Flat Files and Relational Databases in the Marketing World

Updated: Sep 7, 2020



To market effectively, you need to have a customer list or database. The data collected on your customers facilitates targeted and more personalized marketing that can increase patronage and create a valuable relationship.

When talking about structuring a database, there are two common models to choose from; flat-file database and relational database.


Understanding Flat file Databases

If you have ever created a spreadsheet document, then you have created a flat-file. It’s a type of database that records data in a plain text file. The data is stored in a single table, and there’s no structure, indexing, or explicit relationships between records. Each line in a flat-file generally holds only one record and is separated by commas or tabs.

Examples of software that can create flat files include FileMaker, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, and Borland Reflex.


Uses of Flat-File database for marketers

There are several ways flat-file databases can benefit you as a marketer including;

  • The flat-file database works perfectly for email marketing. It allows you to sort customers based on their age group, gender, and zip code.

  • It can be used to store a collection of phone numbers of clients for instant messaging and cold calling purposes.

Understanding Relational Databases

A relational database is a type of database that consists of tables, fields, and records. Unlike flat files, relational databases are structured to recognize the relationship between the items stored on them. It allows for a more detailed analysis of the stored data.


Uses of Relational Databases for Marketers

There are ways relational databases can benefit you as a marketer, including:

  • Email marketing- relational databases provide you with an unlimited option for segmenting and targeting. For instance, it allows you to track the product’s specific customers’ purchases so that you can create personalized marketing messages. This is most important because a smaller and more targeted list delivers more click-throughs and conversions.

  • Inventory: Relational databases provide a great way to track your inventory. It allows you to create multiple fields like product name, product number, price, purchase data, and other fields. You will also be able to query your local database to get information on specific products.

  • Marketing promotions: a relational database allows you to segregate your customers based on various criteria for promotional purposes.

Choosing Between A Flat File And Relational Database


Why consider Flat File Databases?
  • It’s easier to set up.

  • The initial setup costs are lower.

  • Marketing reports and data are simplified to cover basic marketing needs.

  • It reduces the storage of irrelevant data.

Why consider Relational Databases
  • It’s easy to update, either periodically or in real-time.

  • It allows you to store unlimited data about your customers.

  • Allows you to create multiple fields.

  • It enables you to develop and execute personalized customer communication.

  • Online access for collaboration and real-time updates.

  • More advanced analytical capabilities.

The business world is becoming complex by the day. If you plan to take your segmentation and targeting to a higher level, then you need to learn about flat-file and relational databases and how they can improve your marketing.

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