Most people’s eyes glaze over when you start talking about data.
Especially on a night out with your friends; it’s a great way to ruin an evening.
Data is a funny thing, but not on a night out.
Every marketing person knows they need it.
They need the information that comes from gathering and sorting data.
They use this information to make critical strategic decisions.
And, they will use their database, the software that holds their data for email, telephone marketing, direct mail, market research and a host of other sales-related tasks.
It’s this sort of data I want to talk about in this post – the kind that’s vital for building sales.
Data is the foundation of sales
Many years ago, in my first job as a very rookie exhibition organiser, I learned about the importance of data.
It was also the first time I heard the word database.
By the way, when I said I was a rookie exhibition organiser, actually I was a very, very junior salesperson in an excellent exhibition organising company.
It took me three years before I could honestly say that I knew the fundamentals of organising an event.
More importantly, it was three years before the company I worked for would allow me to do any real organising work.
Quite right too.
But back to data.
The business I worked for back then was called Clapp & Poliak.
C&P, as we called the firm, were excellent at delivering big audiences to the exhibitions they organised.
They were so good at this that any show they launched or managed very quickly became the market-leading event.
Why was that?
It’s all about the audience
The audience (as I heard many, many times) was the product we sold.
Not the stands. Not the signage. None of those things counted a jot if we didn’t deliver the audience.
And C&P invested substantial amounts of time and money in delivering the best possible audiences to their shows.
Vast amounts of research were conducted and not just during the exhibitions.
There was plenty of fact-finding before an event, during and after it had taken place.
All of this work played a huge part in delivering high-quality attendances in large numbers.
About the “other” database
Each salesperson in the business had a sales database.
This list consisted of exhibitor sales contacts, and it was their responsibility to manage its development.
It was a list like this that I relied on to generate new enquiries and ultimately, new sales.
The quality of the data within that list was therefore critical to my sales success.
Now you have to understand that back then we were living and working in the pre-email age.
We were working in the age of direct mail and telesales for B2B sales generation.
There were no websites, blog posts or landing pages.
Digital for us meant watches.
Weak quality data in the prospect list meant high numbers of returned envelopes, plus money wasted on postage and printing costs.
Worse than that, I wasn’t reaching as many prospective clients as I could if the information in the database was up to date and accurate.
The list I inherited had nearly 5000 contacts within it.
By the time I had edited out the duplications, it had reduced by nearly 1000 contacts.
Over many months, I filled-in hundreds of incomplete addresses.
Every time a new mailshot went out to my list the non-delivery rate dropped, the response rate rose, and I made more sales.
Chunking the list enabled more targeted messages
I also started to mail and call smaller sections of the list. These were people and companies in the same field as each other.
We called it vertical marketing. Others call it sector-focused or segmented marketing.
The critical thing to note was that it was and still is, a very successful way to build sales.
Bear in mind that we had no computers, so all of the sorting mentioned above was done manually.
Training and learning about data management and direct marketing in such a crude form proved invaluable in every role I’ve worked in since.
Data dagnabbit! It’s always on the move…
The thing about data is that it changes pretty much all of the time.
You can never sit back and think “ah, my database is complete and totally up to date.”
You might achieve that for one day, maybe for a few hours but then someone leaves the firm they’ve worked at for years, or they get promoted, or they start a business of their own, and your list is out of date again.
As I mentioned earlier, when I first started working with data, it was a long and laborious process to make changes and monitor who was on the list.
Today’s the possibilities open to even small businesses via the CRM systems that have evolved are huge. And that’s not just concerning better-targeted email shots either.
The data within your business can help you pinpoint the ideal people to target.
You can build client profiles and track the depth of your contacts around relevant client businesses and prospective ones too.
You can quickly work out average sales values, or monitor the yield you generate from individual marketing activities. All of this helps to improve email response rates.
And, by systematically improving one or more of your direct marketing components, you can massively increase sales.
Those components are your list, your copy and the creative.
Data management, by the way, is a lot more than just list building and filling in missing fields.
It’s about fine-tuning the engine of your business.
If you would like a risk-free discussion about improving direct marketing or data within your business, email firstname.lastname@example.org