Five Steps to an Effective Client E-mail Database
How many print buyer e-mail addresses do you have in your database? Where and how do you maintain them, enabling you to market effectively and efficiently?
The best-run printers have a good grasp on this. Doing a better job in this area is essential to stay ahead of the competition. Keeping your name in front of your customers must be a priority.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a group of printers who got together every six months to help each other with strategic planning. The group decided to survey customers using e-surveying techniques to quickly find out how they were doing, benchmark performance with each other and probe into several marketing areas.
I was surprised to find that some of the printers did not have a handle on their customer e-mail addresses, yet actively manage phone numbers and mailing addresses. I know our phones don’t ring like they used to, but e-mail volume has more than made up for that. We all get a continuous flow of e-mails from clients and prospects. Welcome to the Internet Age.
The basic requirement of any e-marketing or e-surveying project is to export your customer database out of your estimation and production system—the one place with the most accurate list of active customers.
It is amazing how many printers have their customers’ e-mail addresses in different places or in disconnected systems. How do you leverage customer information if the data is fragmented, on a laptop not connected to the network or in an individual’s e-mail address book?
You must have a central place for managing customer contact information, and it all begins with order entry. Granted, there are other decision makers you want to track, but many times, contact information for people responsible for the next order are included with the current order.
Now back to the peer group project...One printer got a list to together right away, and it was very clean and ready to go. You could tell it had a client information management process in place. Another printer took four weeks to submit a list and more than 30 percent of its customer e-mail database records had bad addresses. Not good. The best-run printers have an under 10 percent failure rate, and five percent is stellar.
How do best of breed printers do this? Here are five tips:
1. Start at order entry. All MIS systems have a field for e-mail address. Many order entry personnel are not entering anything into this field because, with most systems, the team doesn’t e-mail out of the system. There appears to be no reason to enter this information. Instruct your team to enter e-mail data with orders. Over a 30-day period, you will be thrilled at how many e-mail addresses you will have captured. Then start using the information. Start now.
2. Educate your team on the value of entering e-mail addresses into the system. Give them the big picture. Many printers are entering accounts payable people into the system, and this is important. The buyer’s e-mail address is just as critical. The best way to help sales teams be more effective and efficient is to leverage e-mail to send marketing messages and complement what they are doing face-to-face or over the phone.
You must work as a team and have corporate messaging going out to help sales people. They can’t be everywhere all the time, but a focused e-mail campaign or project feedback survey can really help them retain customers and expand opportunities. Have a team meeting.
3. Assign someone to keep the database clean. E-mail management is different than phone or mailing address management. Most people have multiple e-mail addresses, move around a lot and change e-mail addresses. E-surveying and e-marketing services inform you if someone is not getting your e-mails. You need to know this and call the customer to find out what is happening, or delete the person from the system. Someone needs to police the database and manage the process to keep on top of it. Set 10 percent as your goal for bad e-mail addresses and you will be in good shape; five percent would be even better.
4. Have an e-mail management and e-communication strategy with discipline. Engage everyone in your business about the strategic importance of managing e-mails in one central place. I prefer the MIS system as that is where the orders flow through, and it is easier to earn more business from existing customers than to chase prospects. There should be two different messages going out depending on whether the person is a prospect or customer. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems sometimes integrate with the MIS, but if they don’t, set up a system to de-dupe or filter out customers so you don’t over communicate.
5. Make it a priority. Starting with order entry can quickly get data flowing into a system so you can leverage it in 30 days. It should not be a major project, but set up baby steps to get there over time. Start small. Maybe for the first month you have 30 e-mails in the system. Then you can promote something to those contacts, know they are good e-mails and know they are customers. Don’t procrastinate.
Good luck with your customer base hygiene efforts as you push ahead in 2011.