How SMBs Capitalize on Customer Data

Small businesses have had to squeeze every bit of value out of their operations in the past year and are quickly realizing the importance of knowing their customers. Luckily, collecting and taking action on data doesn’t have to mean learning an entirely new skill set. 

Rather, it can be as simple as using the information that you already have, or could easily access, to improve the things that you’re already doing.

The value of customer data

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “the money is in the list,” and 2020 highlighted the importance of being able to reach customers directly. With social distancing restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, understanding what customers expect has never been more crucial than it is right now. Heading into 2021, the role of data in all sizes of business should only grow.

Customer contact information is hugely important in times of uncertainty when maintaining a line of communication is key. Speaking directly to your audience affords business leaders the security of knowing they can send one email and reach their entire customer base, and it also ensures users don’t have to hunt across channels for the information they are looking for.

Even in a typical year when business is steady, having a better understanding of how customers shop and their evolving preferences empowers business leaders to make more accurate persona profiles, recover potential sales, and share the right content with the right customers. To put it succinctly, incorporating more data into the marketing mix results in less guessing and more clarity.

While the impact of leveraging customer data is clear, the question moving into 2021 and beyond is how exactly to attain it responsibly, make it a core part of your marketing operations, and ultimately put it to use in an effective way.

Collecting customer information

An important consideration for data collection is the need to do so respectfully and securely. After a year of remote work, online shopping, and adding the word “virtual” to the end of every activity, users are keenly aware of who has access to their data – and rightfully so. In fact, our research shows keeping personal data secure is the top request consumers have for brands in 2021. As such, it’s become vital for businesses to explain their intentions with customer data, take steps to keep it secure, and allow users to opt-in to sharing it. This establishes a foundation of trust for every engagement that follows and ensures a transparent relationship between the customer and the business.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to responsibly collect data for things like audience profiles and email marketing lists. If there is a customer touchpoint, chances are it’s an opportunity to ask for a piece of data that would help understand them better as an individual. The crucial caveat here is that the business must provide something as well. Remember, the ask is for something that amounts to more than just contact info – it’s a representation of their trust that the organization will provide them with something useful. As such, offering value upfront demonstrates that understanding and shows that you’ll strive to continue to do so. It could be a discount, a whitepaper, or even a free gift.

Additionally, beyond just getting sign-ups for a marketing list, the process is an opportunity to get more information from customers about their interests in order to best meet their expectations and needs. Ask questions, allow them to select preferences, and use that additional data to your advantage.

Not every contact is the same

Today, people expect the messages they receive from companies to feel timely and relevant to them. By grouping contacts based on things like interests, demographics, and actions, you can make messages to each of those groups more relevant. For example, a real estate agent would want to send very different communications to buyers, sellers, and past clients.

The advanced email features available to even the smallest businesses today allow them to take that personalization to a higher level. Capabilities like click segmentation, for example, group contacts based on links they click in an email. Businesses can also automatically create segments based on certain criteria such as contact activity, list membership, contact details, and tags. 

Taken together, this doesn’t just drive the audience to purchase opportunities or content but simultaneously gathers more information about them that will help better tailor communications to meet their interests and needs. The introduction of artificial intelligence has also made it possible to make suggestions based on the actions of individual contacts.

Analyze reports, get better results

It will always take some fine-tuning to get it right, so businesses must take advantage of the performance data coming back to them as well. Email reports allow small businesses to gauge what people are opening and clicking on and when they’re doing it so content and timing can be optimized to match their behavior. With that, it’s important for businesses to go beyond the basics of opens, clicks, reach, and engagement by paying attention to the business actions you want people to take, like making a purchase or contacting you for more information.

Embrace your data

While these customer data basics may seem simple, they provide big value and set the stage for making improvements that impact the bottom line. It may just start with email addresses and open rates, but soon enough it could turn into using AI to learn customer behavior and determine sales actions. This doesn’t make you Amazon, but it proves that every size business can leverage data to compete and win in 2021.

Dave Charest is Director of Content Marketing at Constant Contact.

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