Friday, March 26, 2010

Invest Time in Your Customer List and You'll Find Yourself a Goldmine

By Jennifer Spitzer

Regardless of the size of your business, you probably have a customer database. I use the term ‘database’ loosely though, because some of my clients have a professionally managed, relational database and others still use paper files and post-it notes to track their customers. If you fall in the category of “scrap paper customer management”, get it together and put that information in electronic format because this precious data will be a goldmine once you have it organized.

Here are ten triggers that make consumer spending more predictable, and each of these can be tracked, even in something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet.

1. A birthday. Offer your customer a special discount on her birthday. I love receiving my Victoria’s Secret gift card in the mail just before my birthday. They send it every year and I use it every time.

2. A moving household. Even a small business can afford to regularly run National Change of Address (NCOA) on their customer file. A move event triggers spending on furniture, home improvement, households accessories… the list goes on and on.

3. “Birds of a feather flock together." Neighborhoods generally share similar lifestyles and demographics. If you want new customers, take a look at where your existing customers are and go after neighboring households.

4. A specific product purchase. If someone buys a new bed, send an offer for the matching dresser.

5. Anniversary of the purchase. I have a beautiful outdoor lighting system installed in my front yard. It’s been over a year since the installation and the system needs some service. When you contact your customer to service a product, sell something new while you’re at it.

6. Arrival of a new baby. The expenditures and changes that occur in a household with a new baby are too long to list here. This is a great consumer group to target because spending occurs from both emotional (perceived) needs as well as actual necessity.

7. The start of a project. If your customer is building a new deck, she’s probably already looking for the items she’s going to put on that deck, like new furniture, a grill or other accessories.

8. An accomplishment. We all have customers who share personal information. Your customer’s accomplishment may not be an opportunity for you to sell something, but it’s certainly an appropriate time for you to stay top of mind with something as simple as a note of congratulations.

9. Age of your customer. Needs change as a person ages. As an example, now that my parents are retired, they’re travelling more.

10. The Wish List Trigger. The next time you talk to a customer, focus on listening to what she’s going to need from you down the road. Then, capture the information so that you can followup at the appropriate time. As an example, over the winter I had some curtains made for a bedroom window and I mentioned how nice it would be to have new covers for my deck furniture this summer. Fast forward six months… she just called to help me place the order so that my deck will be ready in time for the season.

Effective marketing, whether it be through direct mail, email, social networks or even a phone call, is all about timing. Robust customer data will help you identify ‘triggers’ that enable you to put the right offer in front of your customer at the exact time they’re ready to buy.

I would love to hear your success stories. Post a comment here or send me a note at:

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