Can Your Customer Database Tell Pilate What Truth Is
If He Were Your VP of Sales?

Arturo F Munoz Open QuoteThe first reaction to truth is hatred. -- Tertullian


So far we’ve considered 3 facets in building a B2B customer database:
  1. Galvanize your organization with a vision of how much better your company can be if only it could come to know its customers better.


  2. Establish a foundation for your customer database initiative by defining the new business process that the system will facilitate to relate to and serve your customers better.


  3. Explore your existing data silos independently to determine not only whether from each of them you can produce information that is extensible when combined with that from other independent sources, but also to secure business rules that your team of stewards will have to apply to this data to standardize it prior to or once all sources are consolidated into your customer database.

Now comes the most crucial aspect of this database project. It’s discovering what information in it is true and what is false. This determination will settle the success or failure of your entire initiative.


Perception Is Not Reality Inside A Database

Does it exist this thing Truth inside your database? As with all ontological discussions, we must start with some presuppositions. Customer DatabaseFor the sake of clarity, our basic assumption is that truth equals reality, and reality in the context of your customer database is whatever data you’ve stored in it.

For example, if you stored the numeric string "$453.38" in one location of your database and the character string "Arturo Munoz" elsewhere within it, and a third string "WV Multi-CD Charger Graphite System", then these 3 independent strings are all facts. They’re truth. They're not hallucinations but reality sitting in your database.

If you assert, upon querying for and examining these 3 facts, that this is a $453.38 product order that Arturo Munoz made for a CD player, then your assertion is not reality unless elsewhere in the database there is another text string structurally and directly associating the previous 3 data strings to, for instance, a purchase order number.

It is at that point that the 4 facts assembled together constitute a fifth fact in your database: the fact of a customer order.

Thus, together these 5 facts make up your entire universe of reality in the database.

This elaborate and rather didactic explanation serves a most important purpose (other than testing your patience). It illustrates how, while your facts may be true (the 4 strings are what they are), yet the way that you either tacitly relate them to each other or to other facts in your database plus whatever you infer from these relationships, i.e. your interpretation of the facts, can indeed be false.

In the example given, Arturo Munoz might not be the buyer of the CD player but the one receiving it as a gift. How would you know? You'd need another fact to infer differently.

It is because of this reason that your colleagues, who can offer a reinterpretation of the same facts, may dispute your inference, even while looking at the same database.


Whoever Controls Interpretation Controls Reality

Gaining authoritative control over data interpretation is one reason behind customer database projects becoming highly political undertakings. This is why when new reports first come out of the system, people freak out.

Finding a singularly absolute interpretation of the truth is neither easy nor comforting, since the truth in databases is rarely in plain sight to begin with. It can be a moving target and hard to swallow when made plainly available.

Therefore, an optimal procedure to follow under these circumstances is to take a step back, and look for a pattern in the data to suggest a hypothesis or proposition to test, instead of basing it on anecdote or biased opinion.

After suggesting a plausible hypothesis, refine it through straight-thinking deduction, by drawing logical consequences from plain assumptions.

Finally, deliver these conclusions in bite size pieces at the right time to the right audience because, though you may be able to answer that burning question "Quid est veritas?" for your colleagues and the big honchos in Sales and upper Management, not everyone may be ready or willing to be persuaded to believe the truth about your customers.

Only too many managers would rather wash their hands off of your database's veracity, placing your credibility and career's success in building marketing databases in question. So tread with care when presenting the truth to anyone. But never compromise the facts.



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