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Maintain and Build Your Database: The secrets to keeping your customers and preserving a good customer list

Published on 09/23/10 05:02PM

At Curley Direct, we hear the same question day in and day out, how do I maintain or build my list? It’s fairly simple, actually. Read on to find out some of the secrets to success.

Secret: Retention and Profiling

Retention is the key to a successful business. It is twice as hard to get a new customer in the door once than it is to get a previous customer back in for a repeat visit. In order to get them coming back, you need to keep them engaged. The more you know about them, the more efficiently you can market to them. For example, if you are a shoe store, it is inefficient to send a postcard or e-mail blast advertising a women’s shoe sale to men. By knowing the gender of your recipients you can target the message directly to them.

The more marketing material a person receives that they perceive as having little to no value to them, the more they de-value your business and the less frequently they do business with you. It is mostly done subconsciously and it makes sense; if you owned a high-end restaurant and a vendor who sells you your expensive table and flatware started sending you advertisements for plastic-ware and vinyl table cloths, you would remember them for the perceived value of the plastic and vinyl supplies and not the gorgeous plates and silverware they sold you three months ago.

The easiest time to collect information from a customer is at point of sale, but customers do not like to be berated with questions when trying to pay for their purchase. Instead, train your staff to input information based on buying preferences (brands purchased, food chosen, questions asked of the staff, etc) to build your customer’s profile. With variable data technology, Curley Direct can change out images or text in print and online based on the information you already have in your database. We also offer the ability to gain invaluable information by mailing a postcard or letter with a PURL (personalized URL) where you can ask them questions regarding their buying habits, preferences, birthday’s, etc.

Secret: Diligent Record Keeping

In order to be able to retain your customer’s business, you need to know who they are first. If you do not use a newer POS system that allows data input, take written notes and input them into an excel spreadsheet daily. Additionally, Quickbooks allows for record keeping. The most important places to start are: First Name, Last Name, Mailing Address, City, State, Zip, Phone Number and E-mail address. By having 3 methods of contact, you allow for a more versatile marketing plan. Not everyone is willing to give you all 3, so you need to have the ability to market to all customer’s in their preferred communication vehicle.

Secret: Software Tips and Tricks

Curley Direct recommends using software that easily exports to Microsoft Excel (available for PC and Mac) in a “.xls” format. We do accept a limited number of other format’s (Text - “.txt” and Comma Separated - “.csv”) but they are not recommended.

The biggest problem we hear with Excel is that for zip codes beginning with a 0, excel automatically drops them. This is something we are accustomed to and can take care of easily, but if you would like to do it yourself, you can do so in just a few easy steps.

To retain the 0 at the beginning of zip codes, click the letter along the top of the spreadsheet in the column containing the zip codes to highlight the entire column. Next, right click with your mouse and choose the option “Format Cells…” from the drop down. The Format Cells box will appear. Under the “Number” tab, click “Special.” Choose “Zip Code” and press “OK.” … save the file and you’re done!

When exporting a database, it is very important to keep all fields separate to avoid processing time and costs.

Secret: It’s Hard Work!

Keeping your list clean and up-to-date is hard work so be sure to assign a very detail oriented person to the task and watch it yourself as well – it’s like cleaning your house, the longer you let it go, the worse it gets! If you do hit a snag in the road, Curley Direct offers services to clean, scrub for duplicates, update those who have moved or are deceased, profile and organize your lists.