How to manage your customer data
As part of the growth group training, we’re focused on making the most out of our customer database. Small businesses typically can’t afford to shell out thousands of dollars for a fancy CRM system (Customer Relationship Management). I go a step further and recommend against a CRM until you have more than a nodding acquaintance with your customer data. There’s a famous saying: “garbage in, garbage out.” This post will not only help you resolve the issue but will also show you how to enhance the data you have so that you can better relate to your customers.
A Place for Customer Data… CRM vs. Spreadsheet vs. Other
I’ve been in the industry for over two decades and can tell you first-hand that businesses, when they do decide to invest in a CRM system, often hobble their efforts because their data isn’t that accurate. That’s like buying a yacht and dropping the anchor through the stern.
We’re not focused on CRM systems today; we’re focused on your customer data. It doesn’t matter if you’re keeping your customer information in a CRM system, your WordPress website, Freshbooks, Mailchimp, or even a simple Excel file. Somewhere, you have customer information in electronic form, unless you’re an Amazon merchant (in which case you’re hosed). Hopefully, you can export a copy of it.
If you have purchased email lists (strangers who have never heard of you), do not include that information in this process. If they haven’t come to your booth, your website, or your brick-and-mortar business, then what you have is a spam list. There are a few tricky things you can do with this list, but I strongly caution against emailing anyone on that list. For this exercise, we won’t include a purchased email list.
Customer Data: Basics First
What is the foundational information you should have about your customers? Let’s start with the data you do have. Let’s assume you have a few of these or more:
- a name
- a company (if you are B2B)
- a mailing address – even something as simple as a zip code will do
- an email address
- and maybe a phone number
From whatever system you have, start by exporting a copy of your data into a Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheet. Export everything except any sensitive credit card data. Let’s assume you have a list of about 500 customers and contacts to start.
Five Steps to the Perfect Customer Data Scrub Routine
- Take Inventory. How many contacts (those who have not bought from you) and how many customers do you have? Can you tell contacts from customers?
- Take Out the Trash. Scan your list. I like to organize by email address. Depending on how well you know your customers and contacts, and whether you sell to businesses (this will be easier) or consumers (this will be harder), you can spot spam emails or names pretty quickly.
- Basic Segmentation. You should end up with a few “clean” columns. If the information is set to all caps, take time to correct this now with proper capitalization:
- First Name
- Last Name
- Email Address
- Street Address
- Company (if B2B and you know it)
- Job Title (again, if B2B and you know it)
- Source (how they heard about you if you know this)
It can be tedious, but it’s important to take the time to do this. This is a good time to check the systems that you downloaded the data from. Look for settings to see if you can change from all caps to first-letter capitalized. Do some YouTube or Google searches and learn how to manage your settings. Another thing to look for is how to set up data capture so you are collecting the data in its proper segmentation.
Three reasons why basic customer data segmentation is important:
- Personalization. Would you rather receive a message that starts with ‘Hi, JEANIE WALKER…’ or ‘Hi, Jeanie’? Or how about ‘We’ve got something special for you, Jeanie.’ or ‘We’ve got something special for you, JEANIE WALKER.’
- USPS Mailings or Shipping. You can save a ton if you pre-sort by zip code your postcards, letters, or other mailers if you’re sending them in bulk.
- CRM use. Eventually, you’ll want to grow your business. Having customer data properly segmented will save a lot of pain and confusion down the road.
Now for the fun part: customer data tags
Let’s assume you’re still working with a list with under 500 contacts. If you don’t have a Mailchimp account, sign up for a free one. As of the writing of this post, 500 or fewer contacts are free. Before you start uploading your list we’re going to do a little more to the Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets data you’ve just scrubbed.
Add 1 new column. Title it ‘Tags’. Tags can be anything you want but start with main grouping titles, like ‘Customer’ or ‘Contact’ (if not a customer). This is where it gets interesting and totally depends on your business.
For instance, if you have a vacation rental that accommodates large groups, and someone on your list books with you as a family, perhaps a tag that helps you is ‘Family – 4’ (meaning 4 people), another might be ‘Couple’. On the other hand, if you sell B2B, it might be helpful for you to create a tag ‘Buyer’ for someone who can make a purchase decision. You can make as many tags as you wish, and you can have multiple tags per person. But try to reign it in and create tags that would apply to a group of people.
Visualizing tags in Mailchimp for a personalized customer experience
Once you’ve tagged your customers, do one last thing before uploading your list to Mailchimp. Imagine what your messaging will look like.
Returning to the vacation rental scenario, let’s review two message examples: one with tags for personalization, the other without.
Hey, Jeanie – We hope your family had a blast exploring the cabin last summer. We’re offering our VIP families an early bird discount for Memorial Day weekend. Imagine grabbing the kids for a hike, paddling the lake, or making s’mores by the backyard campfire. They grow up so fast, so make the most of your time together.
We’d love to be a part of your family’s cherished memories. Use the discount code VIP FAMILY and reserve your adventures now before May 1st and save 10%.
Thank you from our family to yours…’
We’re offering a discount when you book a stay for 4 or more people at our cabin for Memorial Day weekend. Book now before May 1st and save 10%.
With tags, you have the ability to tell a compelling story that your customer can relate to. Without tags, your message has to become a lot more generic and therefore less interesting.
Tags are a simple way to group people by similar interests. Instead of writing individual emails to customers, you can group them in a way that allows you to message to all of them in a relatable and more personal way.
If you keep up the habit and manage your customer data, when you’re ready for a CRM or other system, you’ll be able to create a more personal message for people who want your services and products while extracting as much power and value from your CRM investment.
If you see the value but don’t have the time to go deep into your customer data, let’s talk. I offer coaching for staff and owners who want to bootstrap their businesses and I offer professional customer data management services that help your company grow.
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