The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a CRM

Long gone are the days when we turn to the Rolodex and overstuffed file folders to brief us on customer data. In today’s digitally driven business world, companies are bidding farewell to paper pushing and streamlining data availability in the form of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions.

A CRM is a powerful software that, when utilized correctly, delivers improvements to every department in your company that’s using it. But be warned: not all CRMs are created equal. If you choose the right one, your job just got a whole lot easier. But choose the wrong one, and it could cost you more than just the monthly subscription price.

I. What Exactly is a CRM?

Imagine taking every cell of customer-related data, such as sales history, phone logs, revenue stream, sales leads, email records, contracts, and inquiries, and condensing it all into a single beehive of information: That’s the function of a CRM. It is power and versatility that, until the past few years, no single piece of software could deliver.

CRMs have evolved from customer interaction management software to a fully stocked sales, marketing, and customer service toolbox. CRM Developers heard the plights and pleas about manual entry and inefficiency, and have cast their lifelines to those drowning in data overload and miscommunication. The result? CRMs facilitate the needs of sales professionals, customer service reps, marketing strategists, and other need-to-know employees all in one central platform.

Why You Need a CRM

Truth be told, not every business needs a CRM. But if your business caters to long term clients moreso than one-off sales, you have multiple employees who need to access the same information, you want to measure metrics, or your memory of every customer interaction isn’t 100% accurate, then a CRM makes sense.

Think of a CRM as an official historical archive for every customer. You can log critical pieces of customer data into your CRM for easier locating in the future, look back on past conversations, issues, and inquiries, and even reignite abandoned opportunities . By stockpiling data into a single source, you can easily generate metrics to check your performance, and leverage that information to develop strategies.

The reasons to integrate a CRM  to your workflow are as varied as the companies using them, but overall you can expect the same benefits:

  • Enhanced Customer Service
  • Drive Higher Conversions
  • Strengthen the Sales Process
  • Improve Internal Communication
  • Develop Strong, Accurate Metrics

One solution caters to the needs of multiple departments within a company, which means sharing information internally has never been easier. There’s no switching back and forth between various programs and keeping them synchronized, and there’s less risk of important items falling through the cracks. In turn, your employees boost their productivity and efficiency, and can spend more time being engaged in their role and less time chasing details and waiting for answers.

II. How to Choose the Right CRM

If you are just starting the search for a CRM, or if you have found your current CRM is no longer keeping pace with your business needs, you’ve got your work cut out for you: CRM shopping isn’t a cut and dry experience. With hundreds of CRM solutions on the market, choosing the right one can feel like a blind shot.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, despite the intense popularity of some of the CRMs out there. It all comes down to your company’s goals when using a CRM, and how those goals can integrate with the solutions a CRM provides. Ask yourself: What do I want my CRM to do for me?

  • Track the sales process for every lead?
  • Share data throughout the company quickly and easily?
  • Increase employee productivity and efficiency?
  • Gauge customer interaction?
  • Strengthen relationships with customers?
  • Provide a single tool that every department can share?

What To Look For

Once you establish solid goals, it’s time to start shopping. Granted, there are hundreds of possible CRMs to choose from, some geared strictly toward sales, others facilitating customer service functions, and some that pull the two together. Recognizing who exactly will be using the CRM can help narrow the field.

Once you stumble upon a few potentials, take them for a test drive. Involve a few employees who will be using the CRM regularly and get their feedback. Import a few pieces of customer data to get a real experience, and jot notes and questions along the way. The key here is to find a solution that your company will actually use, not another piece of software taking up hard drive space.

A few things to consider:

Remote Access: Will your sales people need to access data when they aren’t at their desks? If not right now, will this need arise in the foreseeable future? Mobile usage for just about anything continues to increase, and that could include the need for info on the go.

Security: Does the CRM give you a dedicated server option, or do you have to use a shared server? Dedicated servers can be more secure, since it gives you autonomy on how it’s maintained.

