The Big Move

Keeping your memories contacts safe

Just like moving home, moving marketing platforms can be a worrying time.

“What if I lose all my most important and precious things in the move?”

For the marketer in the modern world their most precious things include the same things you would hold most dear when moving home, those things that hold your memories. For a marketer this is the record of your contacts, what you said to them and how they reacted to what you said; in other words, your contact and engagement history. In this article I would like to take this big subject and break it down in manageable chunks and show that with the right planning and support from experts in the field you can remove the risks from your move.

If we start looking at this topic from a technology agnostic point of view, the job has two high level stages.

  1. Extract – How do I get the data out in usable format? And how much of it do I need?
  2. Import – How do I prepare the data for import, carry out that import and then use that data in my new campaigns?

The logical approach here is not to try and push your old marketing platforms history into the new tool’s one. It is unlikely they use the same measures in the first place and generally the goal is to give you short term access to this old information to help steer your campaigns based on history of interactions.  At some point you will likely remove this migrated data due to it no longer being required. With this in mind we are looking to get suitable and easy to use lookup methods in your new platform that can be easily linked back to your new contact references.

Packing those memories up safe and sound (Extract)

You must plan to pack the boxes, (data) in a way you can find and use when you get to your new home.  So here are some points to consider.  

Before extracting data you should consider what you want to move by reducing the date range of data and/or the breadth of the data.  You can really reduce the work involved and use this as good chance to rationalise your data. Think of it like when you move home, you often take the chance to get rid of those things you’ve kept for years but never actually use.

For example if you have been using your current platform for six years and your marketing efforts more often that not only look back at the last quarter’s data, by only moving three months data, you reduce the move size by 24 fold.  Even if you were to acknowledge that from time to time you need the last half year’s worth of data, that is still a reduction of 12 fold.

Next to consider are the types of response data you have collected. Do you really need to know every time someone opened your mobile app, or when you got an out office response from a contact’s email address?  

Most platforms will allow you to choose the output format on extracts of this nature but it’s worth keeping in mind that while in most cases everything can read comma separated files, other formats are less supported.  Plan ahead at this stage and pick the right format for your use case.

Looking in particular at HCL Unica, this technology uses a number of tables for both contact and engagement data, and a view applied over the top of these to make a much more readable group of tables is good idea.  Many marketing teams have these in place already but if not Purple Square can provide you guidance on this. This means views can then be exported as flat tables to be imported to your new platform.   

Unpacking your memories (Import)

Now that you have moved the boxes in, you must put the memories (data) somewhere you can find them!

Before you go importing your data into your new marketing platform you need to consider if the format is something your new platform can read, and even then you will need to provide mapping. Date formats are one of the more easy to get wrong so be careful to check you have mapped them in correctly, for example  MM-DD-YYYY to DD-MM-YYYY.

Also many of the marketing platforms have special data types unique to that platform, for example a data type of Email for email addresses. Use these where they exist in the new platform as otherwise further down the line, you will find your queries of your history either hard, slow or not possible depending on the platform. For example you could want to match your new history to the old imported history to get a full picture of the contact and find the email stored as string does not match the same email address stored as type ‘Email’.

In general don’t attempt to import your historical contact and response history into the new contact and response history tables.  There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. It is very unlikely that your new marketing platform collects data for its history with the same data points (fields) as your old one, so the work to convert it would be prohibitive, especially considering my next point
  2. You will only want to hold on to this older response history for the retention period you already set contact and response history to, so in 3, 6, 12, or however many months’ time you hold data of this type you will no longer need them
  3. The values used in one platform for say soft bounced email is unlikely to be the same value used in the next and for this reason it makes sense to keep them apart but does mean until your retention period ends you need to remember the differences. Don’t worry my next suggestion helps ease this workload.

As you plan your migration I would suggest that you agree a set way to access/read this response data, as on the new platform you do not want different members of your marketing team each coming up with their own method to read the data, both wasting time on all the repeated work but also risking getting different results.  In the majority of marketing automation platforms we have the concept of segments or the like and a quick and simple method to make it easy to keep in line on the logic and save strain on your platform, would be to pre-agree the segmentation of this historical data. The teams would need to build them ahead of time. For example pre-building a segment of anyone who has opened an email in the last three months. The segment would be a moving target which would require recalculations each night but it would remain an easy segment to set up and maintain for however long it was needed.

Where are we now

I hope you can see now that moving marketing platform does not mean you leaving behind your memories of engagements with your contacts and in fact is just a project that needs planning through the stages of  packing up your information in “boxes”, clearly labelling them, then placing them somewhere in your new home you can easily access them.

Good luck with your next move!   

By Robert JonesSenior Architect