Excerpted from Homemade For Sale by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko
Every business must both attract customers and retain customers. Once you have customers, maintaining records about them can help you sustain and grow your enterprise. From tracking your customer orders and preferences to capturing useful information like birth dates and anniversaries for relationship-building marketing efforts, your customer database serves as the fuel to propel your business. Without customers, you won’t be in business for long.
Keeping written records of important customer details in a notebook or on index cards has increasingly given way to various computer or electronic-based programs or systems. Among the simplest is a spreadsheet, like Microsoft’s Excel program, where you can list contact information, orders, anniversary dates, customer referrals, frequency of orders and product preferences, among other details.
While it used to be very expensive to take it up a notch with a custom-designed customer database
that could be linked to direct marketing efforts as well as invoicing and bookkeeping functions, there are now numerous, lowcost e-mail marketing services available that may work well for your purposes, both for e-mail marketing and as a customer database. Among these are Emma, Constant Contact and MailChimp, covered in the previous chapter.
Some computer operating systems, like Apple’s Mail program included in their OS X for a MacBook Pro, include a basic database program sophisticated enough that you can record contact details, key order information and customer likes and dislikes, plus send out e-mail newsletters. Apple’s Mail program comes with a few sample newsletter templates that you can easily customize with your photos; additional templates can be purchased. You may be limited by your hosting service or local Internet service provider, however, in terms of how many e-mails can be sent out at one time; it’s their strategy to deter spamming.
For example, we can only send out batches of 100 e-mailed newsletters at a time. In today’s world of identity theft and privacy concerns, be attuned to your customers’ requests and make sure the data you collect is secure. Keeping credit cards numbers or check information on file electronically seems to be a disaster waiting to happen. And avoid selling your customer information to any third party, since you run the risk of violating your customers’ trust in you and your business.
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This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Homemade For Sale by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko and published by New Society, 2015.