Many small businesses attracted by Social Media, forget to define their digital marketing strategy basics. Often, they venture into Facebook activities without  tuning processes to systematically build a profiled and segmented customer database from their employee daily direct contacts with prospects. Defining and creating your own database is an apparently easy exercise, but it forces discipline into think and improve your current assumptions about your market segmentation and your targeting. Designing the database is also best for refining the value proposition of your offer (content strategy) and how to attracts  your next prospects. Before opening your Facebook comopany page on the wave of enthusiasm, it’s best to know who you want and to start from who already engaged with you.

No discussion that socials change the way the company engage customers: direct feedback, active participation and access to “peers” mediated by the brand. Its opportunities, however, must be integrated in traditional marketing process: segments, priorities, value proposition and contact database. This is not an option: we must learn to walk before we must learn to run. Though this seems trivial, I often meet small business owners   who did not explicitly share their contact strategy with all employees giving each of them objectives to gather prospects and progressive profile customers  (ie. enriching key contact information) during each contact. This because the task it’s often perceived to be a sale taks and because often the owners is the head of sales. reality is that each person, from the one answering phone calls for information to the one doing post sales and invoicing are really company stakeholders to maintain the company wealth: customer databases.  Not all are suited for a CRM, but basic practices and shared excels or google docs are available to everyone. 

What are the operational tactics you could use to build the database? Whethere you’re B2B or B2C, these simple but effective channels in the physical world are still key:

    • Phone calls to the company: any employee answering a question over the phone, for any reason, should be isntructed to check if this is an existing customer or a new prospect, and if so, he should have a way to lock down name and basic info to enrich the company database.
    • Company website – use the website to collect email addresses. Promote your newsletter in your website: add a subscription form on every company website page and make it faster and easier to compile with really basic info. Leave the details for segmentation in successive customer contacts (progressive profiling).
    • Email lists – use current e-mail lists to build the first database. Think of an interesting offer (such as “present-a-friend“) that can stimulate viral actions from customers and business partners.
    • Contests & Promotions – Record participants, also to initiatives of charity and promise to announce the winner through the next ‘Newsletter’, to increase the volunteer donor contacts.
    • In-store sign-up – ask people to be added to the email list in exchange for sales alerts, promotions and events (B2C).
    • Coupons and discounts – Offer special incentives for e-mail addresses to those who let you send them offers.
    • Business Cards – collect all cards contacts from employee and promote on your own business cards the opportunity to receive informative e-mails.
    • Fairs – offer material (collaterals) in exchange of contacts.
    • Seminars – hold seminars on your area of expertise (content marketing) to promote the subscription for future seminars, discounts and other ‘content’ communication.
    • Social Media – Use social sites (Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin) to direct customers to the company website where you fill in the subscription form. Then frequently post new links on Facebook. Occasionally, post a link to subscribe to the newsletter or service.

Whatever path you choose to take, remember, you should always build your own opt-in list from scratch and never buy or rent a list from an external source. This will lead to headaches down the road that will cost time and money.

What are the most effective techniques to collect contacts online ? What works best to profile customers and verify their potential? The attached infographic (click in to zoom), produced by PadiAct, shows the most used tactics, collecting measures across the 10 top sites of the fashion retail industry and how they encourage potential visitors to be converted into contacts. The main method for gathering new names is by far subscribing to a dedicated newsletter. Typically, the subscription is triggered by the content value proposition (60% of cases), with discounts (20% of cases) or with the presentation of the benefits expected from the newsletter (new product info, access to promotions, analysis of the latest market trends). The second most effective methods is offer B2C promotions of three  pure product discounts (not desirable), product vouchers to be redeemed (most effective) or free delivery on bought items (i.e. don’t discount the product to keeping a value attitute towards the brand). The info graphic also shows that best method to to collect mails is a dedicated form, whose fields are used to profile the new contacts and understand which segments they belong to for further personalized communications.It also shows that the more complex the registration form is, the more users are discouraged to subscribe.: 56% of forms use only three qualification fields  leaving further info to a next  campaign just for contact qualification. Another effective tool is to place a call-to-action in whitepapers or content: having an action significantly improves the interest to the news and fidelity to content. Another interesting stats is to see which collected data are really used afterwords to customize communications to prospects: half of retailers customizes the name, while generally only 25% use specific information such as address (geolocation for store), interests, birthday dates oroccasions and gender (male/female).

Published by Carlo Arioli