We hope you are enjoying our weekly posts with Donna Fenn. Last week, Donna chatted with successful entrepreneurs on how they find and reward their best customers. This week, Donna had the chance to speak with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, provider of email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Janine shares her views on how to wisely manage and leverage customer databases.
Janet – @jzablock
Your customers are your company’s lifeblood, so you need to nurture them as you would any other precious asset. Like a well-tended garden or a finely tuned luxury car, customers who feel cared for will typically return the favor. That’s why it’s so important to manage and leverage your customer database wisely. For some sage advice on the subject, we chatted with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, which provides email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Here are her five tips for making the most of your customer database.
Consolidate your data. Where do you keep your customer data? Popick asked her own customers that question and found that a “scary number of people” managed their customers right on the VerticalResponse site. That’s not the best idea, she says. These days, there are plenty of companies with CRM (customer relationship management) software that caters to small companies. Some of her favorites: ACT!, Salesforce, Highrise, and Zoho. “Every time you get a sale or a lead from an event, it should always go into a central repository,” says Popick.
Put your customer in the driver’s seat. Make note of where your customers and prospects prefer to communicate. Have they contacted you on LinkedIn or liked your Facebook page? Engage with them there instead of via email unless they offer that up as a means of communication. It’s fine to email the folks whose business cards you collect at events and conferences, but make sure you allow them to opt in to your subscriber list. “It’s more work,” says Popick, “but you’ll have happier subscribers.”
Segment your list. “It’s really important for business to look at what’s going on with customers and target messages accordingly,” says Popick. Keep track of those who have purchased within the last six months. They should receive a different message (“we appreciate your business”) than those who you’re trying to win back (“we miss you”). Target your message even more narrowly – say, a special offer to customers who like a particular brand – and you’ll get far better responses. . Remember that every email you send should inspire action, whether it’s printing a coupon, clicking on a link to great content, or responding to a special offer.
Be mobile friendly. According to Pew Internet, 91% of Americans now have cell phones and 50% are using them to check email. So your emails should have fewer images and include text that’s short, to the point, and bulleted. Your goal should be to get them off the email and on to your website (which had also better be mobile friendly!). And make sure your subject lines and their first five lines of your email capture attention.
Be consistent. Popick says that VerticalResponse’s most successful clients email their customers on a regular basis. “Lots of them email every two weeks,” she says. Again, if your emails consistently offer value, your customers are far less likely to hit the delete button. Your goal: to get a good 40% of them in the habit of opening and clicking – maybe even with a smile.
Above all, says Popick, never “spray and pray.” Emails sent to the masses with no clear objective or value proposition are about as appealing as a robocall. Be strategic, targeted, and as personal as possible, and your efforts will pay off.
Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.
Brenner, Joanna. Pew Internet Commentary: Mobile. Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 6, 2013,
accessed on July 21
Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 23, 2013 at 9:27 am