Managing customer data: Tips and tools to fit any business’s budget

Be tech savvy

Collecting your client and customer contacts is the easy part; managing customer data and knowing how to use it efficiently and prosperously is another story entirely. To make your customer data work for you, it’s important to know what data to gather and the most efficient way to store and process that information.

No longer are simply knowing how to create an Excel spreadsheet and perform a mail merge good enough in a world of faster-than-the-speed-of-light technology, robot-email blasts and auto dialers.

Now you must understand the most efficient and universal methods of compiling, storing, protecting and using this information; in addition, you need to know technologies that will use your database information most effectively when managing customer data.

Managing Customer Data Infographic
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What information to compile

When preparing questionnaires and other documents you use to gather customer data, think about the format. Keep it succinct yet informative while keeping in mind the purpose for which you will be using the information. When managing customer data, here are some of the types of information you will want to collect and their purposes:

Marketing

Information such as birthdate, anniversary, religious affiliation, age as well as digital and real-world contact information enables you to customize your marketing for specific occasions, coupons, marketing platforms and personalized correspondence.

It is important when managing customer data to keep the information as up to date as possible in order to avoid unintentional blunders and embarrassments, such as sending a birthday card to a previously deceased client after you have been notified.

These kinds of blunders can be upsetting to family members and reflect badly on your organization. For mailings, an accurate database will save you in postage from duplicate mailings and incorrect addresses.

Marketing tracking

What good does it do to market your product or business if you can’t tell which marketing tactics are working? Spend your marketing efforts and budgets wisely by tracking where you are reaching the most people as well as generating the most business.

One is not always the same as the other.

 

With some niche products or markets it is possible to reach a lot of people, but not the correct individuals for your product or service. In this case, you will see substantial reach without seeing the returns.

Managing Customer Data Working

And the reverse can also be true; if you accurately target your market you could see a larger return with fewer viewers. Knowing your target market and whom you are reaching provides you with the tools you need to effectively budget and plan for future and ongoing marketing strategies.

Tracking your marketing efforts can be as simple as assigning specific coupon codes, marketing campaign codes and correspondence codes to each campaign created and sent out; marking all return documents with these codes for tracking; or hiring a survey company do the tracking for you.

Follow-up questionnaires

The best way to know what consumers think of your product or service is to ask. Sending out a quick email, text or postcard to previous and potential customers gives your customers an opportunity to voice their opinions or concerns and provides your business with growth opportunities. This also provides you with the opportunity to thank former clients or customers for their purchase, time and loyalty. Doing this actually fosters loyalty by showing that you value your customers.

Just remember to include the option to opt out of any correspondence that does not interest them. You do not want to end up labeled as spam or violate “no-call” regulations. This will be discussed later.

Demographics

Knowing your demographic is vital to creating effective profit-margin-raising marketing. Your demographic can be a specific age group, the area of town the customer lives in, race, marital status, family size, gender, hobby preferences, etc.

The more you can pinpoint who is buying your product or service the better you can target your marketing to reach the right people and increase sales.

 

Just don’t go overboard turning your questionnaire into a novel.

Future product or service research

Understanding what your customers and clients want or need is the first step to company growth. Managing customer data to compile customer preferences and suggestions through designated surveys and or questionnaires provides your business with the information it needs to stay on track with your target market and plan for future products and services when budgeting and strategizing about the continued direction of the company.

Security and privacy responsibilities in managing customer data

Managing customer data comes with responsibilities such as privacy regulations and security concerns, especially when dealing with credit card and payment information. For a business to protect itself and its customers from identity theft and fraud, it is vital to implement protocols and software that are designed with these issues in mind. You can accomplish this via an outsourced service provider, specialized software or online service.

To find out if you meet current regulations for gathering, maintaining and utilizing customer information, go to the Federal Trade Commission website, where you will find all the “whos, whats and whys” that you need to know regarding your company’s responsibilities when it comes to your customer’s information.

In addition to spam issues, there are “No-Call” list issues that also need to be addressed when compiling phone numbers and managing customer data. Companies who violate “No-Call” list regulations risk substantial fines if reported, not to mention irritating customers which could easily lead to lost business.

Editor’s note: If you do business overseas, here’s what you need to know about the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) before it becomes law on May 25, 2018.

Besides legal responsibilities, your company also wants to avoid being designated as a spambot. This occurs when too many email blasts or redundant emails are sent from a business or individual, usually in a short timeframe.

All email campaigns should include a functioning method for the recipient to unsubscribe from any emails, texts or communications that they are not interested in receiving.

Doing this not only shows you care about your customer, but also gives you indispensable and instant information as to what your customer base cares about.

Managing customer data through maintenance and updates

As your company’s customer database grows, so too does the amount of maintenance required to keep your database up to date and as accurate as possible. That’s why it is imperative to choose software or services that will grow with your company from the very beginning.

Flexibility and versatility are other concerns to consider when choosing your software, to ensure that your company’s marketing efforts and growth are not hindered by rigid software protocols as your company and its customer database grow.

Some client database software to consider are:

  • ZOHO — Zoho’s easy-to-use format offers both free and paid plans; with free plans that are good for up to 10 users. Their featured tools include CRM, Bookkeeping, App Builder-Creator and a Context-aware help desk.
  • Bitrix24 — This 100-percent free customer data management software includes tools for lead tracking, prospecting, sales automation and marketing. It is an open-source PHP platform as well as cloud-based, Android, and iOS compatible.
  • SpeedBase Professional — Available through InfoLine Software, this database management tool is user-friendly and provides templates and customizable report options; with a 30-day free trial you can see for yourself if it is the right software for your needs and budget.

For additional database management software options, check out Capterra’s review listicle, “Top 20 Database Management Software 2018.”

Surveys and marketing campaigns

Performing customer surveys is now easier than ever with online sites that allow you to customize questions to fit multiple platforms and purposes. You will find that some products are more user-friendly than others, so it might take some trial and error to find the perfect solution(s) for your demands. You will want to consider what marketing strategies you will be implementing in order to choose a software or service that meets your requirements. A few options to look at when making your choice are:

  • Typeform / Core Plan — This survey platform offers both paid (Typeform) and free (Core Plan) survey options to choose from. The free plan includes templates, custom-designed themes, unlimited questions and data export options with basic reporting features.
  • Survey Monkey — Less versatile, but definitely one of the most popular survey software options, Survey Monkey offers 15 different survey question formats, i.e. multiple choice, Likert scales and open comments. However, from personal experience, the lack of versatility and cumbersome setup make it much less user-friendly and more suitable for one-time survey projects rather than ongoing marketing strategies or information gathering.
  • Survicate — The many tools, features and templates provided by Survicate allow anyone to use their survey software, no matter their skill set. Included tools are dashboard capabilities, a pre-defined survey library, templates, NPS analysis and both CVS and XLS exporting.

With the vast marketing opportunities available in the modern technology-based world we live in, maintaining an up-to-date and secure customer database is imperative to any business’s survival, growth and prosperity. As long as you maintain stringent security and privacy protocols protecting both your customer and your business, incorporating tools such as those mentioned above will give your business a leg up over your competition no matter your company’s size, budget or product.

Elizabeth Leer
As a former Primary Children’s Book Editor for TRP, with more than three decades of business world experience and writing for businesses, Elizabeth is capable of writing on just about anything. Her dedication to accuracy, and ability to clarify complicated concepts into language that most anyone can understand are only a few of the attributes that make her an excellent writing resource. Connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn.