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Nowadays, we are all familiar with large companies gathering data on us to better understand our buying habits.  The coupons that automatically print for us at the grocery store, the email suggestions from Target, and the famous “customers who bought this, also viewed this” ads on Amazon are all examples of businesses taking advantage of the data they’ve gathered on their customers. It is happening even when we don’t realize it and sometimes when it’s painfully clear.

 

You may think this is just something that the biggest players engage in, but as these marketing practices become more commonplace for mega-corporations, the tricks-of-the-trade are trickling down to small and mid-sized companies. Now, no matter what size your company is, you should be taking advantage of data collection and mining.

 

 

The advantage of data collection is huge – it provides insight into your customer base that you never thought possible. What their name is, what they’ve purchased, where they live – these details we know we can track.  But what about how they spend time on your website, when they are most likely to make their next purchase, or even when they are most likely to open your email? It is hard to fathom knowing all of this information, but by collecting, storing, and analyzing the data that each customer leaves behind, all of this information can be at your fingertips.

 

So how do you get this information? Believe it or not, a lot of it you already have.  The challenge is organizing it and putting it to use. If you already have too much on your plate, then consider outsourcing this task. There are lots of companies out there that can provide this service for you, so don’t bite off more than you can chew if you can afford to have an expert synthesize this data for you. It could be the best investment you make this year and one that will almost certainly increase your ROI.

 

If you plan to manage the data collection yourself, the most important thing you need to do is make sure you save everything and be consistent with the information you gather from each customer.  Ensure you have their name, contact information, and purchase history. This information should be easy to get. Other information you can gather is data that shows who is visiting your website, what pages they spend time on, and what they click on. When visitors come to your site, you can also offer a quick survey or questionnaire.

Once you have gathered and analyzed this data it is time to put it to use by segmenting and personalizing your marketing efforts.  Instead of sending out a generic email blast to your entire list of emails, you can divide your list into various categories that can be targeted and personalized. Each email can be addressed directly to the recipient and the message can be tailored to products or services that you now know they are interested in. You will not only increase your chances of your customer opening the email, but also increase your likelihood of a sale and increase customer loyalty.

 

There is no question that data collection is powerful and, as is always the case, with great power comes great responsibility. This means you have to do everything possible to respect your customers’ privacy and safely secure whatever information you have.  Too often we hear stories of mass amounts of credit card data being stolen or personal information being leaked.  If high profile corporations can lose this data, then imagine how vulnerable small and mid-sized companies are. Make sure to take the proper steps to secure your site, your data, and your customers privacy.

 

When all is said and done, the more you know about your customer, the happier you both will be.  Your marketing efforts will be tailored to their specific needs and in return their interest in your offerings will peak. It is a beautiful symbiotic relationship that when managed properly benefits both parties.

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