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Here’s Why Data is Good for Your Business

Wondering how to re-energize customers who haven’t stopped by in a while? Start thinking of them not as customers, but as alumni.

According to Todd Walter, Scout Executive for the Central North Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America, reconnecting with former scouts is a key part of the organization’s marketing approach.

“The National Eagle Scout Association keeps a list of every Eagle scout from our council,” Walter explains. “Eight times per year, we send letters inviting them to participate in upcoming events and activities. We also maintain an alumni database, so we can reach out to as many former scouts as possible. They’re often eager to re-engage, even if they never advanced to Eagle.”

Storefront businesses can use similar methods to engage their “alumni.” All it takes to build a customer database is a willingness to ask buyers for contact information in the form of an email or mailing address.

But the potential of customer data isn’t limited to mailing lists, nor are databases full of names and addresses your final port of call. Customer data can deliver manifold benefits to your business, and beefed-up marketing is only the beginning.

Improve Efficiency

Business performance depends on several factors, and buying patterns are among the most significant. For example, many retailers capture sales data in their point-of-sale systems to monitor the buying patterns of customers listed in a database. They can use this data to distinguish between short- and long-term buying trends and gain a clear picture of who buys what and how often.

That’s how it works at Carolina Sports in Morehead City, North Carolina, where business owners rely on purchasing data to devise accurate projections for the company’s screen-printing, embroidery, and trophy sales. “Point-of-sale information helps us figure out what people are likely to buy,” explains Phil Panzarella, owner of Carolina Sports. “We use the data to stock only what’s necessary to meet demand,” he says.

Aligning inventory purchases with actual buying patterns affords tremendous gains in operational efficiency. For businesses like Carolina Sports, it’s the next best thing to predicting the future.

However, point-of-sale data isn’t the only way Carolina Sports acts on information provided by customers. Panzarella also pays attention to feedback people leave on the company Facebook page and considers that social network an important tool in his efforts to optimize another performance factor: the customer perception.

Enhance Perception

A customer’s perception of your business will influence her decision to purchase something, but how do you know what she thinks of you? Gauging customer perception can be difficult, if not impossible – unless you ask customers what they think, which is surprisingly easy to do!

One local business that actively monitors customer perception is Lee-Moore Insurance, an independent agency with offices in West End, Broadway, and Carrboro, North Carolina. According to Alex Maiolo, an agent at Lee-Moore, information about customer perception plays a significant role in the agency’s client interactions. “We actually combine direct feedback and buyer demographic information to tailor policies to the needs of our clients,” Maiolo says. “It’s about going the extra mile to link client perception to how we conduct ourselves.”

Of course, you don’t have to sell insurance policies to take advantage of customer feedback. Retailers, eateries, and professional service providers can ask customers to fill out surveys (“baiting” your customers with coupons can help here) or monitor customer reviews on websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon. This is becoming a big deal for restaurants, in particular. Candid reviews from customers can help you get a handle on things you can improve, not to mention capitalize on strengths to make an already brilliant experience even more illustrious.

Mobilize Your Alumni

As we’ve seen, customer data isn’t just another nebulous business concept of questionable value to your day-to-day operations. It’s a tool businesses all around you are using to fine-tune marketing efforts, boost efficiency, and provide better customer experiences.

And with so many others taking advantage of data to gain a competitive edge, there’s no time like the present to gather more information about your alumni. Start small by assembling a customer database. Then expand your data collection efforts to optimize every business process you can control.

It’s like Todd Walter tells it: “The more people the Boy Scouts engage, the greater our impact in the local community.” You can have a bigger impact, too. It all starts with getting to know your customers.

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