Driving Your Marketing Campaign with Simple Databases
I always believe that business can't operate very long without organized or structured data of some kind.
You have these forms of data accumulating somehow in some point of your existence. The important thing is to recognize these forms of data and identify which ones are relevant to your operation and your future plans.
The data that will most likely be critical to you are those that tell you about the status of your revenue, the nature, rate and volume of your costs, and the profile of your customers.
If you are most enterprises, the last one will most likely not exist in your business. You might think you have it. Do check this out? You will most likely not have this data in a readily accessible and usable form.
Years and years ago, I use to work for a company that is into retailing of microcomputers and just about anything you can attach to it. I had zero budget for any campaign. I did have a team of ladies, however, in my telemarketing doing calls everyday just to sell supplies or what we categorically refer to as consumables.
These telemarketing ladies have a list of all purchasing officers or anyone who had authority to order supplies for their respective companies. The list was either a print out or an index card with a company name, purchasing officer's name and several phone numbers.
Each of the telemarketers kept their own list. You had to literally write on the list or cards to update it. If you filled up a card with scribbling, you were to get another one and staple it to the old card.
If it was the 1970s, a system like that would be considered efficient. I was working in the PC age in 1995. The system was not just cumbersome it was downright amusing watching the ladies update "their database".
One of the product brands (among more than 50) I managed was Microsoft Windows 95© at a time when 99.99% of Microsoft DOS© installations were pirated. Nobody believed in buying original software then. A law was just passed rendering stiffer penalties for piracy.
I have decided that a mail campaign was the most effective tool to use in creating demand for original software. The amount of material that the Business Software Alliance was sending on a regular basis proved to be good arsenal for the campaign. The only hitch was you have to pay the post office for every mail that is delivered.
Finance was very supportive as long as they don't give you cash. It gave me a whole new perspective what Finance was really all about. All they suggested was: "Go use the delivery trucks. They always go out on schedule".
After that, I got encouraging words like, "Don't dare divert the routes because we'll take that out of your supplies budget". I was pretty much left to device a no-brainer no-cost mail campaign.
To jumpstart the campaign, I have to get a list of targets. The list from the telemarketers was the only obvious choice. I still need to organize it in some way and then store it as an electronic file.
I decided to create a new format in Microsoft Excel© since most of the files like price list, product brands, and parts inventory were already in Microsoft Excel©, most of the administrative staff were already using it in some way. I requested the supervisor to put all their lists in Microsoft Excel© based on the available data from their cards.
Not all telemarketers were very good in Microsoft Excel© since nobody wanted to master it. There was really no need to do so since historically telemarketers never get to stay more than five months.
I had to design a crash course in Microsoft Excel© and Microsoft Word©. I was able to design a tailored training that needed only eight hours to complete. The actual data from the telemarketers were use to rapidly build data while still in training.
There was a lot of grumbling and visible resistance from the telemarketers. Getting them off the phone for a day for training naturally means they won't have sales for a day.
The real consolation was the personal directive that was given to all telemarketers by the president. Every one with direct contact with Customers by phone or over the counter must have training. The list in Microsoft Excel© although very crude at first finally got its first edition submitted in a single spreadsheet file.
So I thought about what I can do with the list in Microsoft Excel©. There was a slight problem with the distribution aspect of the mailers. I had to work out a schedule that synchronizes with the daily route of the delivery vans. The vans were assigned according to cities.
The Microsoft Excel© data must be able to sort itself not only according to cities but also according to streets right down to the building and floor. It was the only effective and efficient way to sort the mailers after they were printed and packed.
The problem with this realization was that I will be put in a situation where I may have to ask the telemarketers again to enter their data in another way. They now have to break up the addresses to specific cities, streets and buildings.
I drafted a letter in Microsoft Word© and use its "Merge" feature. By the way, if you do a little experimentation, you will find out that you can link your Microsoft Excel© data to your Microsoft Word© Merge Letter.
I just "linked" the existing spreadsheet data with my letter and I have hundreds of letters with each letter "personalized" to a specific customer right down to their nicknames and the exact product or service we were providing them.
The mailing labels were "no-sweat" since most word-processors like Microsoft Word© already have built-in label forms in popular sizes.
I only needed to be able to sort the data according to building, street and city. So I suggested my own spreadsheet template or form for telemarketers to fill up every time they get new information from customers. It was not really a problem since each telemarketer had her own workstation.
By using the spreadsheet I was able to sort the names of the customers according to the street and city, and then generate a mailing list. You can now sort out the mailers according to this mailing list and pack them accordingly for delivery.
Now all I have to do was talk to the Supervisor in charge of scheduling the deliveries. The supervisor knew the exact streets and city they will be going through. They normally have the schedule before five in the afternoon every day.
By knowing the exact building, street and city, I can actually sort my mailers according to the schedule and routes of the delivery truck. I simply asked the delivery assistants to pass by my cubicle and pick up the mailers for the day.
After a few weeks, I was able to work out the other details I can add to the spreadsheet customer list. I was now able to enter in the remarks column that this customer is just a supplies customer, this is an inkjet customer, and that a simple form ply paper customer. The unexpected benefit of this data is we can also put in the index column, when is the best time to call a customer.
We were now able to schedule our telemarketing activities according to the expected time supplies of customers start running out. Two or three days of the expected need, telemarketers are hot on the phones calling these customers.
We were able to level off inventory because of the predictable cycle of the need. We were always calling at the right moment.
My simple spreadsheet evolve into a more useful set of data we can safely call a database. This demonstrates how a little effort to record or document simple information about customers turn into an unexpected tactic for getting the customer at the right moment, and grudgingly without additional cost.
The really good thing about the experience is now the president of the company was suddenly supportive of what we were doing. Telemarketers were no longer complaining if we request assistance for data gathering campaigns in preparing for a product launch or for a market study.
Telemarketers knew that they will eventually benefit from the ideas we churn out. Telemarketers were earning from commissions from sales so they have every reason to support our efforts.
The other use I got with the database we have is as a negotiating tool with OEM distributors. While most of the computer retailers can say they have lots of customers, I can actually sight the exact number of customer we have who are regular customers and who are intermittent customers right down to what industry.
I can wave around pie charts of how many customers where in the financial services, manufacturing, shipping, education, government, and if you ask me more I can tell you how many are CEOs and how many are CFOs.
It does wonders especially if you are trying to entice OEM distributors to get your company to launch certain top of the line products every year and every quarter. It's a great boost to image. You can always let your OEM partner foot the bill if you can back up your market or customer profile with numbers and charts.
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