Customization: How easy is the CRM to customize to fit your specific needs? Does the CRM provide enough customization options, now and in the foreseeable future?

Integrations: What other programs are you using (MailChimp, Zapier, Shopify, etc) that will integrate with the CRM? Do these programs need to be integrated?

Ease of Use: Will your employees pick up on processes easily, or will they be watching tutorials every day for the first few months? Every new program takes some time to learn, but the easier and more intuitive the program, the sooner you can start to benefit.

Data Transfer: How can I load my existing data into the CRM? Some CRM companies offer data transporting services, especially if you are upgrading to a newer version of the same CRM. You might also want to ensure you can import and export CSV files.

What To Avoid

CRMs aren’t exactly cheap, and can sometimes end up complicating simple jobs and making your task force less productive. So how can you avoid complete CRM failure? Here’s what to avoid:

Click-heavy navigation. A direct route is usually the quickest, so if your CRM takes too many click through’s to find what you’re looking for, it’s probably costing you in productivity. Remember, CRMs are supposed to make work easier and more efficient. Keep it simple.

Feature-heavy fallout. With encroaching competition at every corner of the CRM marketplace, developers are transforming CRMs into feature-rich machines to stay ahead. But don’t assume those extra features have any merit in your business. If you fall in love with features that can’t benefit you, you’ll soon be breaking up with your CRM.

In-the-moment decisions. Business needs are bound to change as you grow (you do want to grow, right?), so don’t base all your CRM decisions on here-and-now situations. Be as forward thinking as possible before you commit to a CRM to avoid costly upgrades later.

 

Bottom line, finding a CRM isn’t an overnight success story. There’s plenty of groundwork to lay first, and even more details to build upon. But all that work is useless if your final decision is one that doesn’t fit your company’s needs. This is one instance where doing your research pays off big, so take your time and don’t settle for anything less than exactly what you need.

Customer Data Privacy, Explained

Never has it been any easier to glean bits and pieces of information than right now in our data-driven society. These days, the Internet is our virtual library of practically anything we’d ever want to know, including personal details we might not be aware have been made widespread.

But while it seems privacy has taken the road less traveled in our digital-driven era, it hasn’t left the trail completely. And it’s up to you to keep your customers’ sensitive information shaded from the public eye.

I. Protection Requires Pro-Action

Adding security measures to protect sensitive information isn’t a start-to-finish process: it’s an ever-changing rotating cycle that is never fully complete. As technology advances, so do security necessities, and at an alarming rate of advancement, it’s proving more and more challenging to keep pace with the ill intentions of data thieves. The key is to get one step ahead, and then continue to gain distance.

Keeping Hackers At Bay

Technology gurus continue to keep the digital security game strong, but hackers refuse to rest on the sidelines. Even some of the most trusted e-commerce brands, like Amazon and Etsy, have fallen victim to recent cyber crimes. Security is an ever-evolving entity that should be continually updated and integrated with every piece of your digital worksphere.

Hopefully, you will never experience the misfortune of a detrimental cyber attack. Your entire reputation is on the line, and if you don’t execute a resolution with well thought out precision, it could cost you dearly. However, there are some measures you can put into place to make the cyber crime possibility pool a little more shallow:

Use dedicated servers for all your data. Yes, it’s more expensive, but relying on shared servers leaves gaps in defense if another site on the server has neglected its security.

Encrypt all data. Think of data encryption as a secret “digi-speak” language that only the computer can translate.

Use malware monitoring. Chances are, you might not even know about a breach until well after the fact. A malware monitoring service can alert you if someone has planted harmful codes in your website, and will also protect you and customers from malware if they visit your site.

Establish an emergency plan. Cyber attacks can happen anytime, and while you certainly don’t want to be on the receiving end of one, you should be prepared in case disaster strikes. Figure out how you plan to notify your customers about any compromises in security; designate someone to handle media inquiries; make sure your IT people know what to do to get you safely up and running again.

