10 database essentials
What do you do with your customer and prospect data? Information is one of your most valuable business assets and when you manage it intelligently, it can give you a handy competitive advantage. Here’s how to create a workable database, stay legal and get the most business value out of your data resources.
1. Think about what data you really need
It’s easy to get carried away. Before you collect every single piece of data you can from every customer and prospect, apply logic: is the data actually useful or are you collecting information for the sake of it? Focus on data quality, not quantity.
2. Know exactly where your data is
If your data is scattered all over the place, collate it. If there’s information missing see if you can get it from enquiry forms, applications, sales documentation, sign-ups, feedback, surveys and so on.
3. Split your database into segments
You should treat your customers differently from your prospects, sending out tailored marketing messages depending on their previous behaviour. If your customers and prospect data is all mixed up, separate it.
4. Keep it clean, current and accurate
If you’ve ever received two identical emails from a company you’ll know how it affects the way you feel about them: are they really as flaky as they seem? Clean, current data is essential when you want to use it for marketing. Dump your database into a spreadsheet if it isn’t in one already, then go through it carefully to remove duplicated records.
You can use third party address validation services to confirm addresses and add missing postcodes. There are plenty of simple off-the-shelf software solutions that integrate with a broad range of CRM systems.
5. Remove deceased records
If someone you love has died, it’s distressing to receive direct marketing offers for them. The Direct Marketing Association has created a Deceased Do Not Contact List, which their members are obliged to honour. It’s available to companies and non-profit organisations to use for removing dead people’s names and addresses from marketing databases. Here’s a link to more information: https://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc.php
6. Abide by data protection legislation
There are a load of rules and regulations concerning holding personal data about people, which you must abide by or risk prosecution. You can find full details about the requirements of the UK Data Protection Act 1998 here: http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/data_protection.aspx.
7. React immediately to data removal requests
You should always offer people an opt-out from your marketing initiatives, even if they’ve opted in at some point. It’s good manners as well as good marketing practice. If someone asks to be removed from your database, do it immediately and make sure there’s no way they can slip through the net.
8. Make sure bought-in prospect lists are legal and current
You can buy very cheap data but it’s often sub-standard. If you buy in a list of prospects for a campaign, buy from a reputable company that guarantees the data’s freshness and accuracy and refunds you for dead records.
9. Update prospect data when people become customers
When someone makes the transition from prospect to customer, make sure you shift their record into your customer database straight away. If you haven’t put a system in place to do it for you, find one! Tools like http://www.workbooks.com/, which is free, can save you endless faff and hassle by handling the whole thing automatically. You can manage customer support enquiries, allocate case numbers, set priority levels, identify issues and see complete customer histories at a glance, including sales and order history.
10. Think about getting an all-singing, all-dancing CRM system
If you’re a small business you might be fine with a basic spreadsheet. But the moment your business starts to expand, it’s best to think about putting a proper CRM system in place to do all the hard work for you and keep you out of trouble. Google ‘free CRM systems’ and see what comes up – there are loads of Open Source systems available, most of which let you upgrade to a paid service if and when you need it.