Developing a Customer Database
Put at its simplest, a database is a file containing organised, useful information on your customers. A well composed and organised customer database is the foundation of an effective and profitable marketing strategy and is well worth the time and effort involved. Knowing
; Who your customers are
; Where they live and
; What they like to buy
is fundamental to a growing and thriving business and your customer database can provide you with this vital information.
Building Your Database
Having a good idea of what you want your database to achieve is the first, and perhaps most important, step in benefiting from the information you have already gathered and the data you will accumulate in the future. You may want to:
; Keep the customers you already have
; Acquire new ones
; Encourage more spending from existing customers
; Inform your customers of special offers
Once you have decided how you expect your database to assist you in your long-term marketing strategy, you
can now begin to organise the information within the database. How you arrange this information is a key factor in how much you benefit from the information.
The information contained in a customer database is generally broken down and organised around valuable components or "fields". A typical field might be a person's name, address or postal area, and date of last
purchase. For instance:
Name Address Date last Inventory Total Purchases to date purchase Number
Sean Smith 2, The Road 02-01-02 000234 EUR2,763.21
Jane O'Brien 9, The 12-10-99 004321 EUR22.33 Cresent In the above example, each field has a potentially useful application in your marketing strategy. For instance, you may want to target those customers who might have gone over to your competitor. By selecting the "total
purchases to date" field, you can now direct your marketing or advertising towards those who have shopped with you in the past but who have not made a purchase recently.
For many businesses a computer and some basic software is all that is required to set up a customer database
and maintain and retrieve the information gathered within it. Both PCs and Macs bought from a high-street
computer shop have enough capacity to manage a useful database. You can buy software specifically written for
databases that have the capacity to store thousands or millions of fields and ranging in price from less that EUR400 up to several thousand Euro.
Your system should:
; Suit the size of your business and customer base
; Have the capacity to expand as your customer base and business expands
; Be able to collate and process the information within it. For example, you should be able to easily
extract from the "Postal area" field all those customers in, for instance, the Donegal area.
Collecting Customer Data
Every transaction or sale you make has the potential to be a source of valuable customer information and to
become an important component in your customer database.
Typically, the main sources of data are from:
; Marketing initiatives such as special offers, competitions etc in which the customer supplies her/his
name and address
; The invoices and statements you have sent to existing customers
; Enquiries received either over the phone, by post or by e-mail
; From deliveries of goods you have made or organised
; From a professional company specialising in customer databases
Using Your Database
Your customer database can be your business's most effective marketing tool. The time and effort you expend on
building and maintaining your database can give you the advantage of being able to target those customers
whose business will benefit you the most.
You can now send out your message:
; To the right people
; At the right time
Your database can provide you with:
; A mailing list
; Information on your customer's spending habits, likes and dislikes
; Who might have left you for the competition
; Who are your most loyal customers