Fending Off Internal Predators

If you think your customers’ data is impervious to attacks from within your organization, think again. The sad reality is your customers’ data is just as susceptible to internal abuse as it is to external security breaches. The worst part? Internal data breaches can easily go undetected. You can, however, avoid as much data damage as possible with these best practices:

Train employees on what they can (and can’t) disclose. Sometimes, employees share details with customers or other employees that may seem harmless at the time, but can actually create a negative company image. Educating your employees on what they should – and shouldn’t – talk about in certain instances can help prevent an unintentional data breach.

There is a plan like this in practice in every medical establishment in the country, referred to as HIPAA. You can establish your own information disclosure plan that outlines for your employees the types of information it’s okay to divulge, and what information needs to stay under wraps.

Limit Data Access. You should prevent employees from accessing data they do not need in order to do their job. Keep data access on a need-to-know basis to reduce your chance of internal thievery.

Introduce a non-disclosure agreement. When an employee severs ties with your company, you rightfully have an expectation that they will not disclose business secrets to persons outside yourcompany walls. Enter the non-disclosure agreement. This legally binding document sets forth yourexpectations that all employees will keep mum on what they encounter on the job.

II. Up Your Trust Factor

Earning your customer’s trust in the first place is hard enough without having to worry about maintaining it. But there are some actions you can take to make your company appear more favorable in the scrutinizing eyes of security conscious consumers.

Create a privacy policy, and make it simple. This isn’t like the miles long Terms & Conditions agreement that customers never read but must agree to before doing business with you. It can simply be a paragraph or two about the measures you take to keep their data safe, like encryption software or the fact that you will never sell their information. Depending on your communication methods with yourcustomers, you could provide them with a hard copy or printable copy of your privacy practices. You should also post your privacy policy on your website, if you have one.

Make the Opt-Out process painless. No one wants their precision-crafted emails to end up in the Junk Mail folder, and for good reason: It hurts your reputation as the sender, and almost 100% ensures your recipient will never see it. But you can bet that if you are sending emails to someone who doesn’t welcome them, that’s exactly where your emails are going – Spam.

While it might sting a little to know a customer or prospect simply isn’t interested, it’s best to make the breakup process quick and painless. Give them an easy way to change the communication frequency – or let them opt out all together – while emphasizing that opting out will not result in any form of retaliation, like selling their information.

Oftentimes, unsubscribing from spam emails can result in (you guessed it) more spam, which defeats the purpose of opting out. Reassure your customers that you loathe spam as much as they do, which is why you won’t harbor any hard feelings if they decide to part ways with your email campaigns.

Inject a little light humor about your privacy practices. Privacy is a serious matter, but that doesn’t mean you have to go the dry and dull route to get your message across. If you want to earn yourcustomer’s trust, getting them to like you is crucial. And it’s hard not to like someone who has made you smile.

Instead of the mundane “We do not allow third parties to solicit for your information” or “We promise never to sell or distribute your personal information”, drop the legalese and make your message pop: “Here’s the deal: You wouldn’t sell our information, so we won’t sell yours. Sound good? Good. (But even if you do sell ours, we still won’t sell yours. And that’s a promise.)”

Be honest. Maybe you share some of the data you collect with other sources. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you let your customers know someone else is keeping tabs on them. This isn’t just ethical business practice – it’s actually the law. If your customer’s information is flowing down a data stream other than your own, they have a right to know about it, and it’s up to you to tell them. If you don’t, you may find yourself up the Bad Reputation creek without a paddle.

Don’t slip in the details with lengthy explanations about your terms and conditions, hoping the reader will gloss over it entirely. The more transparent you are in explaining how exactly their information is used, the more, the more trust you stand to gain.

Understanding Customer Data Modeling

Understanding Customer Data Modeling

Whoever said “Ignorance is bliss” probably wasn’t standing at the helm of a business empire and responsible for revenue growth. Sure, there are things in life we’re better off not knowing, but the ticks and tangles that influence buyers’ decisions to do business with us isn’t one of them.

