By James Solomons
People buy from people and as the old saying goes: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
This has never been more the case than in the world of small business, where ongoing relationships with your customers and suppliers are often critical to the success of a business.
Knowing who your customers are and what business they’ve conducted with you is the starting point in a long-term relationship; by better understanding your customers, you can do more business with them.
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Capturing and recording contact information is just the beginning. With the right software, you can get an even better understanding of your contacts by looking more deeply at the type of relationship they have with your business, including what they’ve bought from you and what you’ve bought from them, and use this information to make more informed decisions.
Here are five tips for keeping on top of your contacts and driving more business.
1. Maintain your customers’ contact details
Tracking the contact details of your customers and suppliers is a necessity for any business, large or small.
Any business needs to be disciplined about entering this information and then maintaining it as time goes on. As we know, people change roles and address and contact information changes.
While updating these records may be time-consuming, it’s also necessary. Without capturing these details, you’ll always be on the back foot when it comes to making contact with them, which could take more time in the long-term.
2. Understand what business they have conducted with you
Actions speak louder than words and there’s no better way of understanding the strength of a customer’s relationship than by understanding what business they’ve done with you.
What have they bought from you? Do they owe you money? How recently was their last purchase? By getting visibility of this information, you can make better decisions about what to talk to your customers about.
3. Choose systems that work together
Contact information can be stored in myriad places, but it’s important you think through what information you’d expect to find in which system, and how those systems work together.
For example, your accounting solution contains details on your financial transactions and customer details; your email system – such as Google’s Gmail email service – contains your email correspondence with a contact.
You may have other requirements too. For instance, you could look for a more fully-fledged customer relationship management solution to also manage your sales and marketing processes.
Thinking about what you need and how those systems work together will help ensure you’re working towards one version of the truth. That’s the power of cloud software – many packages combined with a supporting underlying platform.
4. Prepare targeted sales and marketing
In addition to understanding what individual contacts may want, you may also want to reach out to your contacts en masse.
Who hasn’t purchased anything from you in a while? Who’s purchased a particular item in the past that may appreciate being told about one of your new products?
You can actively target these customers by querying your accounting software and getting lists that can be used to target your contacts for marketing and sales purposes.
5. Access and update records anytime, anywhere
Small business owners are often out and about, often spending little time in the office, let alone in front of their computers.
By using cloud-based software you can access your contact information whenever you want, wherever you have an internet connection. This information is updated centrally, so when you or a colleague update a record it gets updated for everyone. And if you use a mobile app, you can access the same information online, too. You always have the most up to date information available to you.
And if your needs go beyond contact management, there are customer relationship management solutions available that help you go to the next level, helping you manage your sales and marketing processes to drive even more success.
James Solomons is head of accounting at Xero Australia.