One of the fundamentals of modern business is that you need to go out of your way to get to know your customers/clients almost as if they’re family – which in fact they are. Get as much data about them as you can.
Your customer’s personal data such as email address and their phone number are the obvious place to start, but for service businesses especially it would be great if you can build into your database other details such as their birthdays. Reaching out to your customers on their special days sets you apart as we’ll see shortly.
So, are you building a database of your customers/clients?
Answer the questions below – and be honest. The areas you can focus on are the ones where you answered “NO” to some or all of the questions. At the end we have listed specific steps you can follow to improve.
- Do you have a database?
- Do you collect your customer’s information? (Name, address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, website address, title, date of birth, etc.)
- Do you have one place where you keep all of your customer’s information?
- Do you collect your prospect’s information? (on your website for example)
- Do you have one place where you keep all of your prospect’s information?
- Do you have this information stored on your computer?
- Do you have a database program such as a CRM, or Microsoft Access?
- Are you contacting your customers and prospects at least once a month? (Contacting would mean phoning, mailing, e-mailing or faxing)
- Do you add new prospects to your database every month?
A database can be as simple as a rolodex, an excel file, an organized filing cabinet or as sophisticated as storing them electronically in an actual database program such as Microsoft Access or some specialized programs designed for the purpose for businesses.
Inside the database you can store information such as Name, Company, Title, Address, Phone Number, Fax Number and e-mail address.
Many business owners often think that because they’re not a big company they have no needfor a database. Here are a couple examples of how a database can make a difference:
- It is easier to sell someone you have already sold. Repeat customers are the best.
- It is hard to even contact your customers if you have to constantly struggle to get all the information together each time.
- You can save a lot of time by putting all of this information into an electronic format.
- In addition, you can gradually beef up the information you have about your customers by collecting additional information on each customer such as date of birth, types of purchases, etc. so you can become even smarter about how you contact them in the future.
One savvy business owner used this resource to such telling effect. He bought a simple birthday newsletter software. So, every month he would pull all the birthdays from his database and then have his assistant create customized newsletters, using the software, for each of the clients and prospects.
He would then sign each newsletter and put it into a fancy envelope with the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY on it. On any given month there were over 100 newsletters to send out.
His staff said you could always tell when the newsletters were sent out because the phone calls would increase after the mailing. Yes, clients and prospects were actually calling to say “thank you”.
While he had them on the phone he would ask them “what was good about this last year?” and “What could have been better?” Inevitably, he would uncover some opportunity to meet with them about their business.
If you were to sell your company today what would be your biggest asset? Some business owners will say technology or expensive equipment they may have purchased and even some will mention customer service.
If you didn’t have any customers, how valuable would your biggest asset be? Business owners so often get so caught up with how they can improve their businesses and how they can find more customers that they sometimes lose sight of what is really important.
Would you rather buy a company that has big fancy equipment, the latest software or the one with a list of 5,000 buying customers and an additional 5,000 names of prospects?
If you are planning to work every day for the rest of your life and you have no one you want to pass your business on to then you don’t need to worry about storing or building up this information.
Capture email addresses of prospects on your business website
In this internet age one of the most powerful ways a business owner can build a list of prospects is collecting email addresses on their business website. With existing customers, make it a habit to ask for these email addresses any time that your customers/clients interact with your business.
When you can capture the email addresses of your customers and prospects, technology today automates a lot of your communications and list storage for you.
Get a good “autoresponder” service if you don’t already use one. Some popular email management services (autoresponders) are Aweber and GetResponse.
Once you have an autoresponder subscription install an email capture form on your business website where you ask prospects who check you out on the website to leave their email addresses.
This works best if you’re giving them something in return – a free 10 or 15-page information report that you know your prospects would gobble up is enough.
We have prepared a short report on how to prepare (or have prepared for you) such a report – as well as the other ways you can leverage this report to attract lots of new prospects). This short report will show you how to automate lead generation for your business with GetResponse.
Use networking to build a list of prospects
Another good way to build a database of prospects is through networking. Some business owners gain actual business out of networking and it’s true that the ideas and information that comes from talking with other business owners and professional is priceless.
The key to networking is finding a group that you go to on a regular basis. Whether it is your local chamber of commerce, a charitable organization, a specific association or a lead-sharing group, the benefits of getting to know these people can prove to be extremely valuable.
An added bonus to networking, especially if you’re just starting out in business is that you quickly get to learn from others in your line of work what works and what doesn’t, in terms of technology, hiring staff, legal issues, taxes and an entire gamut of other challenges business owners face.
Summary: If you want to build on success then get all your customer and prospect information into one place. Do yourself a favor, take the time to learn how to use a database or hire someone who can help.
Find ways to add to your database and more importantly, create ways to contact the people in your database on a monthly basis. With most prospects, it takes and average of 8 contacts before they even think of buying from you.
Specific steps of action:
- Make a list of all your customers/clients.
- Gather any information you have for these customers/clients.
- Gather any information you have for prospects. It can be business cards you have collected, a Rolodex, industry lists, etc.
- Choose a database program to use. (for example Microsoft Access) Having this information in an electronic format will allow you to extract information easily. (E.g. All prospects in the City of…., all clients with the area code……, etc.)
- Enter all information into your database. You can either create two separate databases: (1) Clients and (2) Prospects or simply create a field/group in your database indicating whether this is a client or prospect. This is important, as the information you send to each group may be different.
- Make a list of ways you would like to find prospects to add to your database. (E.g. Networking Groups, Industry lists, yellow pages, purchase a list, directories, association lists, chamber of commerce lists, trade show lists, etc.)
- Add new prospects into your database every month. You can either do this yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
- Create a list of ways you would like to contact each of your clients each month.
- Create a list of ways you would like to contact your prospects each month.
- Create a list of reasons you can contact both your clients and prospects each month.
Once you have completed the above steps, you are now ready to continue with the Number 2 strategy every service professional should be doing but probably isn’t.