With ever-encroaching competition, it’s more important than ever to learn what turns candidates into customers, and then leverage that intellect for higher conversions. And that’s exactly the cue taken by Customer Data Modeling.

I. What You Need to Understand About Customer Data Modeling

The name itself sounds complicated and intimidating, but don’t let what you don’t understand scare you. Customer Data Modeling is actually a useful tool that, when analyzed correctly, provides fundamental particulars about your customers that might otherwise be overlooked.

If you’ve been in business long, then you know the importance of maintaining “rigid flexibility.” That is, you know the end result you want, but you may have to adjust your plans on how to get there. Customer Data Modeling gives you clear visual representation of pertinent information about your customer base that you can use to redirect your marketing efforts to reach your goals.

What You Can Learn From Customer Data Models

You’ve got mounds of valuable insights sitting in front of you already: your CRM, testimonials, surveys, referrals, loyalty programs, email analytics, and so on. But if you don’t take the time to sculpt that information into something useful, you’re selling yourself short of golden opportunities to engage with your customers and discover how you can make your products more relevant to them.

Your data collections can tell you where your business is coming from, who your best customers are, which products and services are generating the most revenue, and how much churn to expect in a given year. But through combing several pieces of information into a model and seeing how they relate to each other, you can make sharper connections and bolder predictions to build a healthier bottom line.

II. How to Construct Customer Data Models

There are countless ways to model customer data and transform it into something of value. Data is everywhere these days, but given its size and continual growth, you can’t rely on insight to simply happen. Oftentimes we become so involved seeking gems in the data mine we neglect to chisel those gems into usable insight.

Ask any market research expert, and they’ll preach about the importance of using frameworks to sift through the noise and hone conclusions based solely on what’s relevant. Frameworks provide a sound foundation to construct your data models, but also provide boundaries to prevent data overload from spiraling out of control. Let’s take a look at some examples:

SWOT-TOWS Analysis

A classic framework used by market researchers, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Using this simple framework gives you specific targets to look for in your customer data repository: Discover what customers like about you, what they don’t like, what they want that you can potentially provide, and what might prevent you from providing it.

TOWS, on the other hand, combines two of the elements from SWOT to help develop a more distinguished strategy. Ask yourself:

  • How can my strengths help me to capitalize on my opportunities?
  • How do my weaknesses prevent me from cashing in on my opportunities?
  • How can my strengths negate my threats?
  • How do my threats and weaknesses combine to limit my potential?

Scenario Planning

When George Santayana said, “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it,” he probably wasn’t talking about a sales environment, but the shoe fits. Every interaction you have with  a prospect is unique – and ultimately should be treated as such – but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter similar situations in the sales cycle.

Scenario planning helps you predict customer behavior in future interactions. Make sure you document any and all information regarding the sales cycle for every prospect. Learn what challenges the salesperson encountered, and how they overcame those challenges. Specify how the prospect learned about your company, what piqued their interest, how they first contacted you, what questions they asked, what makes them need your product, and any other information that may rear its head in a future situation. Most importantly, establish a way to make this information available to anyone who needs it, and make it easily searchable.

Word Clouds

Easier to create than a complex framework, a word cloud is a visual representation of words or phrases of varying sizes grouped together, where larger words are the ones used more frequently. When using a word cloud to model customer data, you can visualize words and phrases customers use to describe an aspect of your business, keywords used to search for your product online, or customers’ potential grievances with your product. From there, you can easily apply this knowledge to one of the previously mentioned frameworks, or develop your own strategy.

If you’re in a time crunch, or you are artistically challenged, this free tool will generate a word cloud for you.

Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a unique set of information that places you at the customer’s eye level throughout the buying cycle. Using buyer personas helps  you discover a customer’s sales triggers, pain points, potential setbacks during the buying process, and other relevant information that can influence whether they give you their business. Leveraging the deeper aspects of customer data to create buyer personas delivers valuable insight that can help navigate your marketing efforts into a more successful sales stream.

