Columbia Books' Winning Data Services Model Is One for This Age

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"As a direct result of their new relationship with Columbia Books & Information Services (CBIS), Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) was able to make considerable enhancements to their EmpowerMINT site, and therefore launched MINT+. In addition to having many more records at users' disposal, MINT+ allows users to search and filter on a number of additional data types..."

The above comes from Duncan Bell, director, editorial & data services for CBIS, in their 2016 SIPAward-winning entry for Best New Success Story. With all the buzz now around account-based marketing, personalized experience, prospect-specific offers—and everything else data-related—this could prove to be a very useful data services model for other publishers. 

The Background
CBIS has unique expertise with databases and market strength in the associations and meetings space, perfect for what DMAI needed. To serve their community of destination marketing organizations (DMOs), DMAI created a database called EmpowerMINT, or "MINT" for short, that enables members to access and contribute to a shared pool of meetings and meeting planner information. This database serves as a crucial tool for their members, but it was becoming clogged with old and often duplicative records.

CBIS could append fields which were missing from MINT, such as industry, organization employee and budget size, and meetings preferences. And having recently invested in database infrastructure and internal talent, they were uniquely positioned to assist. 

The Project
CBIS looked at the MINT data model to see how it matched up with their own database and what fields needed to be cleansed and appended. Then they had to decide how to sync the two live databases in real time "while maintaining entity relationships, unique identifiers, and respective business rules," Bell wrote.

The MINT database contained approximately 30,000 organization records and 90,000 contact records; the CBIS database contained approximately 20,000 associations and 80,000 association contacts.

After matching records, CBIS validated and updated the appropriate MINT entries. They then added new fields, including organization description, budget size and industry code. About 8,000 organizations and 11,000 contacts were updated in this way. CBIS still had about 9,000 organizations in their database that were in not in MINT. These, with their 14,000 new contacts, were added to the MINT database.

Any organizations not matched to the CBIS database (about 20,000) were later validated by the CBIS research team, with updates pushed to the live MINT database on a weekly basis. 

The Result
With the enhancements it made to EmpowerMINT, DMAI was able to launch MINT+. It has more records at users' disposal and "allows users to search and filter on a number of additional data types, such as industry code and meeting preferences." The improvements went live on Jan. 6, 2016. So proud, DMAI issued an announcement and created a video to go along.

The announcement read: "So what's different?... It is not only the look and feel, and the fact that we have reorganized our MINT data, but we have also licensed data from our new partner Columbia Books & Information Services." The post-launch activity continued, as CBIS completed the pushing of their unmatched records to MINT, adding even more value. 

The Response
Reactions have been consistently positive. The number of MINT database queries during the first two months of MINT+ came to 6,254 searches, compared to just 3,228 during the same period in 2015, a 94% increase.

"[Through] our partnership with CBIS, we now have MINT+, the best of both worlds," wrote Rachel Benedick. vice president of sales and service, Visit Denver, and chair of DMAI's sales and marketing committee. "[It has our members] working together to build our brand and relevance and a great partner to fill in the information gaps and keep records verified and accurate."

"With the new CBIS data, we can pinpoint potential business even further at a more granular level and be confident that the data is up to date," wrote Katrin Madayag-Ard, organizational research manager, Greater Madison CVB. 

"Before CBIS and DMAI collaborated to enhance and improve the MINT database, [certain] inquiry types were not possible due to incomplete or missing data," wrote Barbara Kirklighter vice president, revenue strategy, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

The Epilogue
DMAI was able to increase the annual subscription rate for its members by $200-$800, depending on size, with little or no pushback. And CBIS' relationship with DMAI will continue with ongoing updates, validations and appends.

"The CBIS-DMAI relationship stands as an important example of the type of data services business that CBIS, as well as the publishing industry as a whole, is moving towards," Bell wrote. "This relationship has given CBIS the confidence to pursue even more challenging projects in the future, as it continues to invest in its data infrastructure and internal talent."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…