-file database provides a simple, linear way of storing data. With a flat-file database, every piece of information on each of your subscribers requires a new field, similar to an Excel file. So if you wanted to track customer purchase behavior, for example, each of your products would generate a new field for all of your subscribers (even for those subscribers who didn’t purchase a particular product). As you can imagine, you could end up with a lot of empty fields that take up a lot of space in your database.

With a relational database, rather than including many fields in one place, different data is stored in different tables. For example, you can have a table for subscribers, a table for products, and a table for purchases. Then data in one table can be related to data in another table, which can be integrated with your email marketing. So instead of making more fields, you’ll be making connections among the data and using it to target specific subscribers, such as those who bought a certain product from your company.

When Is a Flat File Database All Your Business Needs?

For many companies, a flat-file database is adequate for their email-marketing efforts. For example, you really don’t need a relational database in the following situations:

  • You collect and use only minimal information from your prospects and customers, such as their names, email addresses, and zip codes.
  • You primarily depend on other types of marketing to reach and convert your target audience, such as telemarketing and print advertising.
  • You aren’t planning to expand your product offerings or services.

Why Would Your Email-Marketing Program Need a Relational Database?

The bigger a business grows, the more sophisticated its email-marketing needs to become. And a relational database is an integral part of a growing business’s email technology. For email marketers, relational databases enable unlimited possibilities for targeting and segmenting their prospects and customers. The following are examples of when the investment in an ESP that supports a relational database would pay off:

  • You want to track your customers’ purchasing history to use for segmenting your email campaigns.
  • You want to send email messages that are triggered by an event.
  • You want to integrate your email-marketing data with other company systems’ data, such as financial, web analytics, or customer relationship management (CRM).

So if you have lofty goals for your email-marketing program, a relational database is for you. Technically sophisticated email marketing – such as advanced segmentation and dynamic content – would be extremely complicated and time-consuming if you used a flat-file database. On the other hand, a relational database would let you store different data in different tables and then easily relate the data to individual subscribers or customer groups.

You may have to invest more money on an enterprise-level ESP that supports a relational database. Plus, there’s also an investment of time in the beginning to set it up. But the flexibility and capability to extract the data needed for timely and targeted email campaigns will save you significant amounts of time and money in the long run.

Determining the ESP that meets your organization’s email needs and goals is one of the most important marketing decisions you’ll make. FulcrumTech can help you select the right ESP for your organization. As a certified reseller of three of the industry’s leading ESPs — ExactTarget, Lyris HQ, and HubSpot — we can offer an exceptional price. However, if we determine that none of these ESPs are the best fit for your organization, we can help you find and evaluate other options, as well.

Email us or give us a call at 215-489-9336 and get started today.

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