Why a customer database is a crucial sales tool for your business
23rd July 2010
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It’s party time. You want to invite friends, family, work colleagues, and some business associates. to celebrate your 40th birthday party
But........ there's a problem.
Their details are all scattered about. Some in your filofax, some on the computer, some on business cards. Some people have moved and you’ve mislaid their ‘change of address’ cards. You only have email addresses for some, others have changed their names. To top it all, pages have fallen out of your address book, and coffee stains have made the 'Ts' illegible.
Sending out 100 invites has now become a gigantic task. Why?

The lack of a system to easily store, edit and retrieve the contact details makes posting out invitations a slow and frustrating process.
Big pain in the neck when you want to throw a party.

A permanent pain in the neck for businesses that need to communicate with their customers.
The result?
Businesses without a system for organising their contacts simply don't get in touch regularly with their customers or potential customers because it's too difficult.
By not getting in touch, these businesses are missing a golden opportunity to get more sales from people who already know and love their business (hopefully).

Do you have a customer database?

What is a customer database?
It’s an on or offline system for keeping track of contact details e.g. name, postal address, telephone numbers and email. You can add all sorts of other information such as buying patterns and birthdays etc subject to the Data Protection Act.

Why do you need one?
Small to medium sized businesses often think that a customer database is for larger organisations. Organisations that have an office, reception and staff.
A customer database is one of the most important tools for generating new and repeat sales
. Small businesses especially, should treat every customer's details like cash. Know where it is, keep it safe, keep track of it and use it wisely. After all, these details are the key to future 'cash' in the form of sales.

How do you create one?
First you need to choose a system.
Paper or electronic?
Electronic allows you to contact people easily by email. This is a low cost way of communicating with customers. Also, transferring a paper system to a computer in the future, will be a pain. A low cost route is to use existing software on your computer.

For PCs - Windows Contacts which integrates with Windows Mail in Windows 7  Windows Address Book which integrates with Windows Mail on Windows Vista  Windows Address Book which integrates with Outlook Express on Windows XP

For Macs - Address Book which integrates with Mail (OSX)
Both systems allow you to select what information you want to add and there is space for notes so you can jot down important information about your customer e.g. they visit France every August!
Using this information can make your interactions with customers much more personalised.
These systems cost you nothing and yet both powerfully integrate with other applications such as Windows Microsoft Office and the iWork suite from Apple.
You can easily export the data to a more powerful system later on. Many of the e-mail marketing systems will accept contact data from Windows Contacts or Mac's Address Book.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software
Down the line, you might want to explore Customer Relationship Management  (CRM) software. These give you more functionality and are especially useful for businesses that have a protracted sales process or need to manage multiple accounts.
You can buy off the shelf systems that integrate with e.g. Sage packages or you can have a software developer build a bespoke system for your organisation. There are now web based systems that reduce the initial cost for businesses.
I used to use ACT which was good, but this year we switched to Thebestof’s CRM software. The joy of this system is that it is web based, so Thebestof handle all the back ups for you. This system is now available to any business and I would highly recommend it.
Interested? Give me a call and we can talk about how it might work for your business. 01239 842065

When do you collect customer information?
Analyse the pathway a prospective customer takes in your business and find a convenient point where you can collect the information you need.
Convenient for your customer as well as your business.
If people generally telephone you to make enquiries, or bookings - that could be a good time to collect their information.
If you have a retail premises, you could give out a card for people to complete. Be aware, you need to give an incentive and a pen! People don’t like filling out forms. The incentive might be entry into a prize draw to win some free product. Also remember to clearly state your intentions,
e.g. “We’d like to keep you up to date with special offers and promotions. If you fill out your details you’ll be put on our mailing list and you could win a free hamper of goodies worth £50.00.
If most enquiries come from your website, collect basic information from your form. You can follow up later and ask for more details.
Whose information should you collect?
• anyone who buys from you
• anyone who makes an enquiry
• all your staff
• all your suppliers
Once you have a customer database, an organised system for collecting and retrieving contact details, then you can get your party started. Keep in touch with customers regularly by postcard, letter or email.
Don’t miss out on regular sales opportunities, get yourself a customer database now.
Need any help? Send your questions to me, Diana

About the Author

Diana V

Member since: 10th July 2012

I am Diana Vickers, the site owner of thebestof Cardigan & Teifi Valley, which supports the very best of the area’s businesses with their promotions and marketing. The site is soon coming up to its fifth...

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