III. Using Customer Data Modeling To Get Ahead

Finding ways to model customer data is only half the battle – you also need to know how to use those models to make predictions. Take a look at your data scheme and start connecting the dots, even if you aren’t sure how those dots relate to each other. Do your customers in New York buy more of Product A in December than the rest of the year combined? Do you close more deals at the end of the month when you offer a certain incentive via email?

The objective is to find common denominators in your endless data collection, and use those characteristics to redirect your marketing efforts. Establish metrics along the way to help ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Continue to update your customer data models to keep them relevant and valuable as new information comes along. And last but not least, don’t feel like you have to include every known piece of information into your data models. It can take some experimenting to determine what’s most important, but once you do, it will be well worth the investment.

Customer Data Management: A Beginner’s Guide

With the ever expanding scope of technology solutions, collecting data on customers and prospects is easier than ever. But how exactly do you get it, and what are you supposed to do with it? Here are the Top 10 Customer Data Management tools for beginners to start addressing the plight of overstocked, underused data, and ensure the knowledge well never runs dry:

1. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)

Long gone are the desktop rolodex and overstuffed files: nowadays, a CRM is a must to keep customer data on point. Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs) help you track of every shred of pertinent info in a paper-free digital solution.

CRMs are equipped to handle every aspect of your customer interaction, from leads and the sales funnel to client phone calls, customer service and support, documents and everything in between. In return, you can expect increased productivity, an upswing in sales and customer service, and the ability to easily search and filter information in ways traditional filing systems can’t compare.

Small organizations might be able to get by with a free CRM, like Insightly or Zoho. But larger companies with multiple users should look into a higher functioning option, like Salesforce or Freshdesk.

2. Inbound Marketing Tools

If you’re spending too much time casting for leads and coming up empty, it might be time to rethink your technique. Don’t chase: let them to come you. Inbound marketing platforms, like Hubspot, help you attract more leads and close more deals. The secret? People are searching for products every day, and Hubspot helps them get discovered.

Hubspot has the power to help you maximize your content’s SEO, post content to social media channels, collect data from site visitors, construct calls to action, create landing pages, and track customer interests, all in one central platform. You might also want to check out Pardot and Marketo before you commit.

3. Email Marketing Software

Despite the intensity of the CAN-SPAM Act, email marketing is far from dead, especially when you use a professional email marketing program, likeMailChimp or AWeber to fill your recipients’ inboxes. With access to powerful analytics, you’ll hit the jackpot in your data treasure hunt that can strengthen future email campaigns and laser focus your marketing efforts.

4. Survey & Data Generating Software

When the right data doesn’t flow freely to you, the only choice is to churn it out yourself. Sending out custom questionnaires using services like Survey Monkey can help you capture only the info you want to know, then help you analyze it.

5. Data Capturing Solutions

Once you know what types of data will prove most beneficial, you need solid ways to capture it. Companies like KISSMetrics deliver superior analytics that help you strike gold in the customer data mine. Services like DocuSign help you capture digital signatures on important paperwork in person or via email. And companies like Typeform can help you craft beautiful contact forms for landing pages, job applications, customer feedback, and more.

6. Mobile-Ready Solutions

The need for data doesn’t always arise when you’re seated behind your desk. When you’re choosing data management tools, it’s important to look at mobile capability.

With the trending on-the-go work style, it’s imperative to be able to access any important detail at a moment’s notice. Make sure you’ve got full functionality across every device, so you can take care of business at your desk or your dinner table.

7. Automation Assistance

How can a CRM keep track of MailChimp data, record results collected in Survey Monkey, and input all your leads from your landing page? Write down the words “manual entry,” and draw a big red X through them. Then, integrate an automation tool like IFTTT or Zapier into your data mix and never worry about missing a beat.

IFTTT and Zapier allow you to set specific triggers when certain things happen that will, in turn, make other things happen. If you’re using a multitude of data and marketing tools and want to ensure they all speak the same language, automation solutions act as a translator that integrates your platforms without manual entry. It’s a huge timesaver, and definitely worth the investment.

