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Data Base Management Tips

The age of database information management is upon us. A company's in-hosue list is more valuable than any other form of advertising, public relations or direct mail. But... only if you manage your data to get the kind of informaton out of it that makes it possible for you to serve your customers and prospects well. Here are some tips from the U.S. Postal Service, which does an excelent job of helping their business customers with their postal needs.

11 Things You Should be Accomplishing With Your Database

Valuable Tips from the United States Postal Service

  1. Match products or services to customers' needs or wants. Your database should give you a picture of your customers' buying patterns (such as RFM). This can allow you to customize the offers for any Direct Mail campaign to maximize the increase in traffic and sales. After all, if you know that in April your customers prefer books on gardening, offer them a discount on those books to get them into the store. They are likely to spend much more on other categories.

  2. Help select new lists or media that fit the profiles of existing customers. Go searching for new customers armed with the knowledge of the profile of your current best customers. If your database reveals that your service appeals most to young families who have recently bought a home and have two children under age 10, ask for a list which is likely to contain more such families from your list broker. You will have the power of an already established, successful sales profile at work. Keep an eye on the Internet for new and emerging lists and use your Website to grow your database.

  3. Maximize personalization of communication and offers. It is long established that more personalized communication and customized offers increase response. Your database can help you to address your customers by name while offering them a discount on their favorite product or in a product category you know will be of interest.

  4. Provide ongoing interaction with your customers. Unfortunately, out of sight is often out of mind. Keep in touch with your customers with regular Direct Mail communication. Even if you are not offering them a coupon or discount or free trial, you are creating top-of-mind awareness that triggers consideration and builds loyalty.

  5. Pinpoint timing and frequency for promotions. Use your database to track the timing and frequency of promotions. Then, see who responds, and at what time of the year. You can spread offers out over a period of time to different people based on the buying or shopping patterns of your customers. Even more importantly, you can initiate a response to your competitor. Let's say your chief competitor has just launched a campaign to increase sales and traffic through discounting. Within days, you can respond with your own sale announcement delivered on postcards. Follow up with a more elaborate message if necessary.

  6. Measure response and be responsible for results. Direct marketing is unique in that it is measurable. Perhaps more than any other medium, Direct Mail can be evaluated for its impact on a specified goal. Of course, if you offer a coupon or discount, you can measure the response in terms of redemptions. The overall impact of a mailing can go far beyond that, however, as increased traffic and cross-selling can often add to the net effect.

    The experts emphasize that if results were not satisfactory, you should go back and distinguish what worked from what didn't. Was it the relevance of the product offered, or the amount of the offered discount, or the creative? Sometimes a less-than-successful mailing can generate important knowledge or mask the success of specific elements within it.

  7. Help create offers based on customer feedback. Enter customer requests and feedback into the database. As you test different offers, price points, promotions, etc., compare the responses to each to see if some pull much better than others. Listen to customer suggestions for future offers – they may make a lot of sense. Use those suggestions to interest suppliers in partnering on a co-op offer.

  8. Help establish your company's uniqueness. It is especially difficult to remain unique. Wonderful ideas are matched by competitors who also quickly realize when you are on to a good thing. But your ability to establish a unique promotion or offer that is just right for you and your customers can be generated out of an analysis of your database information. Retailers and catalogers have been able to establish sales events that are eagerly anticipated by customers. Older establishments may have held such sales long before they had a database – but now their effectiveness should be easy to confirm. Generating a list out of your database of interested, motivated customers with a history of responsiveness is not difficult to achieve. Don't forget to enter data from your Web site and include "e-shoppers" in your mailing.

  9. Help integrate Direct Mail with other forms of advertising. As part of an overall campaign, Direct Mail serves as a personalized, delivered-to-your-door business advertisement that can serve to supplement an important print or radio and television buy. It focuses the attention and awareness achieved by the "larger" campaign and brings it down to a localized level. Large, national brands can work with retailers to back up offers on a co-op basis. Direct Mail can be the exclamation point on a national marketing campaign.

  10. Demonstrate that your customers are valuable assets. You can use your database to establish "private" sales. Direct Mail is more discreet than other forms of advertising. Your competitor will certainly find out what you're doing, but not until the message is delivered. This can give you a clear competitive advantage.

    Your database is also the key to establishing a customer reward or sales incentive program. As any airline can tell you, reward programs certainly build brand loyalty.

  11. Show customers you care about their opinions. Conduct a customer satisfaction survey both in your store or through Direct Mail. It can be especially valuable if you hear from inactive customers. Then you can tailor an event to bring them back. In addition, you may use your database as an asset in a more direct way. You can rent it to others. As mentioned, 47% of the companies in America lease their lists. You can set limits on what information will be made available to others, and it can be a source of revenue.

Did You Know?
Many companies keep multiple databases and integrate the information in a number of ways. It is always a good idea to get names, addresses and all the pertinent information into your computer. Remember: once a recipient responds, you have the right to enter that name into your database.

These tips were reprinted from the "Direct Mail By The Numbers" guide with permission from the United States Postal Service. For more information, please visit www.usps.com/directmail/dmguide/.