Fifteen years ago, we attended a one day seminar given by my good friend, Ken Erdman. Ken was a savey direct marketer and my company was an industrial sales company selling specialized widgets. We sold job shop services to industrial companies like Honeywell, Motorola, Martin Marietta and Black & Decker to name a few. So I looked at my business as being very different. Ken dealt with the consumer. We had industrial clients.
What a mistake! Because Ken made a comment during our time together that I heard, but discounted because “my business was different”. It was such a simple idea that I didn’t realize the full impact of what he said until many years later. Ken said, “Your company is only as strong as your database. The database is the most important asset of any company.” Now we have a whole industry dedicated to database management.
The big companies involved, make it seem complex. But it isn’t. Whether you have a small store that sells antiques, repairs shoes or own a restaurant or sell specialized widgets, you have to have an up-to-date, well maintained database of customers and prospects. Every business especially small businesses need to commit a certain amount of time everyday to building and maintaining their database. It is the life blood of your company. Many companies have been sold solely on the value of their customer list and database.
So If you don’t have a database, how do you get started? Step 1 is to investigate the different software packages available. Some of the more popular programs are ACT!, Goldmine, and Maximizer. Each one is a little different but basically do the same thing. We use act because they have an ACT! User Group in our area. These programs can be bought for approximately $200 and are well worth it. It is important to note that if you have Microsoft Outlook and want to use that as a database to start that is OK. But for many reasons, you need to buy one of the software packages mentioned. ACT!, Goldmine, and Maximizer are very user friendly and can handle a multitude of tasks much easier than Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Outlook should be used for e-mailing only.
Before you start to build the list, take a look at your business. You’ll need to answer a number of questions before you start the database. How many customers do you have? What is the average value of a customer? Should I keep track of how many orders they place with us? How many prospects do we have for future business? How many more prospects should we add to our database? These questions might not seem important. But if you are going increase the value of your business, you’ll need to answer these questions. Remember, your business is either growing or its dying. Your business can not just stay the same.
Once you have answered these questions, you can setup a process for systematically building the database. Step 2 is following your plan. You need to commit to 15 minutes, 30 minutes and hour a day to filling in the database. If you are a small retailer, you’ll want to ask everyone who comes in your store to fill out a card so they can receive mailings about Events or Coupons or Member Only Specials. Then every night, no matter what, 10 or 15 contacts are entered into your database. At the end of the first month, you have 200-300 contacts you can stay in touch with. At the end of two months, you’ll have 400-600 contacts. What’s the value in that? Maybe instead of running an ad in the local paper for $500, to people who don’t know anything about your business, you can mail a flyer to your 500 favorite prospects who know you and like you. And the cost to your target list will only be $250, and your response rate will be higher.
Some businesses require larger customer and prospect lists. There are a number of semi-automated ways to build valuable lists. By using the internet to capture information, and then contacting the prospect you can build lists fast. Some internet marketers build there lists at the rate of 2000 or more contacts per day. But they need a large number of prospects for their business to make a profit and hopefully grow. Their percentage of new customers is small.
Remember, look at the numbers that make sense for your business. You can build a solid, profitable business from a small list. But it all starts with building the database!
Carl Kruse is a consultant and sales engineer. His focus is on product development of leading edge products in the electronic, medical and automotive field. He can be reached at http://www.jobshopcoach.com http://www.manufacturingtips.com or by e-mail
Carl Kruse is a speaker, coach and sales engineer in the manufacturing field. He can be reached at Carl’s blog is www.manufacturingtips.com
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