8. Housekeeping & Maintenance

Phone numbers change, businesses move, contacts advance to other opportunities, so it’s essential you employ a database housekeeper to keep your flow of information neat and tidy.

Some helpful hints on maintaining your info:

  • Audit your data regularly. It’s easier if you update or cast out old info as you go, rather than letting it amass over time.
  • Assign responsibility to someone to monitor your data’s shelf life. It doesn’t have to be a full time job (depending on your company size), but hand over ownership of the task to someone who is detail oriented and can tell at a glance if info is worth keeping.
  • Invest in data-cleaning software. Manual cleanup doesn’t always make the most sense, especially when dealing with thousands of entries, so consider partnering with a data cleaning pro. Services like BriteVerify will let you know if an email address is still alive before you click the Send button. Email integrations like MailChimp will cleanse emails from your email list after the first bounce. And solutions like Hooversintegrate with your CRM to continually stream information and keep records fresh.

9. Data Protection

Cyber crime isn’t new – and certainly isn’t going away – so make sure you take measures to protect sensitive customer information. One small data leak can potentially flood your business with customer unrest, so avoid the trust issues from the start. Companies like Falconstor, PKWare, and McAfeecreate robust protection solutions that work behind the scenes and help you prevent hacks and data hijacks. Your customer’s info will remain safe, and in turn, you’ll remain in their good standing.

10. Data Map

There are probably companies out there that can create this for you (and charge a pretty penny), but a data map is something you can create yourself. This involves drafting a bird’s eye view of your overall data strategy and its inner workings, and illustrating how each piece is integrated.

First, make a list of all the programs and solutions that somehow affect your data. This includes all of the tools listed in this article, as well as other programs like call monitoring software, transaction records, and invoicing software. Then, sketch out a blueprint of how each piece connects with other pieces to form your completed schema.

Data maps come in handy when new need-to-know positions are filled or when you’re considering adding a service or new vendor to the mix. It also helps you understand the importance of each data point, and whether or not your company can function without it.

The Beginner’s Guide to Building Buyer Personas

buyer personas

Long gone are the days when we can successfully target our audience based solely on a set of pre-populated demographics. Granted, things like occupation, age, and income do play a vital role in marketing, but it lacks any form of interpersonality. And these days, you won’t get far with your marketing efforts if you aren’t humanizing them at every angle.

When charting your marketing course, the big questions always revolve around who you’re targeting: What do you already know about your customers, and how can you leverage that information to keep them and gain new ones? Getting down to eye level isn’t always an easy task, but developing buyer personas that detail who your customers are on a human level can help answer these questions and make your marketing efforts more effective. Here’s how:

I. Understanding the Buyer Persona Role

Buyer personas are unique descriptions that profile common characteristics of your customers. You can then transform these developed personas into “real” targets of your marketing and sales strategy. Keep in mind these personas are works of fiction, not meant to represent an actual entity, but they should be as realistic as possible if you want them to be valuable.

Your buyer personas will typically include some standard demographic info, but should focus more on human elements, like emotion, sales triggers, specific needs and desires in their industry, and deal killers. Once you start this deep dive discovery, you’ll be able to better tailor your marketing to more likely prospects and boost conversion rates.

II. Why Use Buyer Personas?

What issues and challenges do your customers face, and how does your product help them overcome? A well developed buyer persona can answer that. These profiles are meant to help you visualize the type(s) of customers you want to attract, and help you connect to those customers person to person. Buyer persona can:

  • Help gain and retain more customers
  • Connect with your customers on a personal level
  • Shape and improve your products and services
  • Redirect your marketing efforts in a more successful direction

Simply put, you need to understand your customers better, and buyer personas are a gateway to better customer relations. What problems are they looking to solve? What have their past experiences been with products similar to what you offer? How soon do they need to solve their problem? Knowing a customer’s pain points gives you the golden opportunity to present them with a tonic that will alleviate their gripes and make your company their go-to source. And all these details emerge when you craft buyer personas.

