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Retain loyal customers? Better find them first!

Excellent business operators collect names, titles, addresses – all sorts of data on customers and prospects. Collect information on just 10 buyers a day and, by the end of a year, you have thousands of potential buyers and repeat buyers on your list.

But after a year or two, it’s time to audit all that information. How are you storing it? What are you doing with it? Is it being used in a way that will best help you grow your business?
The short answer to questions like these is simple: You and your employees need to collect the data and, for a time, you can even use it effectively in making small postal and email promotional contacts. Small amounts of data can be stored effectively in an MS Word, Access or Excel format, then easily organized and extracted for use.

Warning: That information can go stale in a hurry. You might want to consider partnering with a professional to more effectively store, extract and most importantly UPDATE your contact database.

Let’s take a closer look at the “updating” component of your data practice.

Suppose you are a mid-sized company and, over the course of the last five years, you’ve religiously collected data and supplemented it by purchasing brokered or online lists. You might have, for the sake of simple mathematical calculation, 10,000 names or “records.”

Interrupt the thought here with a simple question: How often have you and your family moved in your adult lifetime? Your lovebird apartment made way for a starter home, a second house when the kids started school, a third when the company transferred you, and now you’re living in the house of your dreams. Not an untypical story.

In fact, the typical American moves, on average, at least once every seven years.

Doesn’t sound too alarming, but consider the impact on your contact database. At the end of 12 months, chances are that more than 1,400 of your target audience has moved; if they’ve properly filed a change of address with the post office, that means they’ll get your post card about next week’s big sale …. well, sometime next week, if you’re lucky.

After two years, nearly one-third of your physical addresses are toast. Worse, the USPS quit forwarding to the first 1,400 movers a year ago. And you can find yourself with huge postage bills and personnel headaches trying to keep up with all the forwarding and manual updates.

After five years, it’s likely your list of prospects and customers has, largely, moved on down the road … and you’re potentially wasting thousands of dollars each year on prospect you never reach.

Email- and phone-based marketing may be a little better: People tend to hold on to these identities a little longer …. unless they’ve lost their job and moved off the ex-boss’ email server and relinquished the company cell phone.

Tools like CASS certification, PAVE and NCOA registry can help keep physical addresses updated (“Bulk Mailer” from Satori Software is among a variety of inexpensive and commonly used tools that can help). List and website professionals can keep new blood flowing into your data relatively inexpensively.

The problem is there, even if you don’t recognize it. Chances are it’s festering just beneath the surface. After all, you can’t take steps to rectify a problem if you don’t know it exists.

And you can’t sell to a customer you can’t find.