Guest post by aga merx, Vice President and SBA Department Manager, Bank of American Fork
Tracking your clients in a database, regardless of how small your business is or what type of product you sell, may help you to win business. A client database can be a good tool to help you assess the value of your business to customers and can make it possible for you to market your products and services to customers who are within your business’ footprint. Whether you are a mechanic, a real estate agent or a roofer, your current and past customers may be a path to more sales.
Establishing a database of your clientele allows you to send email campaigns, direct mail campaigns, mail anniversary gifts and develop other marketing pieces based on client preferences that you record. Customers that had a good experience may be more likely to pass on your good services to friends and business associates if you’re top-of-mind because of your latest email newsletter.
The reason you receive emails with newsletters, advertisements, letters with ads or other mailers is usually because you are in someone else’s database. If you purchase something at a store you haven’t been to and share your email address, they can send you emails about the latest sales. If you were satisfied with your purchase, knowing a sale is coming might bring you back into the store.
Once you begin to establish a database, you can use and apply metrics to see what you’re getting out of keeping a client database. You can apply metrics on the number of new clients per month or year, the amount of money spent per client and the frequency of clients returning for more business. Measurement may help you to see how successful this tool is for your business. You might be surprised at the results.
Of course, when it comes to marketing, it is important to make sure you’re aware of the rules and regulations regarding email and other marketing. There are laws to protect consumers from deceptive, unfair or even unwanted advertisements, and it is important to make sure you’re not falling into any of those camps. A legal advisor can help you.
I’ll share some of the ways my customers have used client databases to enhance their businesses.
There’s an auto body shop owner in Salt Lake City who tracks his clients to send them post cards to thank customers for their business and to send out information about upcoming promotions. Each time a car is fixed, the new client’s name is added to the database. This could even be done by adding the vehicle owner’s name, address, phone number and email address to a spreadsheet. The auto body shop owner makes sure to add the date that he started working on the car. This is how he grew his list of names—one customer at a time.
I know of small businesses that send email invitations to picnics or appreciation events they organize for their clients. Appreciation marketing can help you to retain and build your clientele and has become popular in the past few years.
Social media marketing is a tool many businesses are using. If you decide to host a contest on your Facebook® page that requires visitors to visit and “like” your page, it may not be much more additional effort to send an email to your database with instructions on how to participate. For a little extra effort, you might get more visitors and “likes” and on Facebook®, that translates to more views by your customers’ friends.
I mentioned earlier that you can use your customer database to stay top-of-mind for your customers. If a customer has a good experience with your business, their referral to a friend may be a good way to gain additional business. A real estate agent that sent me a postcard thanking me for my business reminded me of the service I appreciated. When I have had friends or acquaintances looking for a real estate agent, it’s easy to refer them to someone who gave me good service, but even easier when I had a recent correspondence that reminded me of the good service I received. It may have only taken a little bit of time for them to contact a local printer to design a quick postcard, then to add a handwritten note and mail it because I was in a database.
Sometimes, building your list of clients, keeping in touch with them and cultivating good relationships can be much less expensive that chasing new buyers.
Zappos® is a good example of cultivating good relationships with the customers in a database. At Zappos®, you may pay more for shoes than on some online sites or in stores, but they offer customers free shipping and returns and they have great customer service. I don’t mind calling Zappos’® customer service because they have kept track of my orders and information and will help solve a problem on the phone. I receive information about promotions and tend to click on Zappos’® advertisements because they keep track of what I like. I’m a repeat customer. There are other companies that spend more money on new customer acquisition than on cultivating a positive relationship with their customers, and sometimes, customers can tell.
The value of a business might increase if the business has a client list or database. In the financial industry, we assess the value of a business based on the revenues and the company income, but the systems, manuals and databases are very important contributing factors in adding to the value and the marketability of a business. Consider what value a growing client database might add to your business.
Real estate agents, mortgage loan officers and medical doctors tend to use databases to track customers’ birthdays and send cards, follow up, mail calendars and check in from time to time. One mortgage loan officer I know estimates that 27 percent of his business each year comes from continually following up with customers in his database. These techniques might apply to your business and a client database could be a good way for you to grow your business.
aga merx is a vice president and SBA department manager for Bank of American Fork. Her extensive experience with the Small Business Administration started when she worked for the Small Business Development Center, an SBA-approved agency to help small businesses apply for loans, prepare to meet their lenders and prepare business plans. A challenge in SBA lending is keeping updated on constant change in procedures and news from the SBA, so merx keeps up on changes and educates and coaches other loan officers. She is a board member for Community Health Charities, an umbrella charity that focuses solely on health charities like the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Camp Hobé or the Arthritis Foundation. She is an ambassador for the Women’s Networking Group. She is also a board member for Westminsters Women’s Development Program, an organization focused on developing the business skills of the female students and the alumni of Westminster College. merx prefers not to capitalize her name.