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How to Set Up & Organize Your Customer Mailing List For Optimum Results

By DeAnna Spencer
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Your list of customers who have previously bought from you isyour most important asset. These are the customers who willprovide you with return business, which is more profitable thanthe first sale. But, are you getting the most from your customerlist? There are some secrets you should know, so you can squeezethe most benefits out of your mailing list.

Most business' customer lists consist of this information: Name,Address, City, State, Zip. That's it. Unfortunately, thismailing list is almost worthless. You need to have moreinformation in your files than just that. I have 32 informationfields in my customer database! You should be able to set theseup in your computer's database, or, if you don't use a computer(you REALLY should), all this information should fit on a largesize index card in a card file. Here are some more useful fieldsto include in your customer database:
LastName; FirstName; Title; Position; CompanyName; Address1; Address2; City; State; Zip; PerPhone; BusPhone; FaxPhone; InqDate; ReferSource; FollowUp1; FollowUp2; SubDate; SubAmount; RenewDate;Purch1; Purch1Date; Purch1Amount; Purch2; Purch2Date; Purch2Amount; Purch3; Purch3Date; Purch3Amount; TotAmount; Comments; Cust#

The first 10 fields (reading across) should be self-explanatory. Almost any address possible can be put into my database withouthaving to leave out information or abbreviate. The next threeare for phone numbers. You MUST have your customer's phonenumbers, when possible, to be able to follow up quickly andefficiently. Making one phone call can be the difference betweena big sale or NO sale.

The InqDate field is where you record the date the customer firstinquired about your products and services, and the date you sent theinformation, since it's always the same day (there's no excusenot to follow up your inquiries on the same day you receivethem). This information, coupled with the ReferSource field,tells you when your ads are hitting, and how quickly people areresponding to them. If you see that inquiries are coming inslowly, or long after the ad is out, you know that you need moreaction incentives in my next ad. The ReferSource field is whereyou enter the "key" from my ad. You should use a letter code after mystreet address to indicate which publication and issue theinquiry comes from. You should also code your mailings, for the samereason.

You enter a date into the two FollowUp fields to indicate when youwant to send follow up literature to customers who don't order onthe first try. You should put a date two weeks from the InqDatein FollowUp1, and one two weeks later than that in FollowUp2. Then, every day, you should run a search on these two fields to pull upany records that have today's date as a follow up date. You canthen print labels and put them on the envelopes and literature youhave ready for follow ups.

You should use the next three fields (SubDate, SubAmount, RenewDate) forthe newsletter you publish (if you decide to publish one). These would have the

date you receivetheir subscription, the amount they paid (You should sometimes run specialprices), and the date you want to send subscription renewalinformation (usually 10 1/2 months from the SubDate). You can thenprint labels in the same manner as you do for the FollowUp fields.

Next come the Purchase fields. You should have three sets of purchasefields, one for each purchase the customer makes. In the Purch1field, enter a code for the product they have purchased. Theother two fields get the date and amount of the purchase. Thesecond and third sets of fields get the same information for thecustomer's second and third purchases. The best customers tomail offers to are the ones that have purchased within the last90 days, so you don't have to worry about many customers makingmore than three purchases during that time period (though I hopethey will!). If someone does make a fourth purchase, move thesecond and third sets of data up to the first and second lines,and enter the new purchase information in the third data set.

These fields are extremely important. You can instantly pull up alist of customers that have purchased within the past 90 days, or60 days, or 30 days, or even 15 days. When you rent out yourhouse mailing list, this information is vital. Therental amount you can charge increases as the amount of timesince the customer's purchase decreases.

The next field in my database is TotAmount, which contains aformula to calculate the total dollar amount that the customerhas purchased from me to date.

The Comments field is used to store any miscellaneous informationabout the customer that you think is important to know.

Use the final field, Cust#, for a specially coded customernumber that you assign each customer. Use this code to identifythe recipient of any commissions you may pay to customers who havebrought business my way.

That's a lot of information, and you may be wondering why I wouldneed all of that. Well, I've already told you how to use thepurchase data fields for identifying the "age" of the customers. You can also use the TotAmount field to compile a list of customerswho have bought more than a certain amount from you. Together,these field searches can be used to produce a customized mailinglist of, for example, customers who have bought more than $50 inthe past 30 days. These would be the most responsive people tomail to, and would render the highest rental rate of my customerlist.

You can also use certain mailing list fields to identify people whoshould be dropped from my list. For example, you can search forcustomers with FollowUp2 dates that are four weeks past today'sdate, and TotAmounts of zero. These customers could be erasedfrom the list. Or, you could leave them on file, and put a word ortwo in the Comments field reminding you not to mail anything elseto them, in case they inquire again. This saves me the cost ofmailing something to someone who probably won't respond. Theymight, but chances are they won't.

Finally, if you get a customer who has returned too many orders, orhas defrauded you in some way, you can put that information in theComments field. Then, if they order again, when their file comesup, you will see their history, and can use extra caution withthem.

As you can see, if you use foresight when initially setting upyour customer list, you will have a valuable tool that you canuse to increase your order potential, increase your incomethrough specialized list rental, and decrease your mailing costsby eliminating "deadwood" from your list. This is one of themost important methods you can use to increase your chances ofsuccess.

Copyright 2004 by DeAnna Spencer

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About the Author
DeAnna Spencer is the publisher of Prospecting and Presents Subscribers get one free ad per week. Subscribe today by visiting (http://www.pnewsletter.com)