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Rodale Lowers Marketing Costs, Improves Customer Relationships with Acxiom

  • July 01 2002, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: Todd Leiser, director of database marketing for Rodale.

BACKGROUND: Rodale Inc. is the world's leading source of information on healthy, active lifestyles. While you may not be familiar with the Rodale brand name, you most likely have purchased one of its products. The 70-year-old company reaches more than 30 million people worldwide each month with its magazines, books, Web sites and interactive media. Rodale magazines include Prevention, Men's Health, Organic Style, OG, Runner's World, Backpacker, Bicycling, Mountain Bike and Rodale's Scuba Diving. Each year, Rodale also sells more than 11 million books, publishes more than 100 new book titles and maintains a strong backlist of more than 500 titles.

PLATFORMS: The Rodale solution is comprised of three UNIX servers and an NT terminal server. The Oracle database server is a Compaq GS120 that has eight processors, 12GB of memory and about 2.6TB of DASD. A SUN E6000 with 10 processors, 6GB of memory and 1TB of DASD serves as the SAS modeling server. The Engage campaign management server is a Compaq Alpha 4100 with four processors, 8GB of memory and about 300GB of DASD. These three servers are connected together through a Gigabit Ethernet LAN. Rodale accesses this solution from desktops across a frame circuit connection to Acxiom that is routed into the terminal server running Citrix Metaframe where their applications are published.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Over the years, the publisher built a gold mine of valuable information about its customers and prospects. However, this extraordinary resource was hampered by costly inefficiencies. Duplicated names, multiple address changes and insufficient integration of data resulted in unnecessary and steadily rising expenses. As a consequence, the company's customer relationship management (CRM) was ailing. Rodale, which is recognized throughout the publishing industry for its outstanding customer service, sought ways to manage its database more efficiently and, in turn, better meet its customers' needs.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: While recognizing the need to improve customer data integration, Rodale also required a solution that didn't call for lengthy downtime to install. The company called for flexible CDI products and services that could be put into place immediately and seamlessly. The Acxiom team presented a solution that allowed Rodale to take our current system and migrate it using AbiliTec, Acxiom's CDI software. That minimized downtime and was a decisive factor in Rodale choosing Acxiom.

STRENGTHS: AbiliTec's strengths include our immediate return on investment and CDI/data cleansing.

WEAKNESSES: There are some shortcomings in the parent/child relationships. Also, integrated data must be continually redeployed into client systems.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Acxiom's industry expertise, consulting/implementation services availability (service after the sale), accuracy of integration/matching/linking technology, and ability to build the business case that showed that cost savings alone would pay for the project were factors that positively affected our selection. The reasons we chose Acxiom included their ability to help offset inevitable postage increases, to eliminate duplications and to achieve our vision of growing our knowledge about our customers.

DELIVERABLES: Through its unique linking technology, AbiliTec was able to resolve inconsistencies in Rodale's customer data, including name and address variations that old-style merge-purge processes completely missed. In short order, AbiliTec delivered immediate access to the full range of a customer's past transaction activity, whether it occurred by telephone, in person or over the Internet, leading to reduced mailing costs, improved customer recognition and enhanced targeting of products for customers. Postage rate increases have a huge impact on us. We mail more than 200 million promotions a year. Increases of a few pennies equate to millions in additional postage expense that nets us nothing. After processing 70 million names in the Rodale database, Acxiom discovered 16 million duplications.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Acxiom does an outstanding job of providing vendor support. They are always available to listen to our needs and are not afraid to think "outside the box" in developing and delivering customized solutions to meet our needs. Acxiom's people are a big reason we selected them as a partner.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was complete and easy to understand.

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