III. How to Create Buyer Personas

There aren’t any hard and fast rules to how a buyer persona should look visually. Likewise, the information to include will solely depend on your business and specific goals. If you aren’t sure how to go about formatting your personas, you can download a free template to get started.

Buyer personas can be as detailed as you like, but try to avoid information overkill if you want  your personas to be effective. Considering too many factors can complicate matters, and  your personas won’t be as valuable to you. You should create a persona for each audience you cater to. Or, if several audiences share similar characteristics, one or two personas should do just fine.

Must-Have Elements

While you will want to include information relevant to your business, most buyer personas contain the following elements:

  • Stage of the sales cycle
  • Decision-maker status
  • Preferred communication method
  • Primary sales triggers
  • Potential holdbacks

Free free to use typical demographic information like age and income, but only if you can combine those factors with emotional, humanized elements like the ones listed above. Other important factors to consider are where your customers look for information (social media, Google, etc), what time(s) of days they need or search for your product, and the main problems you can solve for them.

Gather Data

Using customer data, rather than your own instinct, is a must when creating buyer personas. You already have customer data stored all around you, and here’s how you can tap into it:

Use information already on hand. Start with your CRM: Information like customer lifecycle, net worth, popular products and services, and geographical location are waiting to be discovered and used. Look at past surveys, testimonials, anything that will momentarily place you in your customers’ shoes. See what information is already accessible, then determine if those details could potentially influence buying decisions.

Gain new insight through research. If you have the time and ability to speak with customers one-on-one, bu all means do it. Pay careful attention to how they phrase their answers, as this can lead to additional discoveries from their perspective. If personal interviews aren’t feasible, develop a survey to do the research for you. Services like SurveyMonkey are free to use, plus you can pool the results together for easier analysis.

Never stop collecting data. Every interaction with a customer or prospect is filled with nuggets of wisdom you can use elsewhere, be it a compliment or complaint about their experience or a simple inquiry. When information comes your way, write it down so you can use it later. Even little details that might not be important in the moment can turn into useful insight later.

A Brief Buyer Persona Tip Sheet:

  • Create a persona for every stage of the sales process. Prospects want to feel as though your site or marketing material was created just for them, giving them the answers they’re seeking at any particular moment.
  • To make your personas more personal, consider adding a picture and giving each one a name. This helps humanize the experience, which is what this exercise is all about.
  • Create negative personas. This includes customers who will never buy from you, and customers who do not fall in your target range. This makes it easier to refocus your goals and stop wasting precious time chasing the wrong prospects.

IV. How to Implement Buyer Personas

Once you’re satisfied with the personas you created, test your marketing initiatives to see how well they align with your personas. Ask yourself:

  • Does your marketing address each persona in their stage of the buying process?
  • Are you communicating with your prospects the way they like to be contacted?
  • Have you tailored your message to each persona?
  • Are you using the same terms and phrases your customers use when speaking about your product?

If you answer “no” to any of the above, you’ll have plenty of work afoot. Buyer personas are pointless unless you plan to use them correctly, so track, measure, adjust, and repeat until you get it right.

Customer Data Mining in the 21st Century

customer-data-mining

Let’s say you’re at the supermarket checkout line and you hand the cashier your grocery store loyalty card. She scans it, and you watch the bill drop because of on-the-spot discounts on a handful of items. When you get your receipt, it includes a few paper coupons for a couple of items you saw this week and made a mental note to try next time. Data mining makes it possible.

Maybe you’re home on a Friday night, browsing Netflix. You’ve watched all the episodes in your favorite show, and decide to try something new. It turns out Netflix’s suggestion to you is perfect. Data mining makes it possible.

What is Data Mining?

Data mining is sifting through all of the data collected by a business or organization, searching for relationships so that reasonable predictions can be made with regard to behavior. This kind of activity is most common among businesses that deal with consumer behavior of any kind. With the results of a data mining project, a business can make evidence-based decisions when looking at things like sales and marketing efforts, customer retention, fraud deterrence, and more.

