Strategic advantage through your marketing database

Apr 27, 2009

When the company sold many years ago we learned in business school that the greatest asset of the Reader’s Digest was its subscriber database. Supposedly, it contained so many names of people who could buy other things that it was incredibly valuable to the purchasers. Anyway, I have often thought of this as it relates to A/E/P and environmental firms. I am certain that the majority of companies in our “industry” have done a very poor job when it comes to developing, maintaining, and using a client and potential client database. And this database could become a tremendous strategic tool and major asset for any firm that will spend the time and money and devote the necessary “cultural attention” to it. When it comes to your marketing database, here is some of what you should be thinking about: How do you define your market? Have you come up with a way to get ALL of the client and potential client organizations who make up your target market into the database? What about ALL of the people who work in those organizations? This is critical! The database needs to be organized around client organizations so you can see how much business of what type the client is giving you, in total. You also need to be able to analyze how profitable that business is and how quickly the client pays. It is CLIENT relationships that matter, not specific projects! Firms that figure this out early always do better than those that don’t! Once you have this information, use it!! That means do direct mail. Do e-marketing. Use it for Christmas cards, open house invitations, and for making go/no-go decisions. Use it! The more you use it the more you will use it and the better quality the data will be. Stop obsessing over duplicates! Most firms are so worried about ever having anyone in their marketing database twice that they fail to address how to get more names in it! Use interns to enter names. Hold contests to see who can add more names each month. Figure out ways to reinforce adding new names to the database. Build in management reports that let you see who is adding names, correcting mistakes, etc. Just because you have a database and use it doesn’t mean it can’t be better. When was the last time you matched it up to your targeted client list? Are there any holes to fill? If so, fill them. And perhaps new “features” of your list could be interesting, such as being able to look at client satisfaction ratings for each client. Make it easy. Make the darn thing easy to use. Give everyone access. Make sure it works. Make sure everyone understands how critical this marketing database is to your company’s survival and prosperity. This is essential if you want it to be supported. Follow my advice on this one, Folks. We implemented a real marketing database at ZweigWhite from the start in 1988, and it paid huge dividends over the years for us. Originally published 4/27/2009

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.