The key to building a successful business is to maintain long-lasting relationships with business contacts and customers. One way to achieve this is to use your customer database as part of your marketing strategy.
A database is more than a glorified automated Rolodex or address book. It is a collection of records that contains pertinent information about your customers. This can include a name, address and phone number as well as the first and last time that person contacted your firm, past purchase activity, previous mailings and so forth. You also may want to keep track of important dates (e.g., the birthdays and anniversaries of special clients or valued customers).
Setting up a database involves capturing, centrally storing, organizing and analyzing customer information. You don’t have to physically take on this task yourself. For $100$300, you can invest in contact management software, such as Act!, Goldmine and Telemagic.
Such systems have scheduling and call-back features that help you keep up with appointments and phone calls. Another feature programs your computer to answer the phone and pull up customer records.
The biggest advantage an electronic database has over physical filing is the ability to sort information. With the archaic system of manual filing, you can search for data based on the way it’s arranged–usually by a person’s last name. But with an electronic database, regardless of how the information is entered, it can be sorted any number of ways–by city, payment due date, type of company–whatever you want.
Omor Igiehon, director of marketing at Easco Boiler Corp. in Bronx, New York, is in the process of upgrading the company’s manual customer service filing system to an automated one that will give sales reps access to pertinent customer account information. “We expect the new computerized system to provide more consistent interaction throughout the company,” he says. “The toughest part of the transition is loading in all the data. It will have to be done manually. Once that is done, the software does practically everything for you.”
Contact management software can be equally useful in a company’s outside communications. Garfield Bowen, publisher of Prom Guide magazine (www.promguide.com) based in Jericho, New York, says his contact management program assists him in everything from creating direct mail pieces to developing invoices. Bowen uses Telemagic to send out correspondence to subscribers, advertisers and sponsors according to a strict publishing schedule. His program reminds him of the dates mailings are due to go out. It also sorts customer names based on whatever criteria Bowen selects.
If you’ve ever had a business send you a birthday note, you’ve seen how targeted sorting works. There will be times when you’ll want to access certain information and pull off the names of people who have the characteristics you are looking for–the ideal candidate for a specific marketing campaign.
Say you decide to send a separate mailing to repeat customers and those who have inquired about your products but never bought anything. What’s more cost-effective, a random mailing to 10,000 people or a personalized mailing to 800 customers?