October '17

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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42 || P R I N T W E A R O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 a match between your customer list and someone reporting a new address to the Postal Service, all you do is add the updated informa- tion into a new address field, keeping the original address intact. Wrong or insufficient address information costs your company plenty in slow response rates to promotions, delays in collection, lost opportunities, and neglected client relationships. Whatever source you use to cleanse your data, be sure it is certified by the USPS's Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS). In the case of first-class mail, the post office does pretty well in getting letters and packages with minor address flaws to their intended destination. However, for standard-class, the address must be perfect, or the piece gets tossed. In fact, two billion pieces of poorly addressed mail goes into USPS dumpsters every year. The next step is consolidation. Here you should identify aliases and "family-tree" relationships of different customer accounts. If you're lucky, you may be doing business with a company that has multiple branches or locations. For example, SPC Inc may be the parent company for a wholly-owned subsidiary doing business as Sweet Pine Creek Motors with two legitimate addresses: a physical one, and a P.O. box. The purpose of the consolidation step is to match and measure the degree of similarity between company components within your database. The most quickly realized benefit of this step is re- ducing promotional correspondence to a number that makes the most sense for your intended purpose. When the average piece of business mail costs two to three dollars to print, prepare, and post, the savings can add up quickly. ENHANCE YOUR CUSTOMER KNOWLEDGE Since you've come this far in straightening things up, why not use your customer database to store other important information about your clients? New fields and a wealth of information can be easily added to your data warehouse that can be effectively used by your sales and marketing folks. Consider demographically describing your customers and prospects by creating fields for information such as annual sales, number of employees, years in business, square foot- age of the plant, and any other pertinent fact about the client that is relevant to the type of business relationship you hope to establish or nurture. When you take the time to enhance your current customer data- base, you will then find it a snap to generate a list of qualified pros- pects that are, in essence, clones of your best customers. It is much easier and quicker to sell to prospects that look, sound, and act like your most loyal clientele. Here's a bonus tip: Create a column/field in your spreadsheet/ database near your clients/prospects' contact information named "Preferred method of communications." A pull-down menu con- taining voice call, text, email, snail mail, etc. is an easy option. Make it a habit to ask each person for their preference and make that the primary way to reach out to them. You'll be surprised at how few companies ask for this info of their customers and how much your clients will appreciate you for asking and abiding by their wishes. The last two steps are virtual no-brainers. After you've done your most grueling work on that database, standardize the way future en- tries are made to minimize the effort that will be needed next year. It is most appropriate here to establish a short, simple manual on how customer data is originated and maintained within your electronic files. Don't be afraid to be over-specific and nit-picky in your directions. Remember that this is your database on your most valuable asset: your customers. Treat it with respect, handle it with TLC, and don't be afraid to overdo it. Finally, you are ready to synchronize all the data about your custom- ers and prospects into one location. When you need to find some- thing, you don't want to waste time searching in a half dozen places it might be. Understandably, you may not want all your personnel to have access to all your customer information, but establishing se- lective access to only certain sections of your data warehouse (via passwords) is relatively easy to implement. NOW OR LATER? Are you now asking yourself if it's worth undertaking such a daunt- ing task? Consider what it would mean to your business if you could increase your profitability by a mere three percent. If you discipline your employees to keep your customer database error-free, a three percent addition to your bottom line is, conservatively, the return you can expect. It could mean having sufficient capital to invest in a needed piece of equipment now instead of in three years. Melco — August, 1989 continued from page 16 YOUR PERSONAL BUSINESS TRAINER th A N N I V E R S A R Y

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