28 May Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may. Or start a spreadsheet at least. Collecting & organising your customers’ data
As Robert Herrick told us in his famous poem written over 370 years ago, now is the time to get started on this important task. Ok, so we’re not talking about the most fun aspect of business and it’s hardly ‘seize the day’ stuff, but you get the drift…
If you’re not already collecting your customers’ details (both current and prospective), start now!
Use your website
Try to collect at least an email address from anyone you come into contact with on a professional basis (making sure that they’re happy for you to use it – check with the Information Commissioner’s Office for more info on using data for marketing so that you’re GDPR compliant) and include a newsletter sign up form on your website, even if you have no immediate plans to send out marketing messages. If you’ve got a site built using WordPress, SquareSpace or similar there should be a plug-in or widget that makes it easy for people to sign up.
If someone else built you the site, ask them to add the necessary code and make sure you know where the information collected is being held and how you can access it. Email marketing tools such as Mailchimp also offer sign up forms that you can include on your website, on your Facebook page, as a form on an app (great for sign ups at events) or as a link, for use in an email or similar. Importantly, you can download the data later if you want to use it in a different way or in an alternative marketing tool.
Accurate – but relevant – data on your contacts and customers is valuable and can make your marketing easier, quicker and cheaper.
Spreadsheets have evolved
Start a spreadsheet with columns for different bits of information, starting with email address but including standard data such as first name, family name and phone number. Think about the type of information that will mean you can communicate with each customer in a way that they will appreciate, and be selective. Don’t ask for information you’re not going to use; it’s not legal and it’ll make what you do have harder to sort through. Think to the future as well. You might not be ready to use the information fully at the moment but, further down the line, how might you want to target your customers? Think product/service bought, location, date of purchase, etc. Spreadsheets are much more intuitive and easier to use these days – plus platforms like Google sheets mean they can also be shareable among teams for easy updating.
- Take a business that offers different educational services such as messy play sessions for pre-schoolers, SATs boosters for Year 6 children, academic tuition for primary children and music tuition to all age groups. In this case, it is useful to have the date of birth for children in each family so that we know when they’re too old for the messy play sessions (although, arguably, one is never too old!). Similarly, we can then also tell when they’re in Year 6 at school and might want to attend a SATs booster session.
- Let’s say you’re a car mechanic and you offer MOTs and services. It would be useful to know the date on which each customer’s car MOT or service is due so you can send an email reminder a month or so beforehand – along with a special offer, of course – and follow it up with a further email perhaps a week or so later. Presumably the customer initially came in for such a service – so you’d know the dates involved already – or you can ask for this information.
- Or maybe you’re a florist? Keep a spreadsheet of your customers along with the date they send their flowers and who they’re going to (you can ask them for this information if it’s not clear) and, again, send emails shortly before these dates using this information to populate the email.
We’ve all received this type of email, so why not emulate them and see what results you get? Of course, there are all sorts of customer databases and automation systems out there (you might already have access to one) and, as your database gets bigger, it might be worth taking a look at these. In the meantime, a well ordered and maintained spreadsheet along with some simple template emails might just do the trick.
As you build your database, you can use it in different ways to send special event-related offers, news relevant to the customer’s location or target an audience for some market research. A few seconds spent completing this task for each of your customers or contacts will pay dividends now and in the future.
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