REVIEWER: Len Zappolo, manager of media and database marketing for AEGON Direct Marketing Services, Inc.

BACKGROUND: AEGON N.V. is the holding company of one of the world's ten largest listed life insurance groups. The AEGON Group operates through locally managed units in three major markets: the Americas (including the U.S., Canada and Mexico), the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The Group employs more than 24,000 people worldwide and is headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands. AEGON Direct Marketing Services, Inc. provides end-to-end support for the direct marketing campaigns of eight of AEGON's North American companies who market life and health insurance, and dental and drug prescription plans to consumers.

PLATFORMS: Customer data from AEGON's Sybase xSeries OLTP system is loaded into the Nucleus data mart on a Windows NT Compaq 4-CPU system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before Nucleus, it was difficult for our marketers to understand, analyze and get a good feel for the target customers available for direct marketing campaigns. It was a long process: they described what they wanted in English, via our processing specifications, and our processors would then begin building the program in our campaign management tool. Through this, they would provide marketing with a count of the available universe based solely upon their specifications. If these counts were too high or too low to net the projected returns and revenue objectives, the marketers would refine their requests, and the processors rebuild the campaign using the new specifications to pull the needed quantity. If several iterations were required, the cycle could create a time crunch. If too many campaigns backed up, the domino effect could even reduce revenue for the year, limiting the number of programs each year and expected revenue. With our Nucleus customer data mart and Nucleus Query, each marketer now directly queries the same customer data as our processors in order to create a view, or multiple views, of their programs based on their unique selection criteria. In most cases, no SQL needs to be written. The marketers can pick exactly what they want, when they want.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We reload 16 tables from our Sybase OLTP into a Nucleus data mart every other weekend, and the marketers use Nucleus Query from their own desks to query the database. This "active querying" empowers them to continually refine their target sets and get counts within seconds, rather than the days it took before. Once they have determined which prospects they want for the campaign, our processors can then select the names from the OLTP database. Nucleus gives them a head start to understand who to select to get the universe they need to meet their revenue or new customer goals. Graphic and statistical functions built into Nucleus Query enable marketers to better understand our customers, prospects and trends. Our marketers can also use Nucleus to close the loop on their direct marketing campaigns, find what percent responded/paid and what policies were issued. As a result, they can design better direct mail campaigns.

STRENGTHS: Nucleus is designed to do what we needed to do. It is clean, easy, lightning fast and easy to install. The time between purchase and the date our marketers began using the product was less than four weeks.

WEAKNESSES: From a user perspective, one weakness we find is the overall design of having to use tables, fields and joins. Users often find it difficult to know what to do and how to access the right data.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We reviewed three products before selecting Nucleus. Nucleus was the easiest and most straightforward to use.

DELIVERABLES: The Nucleus solution is a "Processing Specifications" report that is used directly by marketers to get target group counts. Using Nucleus Query, marketers point and click on variables on 19 EIS screens. Sand also created an EIS screen that keeps track and highlights high-level counts of the quantities across various groups within our database. After each biweekly refresh, this screen refreshes to update the counts.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Working with us, Sand Technology created the 19 EIS screens and wrote about 4,000 lines of Nucleus Query scripting. They also helped us design and deliver a one-and-a-half-day training course as well as a follow-up workshop for the marketers.

DOCUMENTATION: The Explorer Training Manual is all-encompassing and a good reference tool.

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