In nearly all cases, because of the sheer volume of data available, and the ability of a computer to analyze data with speed and efficiency, data mining software is used, rather than human staff. With specialized and powerful software applications, a business is far more likely to discover relationships and correlations among data points that might be unexpected.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at smartphone customers of a certain age, with minimum income levels, and at least a master’s degree. It’s possible to assume that these folks would be your best smartphone customers, but maybe your data mining project demonstrates that folks with only a high school diploma are actually your best customers in terms of loyalty, regardless of their income levels.

Or put even more simply, you’re assuming that when someone has an umbrella, it’s because they’re expecting rain, when they’re really planning on using it to keep the sun out of their eyes. Data mining helps you identify the difference, and then know when to sell that person rain boots or sunscreen.

Data Mining for Beginners

In general, the overall data mining process is relatively straightforward. There are four steps:

  1. determine what information to collect
  2. decide how your business will store, maintain, and access data
  3. choose and operate powerful software analysis
  4. use results in business planning

If anything, you probably already have a plethora of data that you are collecting or are able to collect. Here’s where a reliable software application comes in handy – people simply aren’t able to examine the sheer volume of collected data in a way that draws subtle relationships and correlations with efficiency, like a computer program can.

Data warehousing includes the storage, maintenance, and access of data by the organization that has collected it. Storage is relatively cheap, but businesses that collect consumer data still need to worry about privacy and security of this data, as well as the ongoing costs of keeping it safe and accessible.

Choosing the right software analysis program is perhaps even more important than choosing what kind of data to collect. You need something that’s robust enough to handle any queries you have with speed and accuracy. It’s analytical and reporting abilities must meet your needs and expectations, and evolve with your business’s changing needs, as well.

The reports that you receive can be used to support a wide variety of business planning activities, including sales and marketing efforts, retention activities, fraud detection, and more.

Data Collection

While some data collection points are pretty obvious, some might not be; it’s collecting those pieces of information that look like outliers where you may be most likely to find success in isolating unexpected relationships and associations. Those unforeseen relationships can be the most valuable. For example, naturally you’d want to collect names, addresses, and spending habits of your customers. You may also want to collect data about purchased items, days of the week and times of purchases, and more. There’s really no limit to what you can collect because you can’t assume anything is irrelevant.

Data Mining Software

There are several different kinds of data mining software available. Many companies use outside vendor tools. Other businesses use open source or free software options. Each type presents pros and cons unique to your business. A large part of the decision-making about this solution comes down the skill and knowledge of the people in your business who will be running the software, as well as what kind of computing power you need.

Data Mining Models

In broad terms, there are several kinds of models that can be developed from your data and used in decision-making, including descriptive and predictive models.

Descriptive modeling sorts data into categories and looks for sophisticated relationships among those categories. Key types of analysis include identifying anomalies, common characteristics, relationships (primary and secondary), and similarities. This kind of modeling gives you a picture of the past. With predictive modeling, data mining tries to make realistic guesses about future behavior based on complex patterns among known data, and probabilities of future occurences.

5 Things You Can Do With Data Mining

A reliable and powerful data mining program can have real results:

  1. use to avoid churn and detect fraud
  2. strengthen customer loyalty
  3. identify new target markets
  4. “market basket” analysis
  5. trendspotting

Predictive modeling can help you figure out when and why customers leave or commit fraudulent acts, taking the appropriate action to help minimize that behavior in the future. Data mining also helps companies strengthen customer loyalty by recognizing patterns and habits, allowing businesses to reward that behavior through incentives such as special offers, coupons, or discounts.

Thorough analysis can turn up unexpected relationships and lead to the identification and development of new markets for a company’s products or services. Market basket analysis allows companies to anticipate customer needs because if they purchase one group (market basket) of goods and services, they may be interested in certain related items. And finally, data mining allows companies to spot trends, putting them ahead of the curve instead of behind it.