As with coding, knowing how to use and structure a database is something that marketers do not necessarily need to know, but it is a very good trait to learn. The main way that users communicate with a database is through the use of SQL (structured database language). After taking a look at a very brief overview as to how SQL works, one thing became very apparent to me- learning how to use SQL seems very similar to learning how to code. In fact, in the brief overview that I did look at, having HTML/CSS proficiency was a trait that was “required”, or at least it was advised that you know how to use it before attempting to learn SQL.
If I could put in my two cents, I would say yes. That is a very good thing to learn before learning how to use SQL. For one, it seems as if the commands are fairly similar for both SQL and HTML, in the sense that they structured in a way that will not yield any results if incorrectly entered, and it was very easy to make a HUGE mistake in both, and not even realize it until you have already made the mistake. At least, as far as editing with SQL, that is. As far as searching using SQL, that is a veryveryveryveryvery good skill to know, especially as a marketer. I say this because it is a great way to look at your entire customer database, and split them up into different groups. Also, when used with email marketing, it is very good tool. Why is that? Because with some simple-ish SQL commands, you can create “personalized” emails (pretty much put the customer’s name in the email somewhere), and send it to all of the customers who fir your criteria. For example, you can send a coupon code to a customer who hasn’t bought something from your website in the past three months, therefore enticing them to buy from you again. It’s always nice to get an email with a coupon code, right? But what can make it better? HAVING YOUR NAME IN THE EMAIL TOO.
It brings a smile to my face (just like Jamie Foxx)
So, what are some good examples of companies that have used SQL to their advantage? One of the best examples is Target. You know, the company that can lose your credit card info? But hey, that’s a small price to pay for being able to find you’re pregnant for free. I’m assuming you’ve heard this story before, but I’ll explain, just in case you haven’t. Also, I think it’s pretty hilarious (win-win, right?) Pretty much, Target was able to create an algorithm that was able to look at customer purchases, and determine if they are pregnant or not. How did they do this you ask?
Well, if you have ever bought something at Target, with or without a Target card, there is a record as to what you bought. You can opt-out if you want, but to find that link is rather difficult, and frankly, most people don’t really want to put forth the effort of having to opt-out of something. Anyways, Target will look at what you buy, say something like unscented lotion or a certain mix of vitamins, and then determine how likely it is that you are pregnant. If it is a high enough likelihood, then they will begin to send coupons for things such as cribs or baby clothes. How effective is this system though? Well, I can’t go off of personal experience, but the percent of time Target is accurate is about 87% of the time.
So, what about a less invasive use of SQL? As I described before, many online retailers use databases to keep track of your purchases, including when you made your last one. So, if you haven’t made a purchase in a long enough period of time, the company can send an email out. One company that does this really well is BustedTees.com, a site I have used in the past to buy various shirts. Usually I won’t buy from them on a regular basis, but when I haven’t made a purchase in a while (4-5 months), they will send an email with a coupon code, usually for about 15% off, or even free shipping. It’s a pretty great use of SQL, because it allows the company to see who hasn’t bought from the website in a while, and then try to entice them with an offer. It is something that is usually appreciated by the customer (at least me), and can increase sales.
One more company that uses SQL rather well is Amazon.com. One of the best ways they use SQL is by sending you emails with product recommendations based on prior purchases you have made. This is very effective from a business/marketing viewpoint. For one, it shows the customer what other people who bought similar products also bought, and it provides links directly to that product. Also, it is usually personalized, which can really go the extra mile.
Yeah, this is a receipt. It’s the same basic idea though.
It’s also good for the customer, because it is showing them products that they would probably be interested in buying. They can then consider buying these products, proceed to buy them (because Amazon knows what you want to buy, right?), and then send them to you. This creates a long-lasting relationship with the customer, which is a very important thing to have. The longer the relationship with your customer, the more purchases they will make. That just makes sense.
As far as SQL goes, it is a very important skill to learn. Even if you are in a job where you don’t necessarily need to use database functions, it can’t hurt that you know how they work, and if need be, actually use some of them. Again, very similar to coding. You may not have a job where you directly need to use the skill, but just having a basic understanding of how it works is a a good starting point, and a great way to differentiate yourself in the job market.
Not that I would find that very important or anything...