5 Critical Considerations for Effectively Integrating Data Sources into Your Marketing Technology

Most marketing managers don’t spend a lot of time on technology integrations, which is fine, but when it comes to running a highly effective member marketing organization, bringing data into the marketing platform from other core systems is very important.

Effective marketing is measured by engagement and conversion, two things that can only happen when the company’s marketing messages are received by a borrower in need of a financial product at that moment. That makes data integrations a top concern of the marketing manager, as they provide easy access to member information that can be used in the institution’s marketing efforts. Perhaps even more important, they can help the marketing department avoid marketing errors that can degrade the member’s experience with the credit union.

Despite the sophistication of modern technology platforms in use in the credit union, these integrations cannot be considered routine. Failure to follow a set of best practices can lead to bad data that won’t help the marketing department do a better job. Here are several key factors to consider when integrating your marketing system into your credit union’s transactional systems.

1. How you connect your systems
The method your vendor or internal IT department uses to share data between systems is very important. There has to be a method for physically transferring the information stored in the core systems and the marketing platform.

Some loan origination systems and banking core systems support direct API connections. This simplifies the process as it just requires a simple software call from the marketing platform to retrieve the information required. Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.

For many of the systems employed today, data is moved by downloading it from the core system into a file with comma separated values (CSV), which is then uploaded into the marketing platform and processed. But this can put your members’ financial information at risk while it’s in transit between systems – and afterward, if the file remains on a laptop or drive.

It’s important to know how the data will be encrypted to ensure that it meets the institution’s security requirements, and who will be responsible for monitoring the integration, as it will inevitably fail from time to time. Be sure you are working with a vendor who can guide you through the process of exporting the data stored in your current systems and ingesting it in the marketing platform.

Also, try to work with a vendor that actually understands the data they are moving. It might surprise you to know how many don’t know the difference between a Fund Date and a Close Date on a loan or which LOS systems use which label for the same information. Good decisions cannot be made on the basis of bad data.

2. How you go about cleaning your data
The core banking systems and loan origination systems in use in the credit union are primarily designed to be transactional systems. This is important to ensure the efficient completion of the institution’s daily work, but they often lack the sophistication we see in relational systems. This creates challenges for the marketing department.

Before the data pulled from these systems can be of most use to the marketing department, the data must be scrubbed to ensure it provides the information marketing managers think it does. Consider these challenges:

1. The institution tracks every loan originated carefully, but the flat file database of record can’t easily tell the marketing department which loans were referred by the same real estate agent.

2. The credit union wants to send a credit card offer to every member who purchased a new vehicle, but there isn’t enough information in the consumer lending platform to know whether the email on the file belongs to the buyer or the parent who co-signed.

3. You want to stay in touch with a recent mortgage loan customer, who the LOS knows as Richard but everyone in customer service knows as Rick. Calling him the former will just convince him you don’t really know him.

And there are a host of other challenges that the marketing department will overcome with the help of a good vendor. Cleaning the data makes it “member ready,” overcoming problems with names in all capital letters, addresses not entered in standardized format, and missing or incomplete email addresses.

3. How you will normalize your data
Even if your data is clean and makes the trip from your core system to the marketing platform in a safe manner, you’ll still need to normalize it in order to make best use of the information. The answer lies in normalizing your data.

When we normalize the data in our database, we’re ensuring that every field contains the information we expect to find and that it’s in the proper formatting so that when we filter the data, we get the records we expect. For instance, if we don’t normalize the way state names are entered into the database and search for all of our clients in California, we may not find those that are in CA or in Calif.

When we’re measuring the impact of our marketing efforts, we don’t want to find a lot of duplicate records in the database that skew our analysis and make it difficult or impossible to see exactly how we’re doing.

There are a number of strategies for normalizing your data – some of which can be performed within the core systems, others that happen once the data has been downloaded or during ingestion into the marketing system. Regardless of how you choose to perform this important function, you must make sure it gets done.

4. Making sure you have the required data mapping expertise
Every technology platform in use in the modern credit union is different. Each was designed for a different purpose and may label the same information differently. Mapping your data between systems effectively is critically important. When done well, it reduces the time that must be spent cleaning and normalizing data and allows management to make better decisions.

Often, this comes down to having (or creating) a template containing all of the data available within a certain system and then creating custom queries that pull only the information required and storing it in a way that will make ingestion into the marketing technology faster and easier.

There are a number of best practices for this work, and it can be quite complex. Fortunately, it generally only needs to be done once (and then again when systems are updated, of course). Your vendors are excellent resources here, especially those that have already created integrations between the system in use in your institution.

5. How you will ensure data security
Make no mistake: failing to protect the sensitive, private financial information entrusted to the credit union by its members will lead to disaster. Federal and state regulators have set standards that all institutions must meet, but the fines they would levy in the case of a problem pale in comparison to the actions credit union members might take.

For most systems in use in the institution, data security is already built in so that the data at rest in those platforms remain safe. But once it is downloaded and transferred to another system, it is subject to the risks of data in transit.

One way to protect data as it is moved between systems is to employ encryption for all member data on a system or drive. This is only the first step. It’s important to have written policies describing who within the institution can access the data, what technologies will be used to move it, and how those technologies will be treated after the data has been moved into the marketing platform.

A crisis plan is also crucial and should outline exactly what steps the institution will take in the event of a data breach.

With all of these things to consider, why would the marketing department want to go forward with a plan to integrate their internal data?

Delivering the right message to the right borrower at the right time
We have found that the most successful credit unions in the country are expert at advancing the right offer to the right member at the right time. The credit union already has virtually all of the information required to identify a member in the buy zone; they just have to get it all into the marketing platform. That requires data integration.

The good news is that the hard work of data integration can be simplified with the right technology. Intuvo’s Pure Data Sync was specifically designed to solve this problem, allowing the marketing department to maintain a healthy database and ensure accurate customer communication. With this integration in place, Intuvo’s engine intelligently matches incoming data with existing data by using a complex algorithm to determine a match or unique contact to be added.

The result is that the marketing manager gets the data integration needed to keep the department running smoothly without having to worry at all about the data or the integration, which will give them the time they need to focus on the credit union’s members. Find out more on our website.