Not long ago I made a trip over to the local Radio Shack to purchase an electronic plug for my cassette recorder. As I paid for my item the retail clerk asked me for my name, address, telephone number, birth date, and even my email address (something every retailer should be asking for today!). Although I felt a twinge of discomfort giving out my personal information, I went ahead and gave it to him and went on my way.
Driving home I reflected on Radio Shack’s checkout process and was reminded of the power of information gathering at the point of sale. I had just given Radio Shack three ways to contact me, not to mention, information on what I had purchased. In the hands of a skilled marketer, this information is powerful.
The recent economic slowdown has brought increased competition to small businesses. And with that, retailers across North America have described their sales as "flat." Small businesses should be looking for low cost, high impact marketing activities to drive prospects to their business. One of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to add profits to the bottom line is the use of database marketing, which uses information collected at the point-of-sale.
Using personal data, purchasing data, and contact information from a customer database, a retailer can make offers to customers for complimentary products and services and engage in loyalty marketing activities. Database marketing has four key elements, (1) gathering customer data, (2) building a customer database, (3) creating targeted offers for specific customer groups, and (4) tracking results to improve responses.
Step 1: Gather customer data. The easiest way to begin this process is to develop a simple form for customers and salespeople to fill out every time a customer purchases a product or service. Include personal information such as names of spouses, children, profession, and birthdays, as well as, product information such as manufacturer, make, and model.
Step 2: Build a database to store your customer information. Start simple using off-the-shelf software such as Microsoft Access. Later on you can begin to modify the database to either include different types of information or to print special reports.
Step 3: Start sending offers and personal messages to your customers. Don’t wait until you have a large mailing list. Begin sending notes to customers right away thanking them for their purchase, to celebrate birthdays, share holiday messages, and inviting them to come in and take advantage of special offers.
There is an old saying that goes, “Business goes where business is invited, and stays where it is appreciated.” A personalized invitation to drop by the store to take advantage of a specific incentive is sometimes all that is needed to keep your customers coming back into the store. Instituting a program of personal, hand-signed notes that coincide with birthdays or special events addressed to the customer's significant other that offer gift ideas, can have surprising results.
Step 4: Track the results of your database marketing efforts. By knowing who you sent offers to and who responded will help you identify your best customers, allow you to more effectively allocate your marketing dollars, and help you tweak your marketing pieces to get higher response rates.
What Information Do I Collect?
It’s important to determine in advance the type of information to collect. To do this, make a list of common special offers you might be presenting to your customer. For instance, if you sold a product in the health industry and many of your customers have lower back problems you could joint venture with other businesses to develop special promotions on products that help to relieve lower back pain. To capture the fact that your customer experiences lower back pain, simply place a check box on your form that says, “Do you experience lower back pain?”
If your customer has small children, consider presenting follow-up offers for products targeted for small children. Imagine being a consumer and receiving a letter from your business with an enclosed birthday card for little Joey who just turned eight years old and a discount offer for a basketball hoop or other relevant products. You think to yourself, “What a great gift. Joey would love that!” This is the power of database marketing.