Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Customer & Prospect Database, Part 2

Today, I will be continuing the expansion on the topic of the customer database and its importance. I will offer some examples of how you could use the customer database.

Your database will be as valuable as the quality and quantity of information in it. Here's an example. Let's say you are a salesperson at an auto dealership or a manager directing salespeople. Very few (the number is extremely small) auto salespeople follow up more than once with a new owner and if that call is made, it is made within a few days of the sale. You will most likely not get any direct mail pieces from them either. I have a great deal of experience at auto dealerships and buying from them, so I know this to be true. Part of the reason is that people don't usually buy cars but every few years, so there is a good deal of space between opportunities, hence the focus is generally on new prospects rather than past customers.

So, now let's bring in a smart follow up campaign with great database collection. The credit application has a wealth of information to go in your database. You should also try to find out how many children the customer might have and their approximate ages. Now, you will follow up with the customer after a few days and then you will stay in contact with this customer for life about once a month. The least expensive and still effective way to do this is through a nice HTML format email newsletter that is packed with information that would be of value to many different kinds of customers.

In addition, we want to start contacting them in a different way when any of their children are approaching the age of 15 to 16. Depending on the financial condition of the family, they will most likely be helping their children get their first car. After you sell the children, you follow them for life. Contact them by phone periodically to touch base and see how things are going with their car and ask for any referrals they may have for you.

Let's say you're a plumber. You go out and unclog a drain at a customers location. You are observant and you gather some basic information along with the typical name, address, phone numbers, etc. You might even invite them to be on your email list and that you have a great monthly newsletter that has a wealth of plumbing tips for every kind of homeowner. I can tell you this: if you own a home, if you need a plumber once, you will need a plumber twice, three, four times. There may be some space in between, but the need will come up, more so in an older home. I have called a number of different plumbers over the years and have lived in one place for over 23 years, yet not one of those plumbers ever felt the need or desire to communicate with me after the sale. Not one. I think that is amazing. Why not?

How about a music store. There is one in town here and I have purchased many thousands of dollars worth of things over the years including a piano, piano rental, 2 guitars, PA speakers and much more. Not once has there been a follow up attempt. Not once. Don't you think that is amazing? You have a customer who spends thousands and not one phone call, mail piece, nothing. The follow up possibilities are huge here. A monthly email newsletter would be an extremely powerful tool for this business to use. Just think of all the new product announcements, old product closeouts, new shipments arriving, gifts for others, holiday sales can be communicated. But, same old thing: they run a 5"x7" ad in the local paper periodically advertising the same things and at Christmas, they put a picture of Santa or something. Boring. Lame. What about they people who have already been a customer. Missing it. Dollars down the drain. I have also bought many thousands of dollars of musical equipment from other companies! Matter of fact, I rarely visit this store anymore or any store in the area. I go online mostly now. There are many companies who follow up there and the most diligent has been Musicians Friend. I get their emails regularly.

Think about what you sell and how you can create follow up communications with your past customers so you can reap the huge dollar volume of sales that most businesses are missing. Gather as much information about each client as you can and keep it is a good database. You don't need a fancy custom computer, a simple, easy to use off the shelf program will do fine. I recommend ACT which is the most popular customer database program on the market. I have also enjoyed using Maximizer, which I still use today.

No comments: