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Compiling your customer data

You can use information already held about your customers - whether on manual or computerised systems - to build a database.

Your accounts system may contain information such as:

* Invoices
* Letters
* Existing customer lists

Consider what kind of information would be useful. This might be:

* Contact information, eg company name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and names and job titles of relevant personnel
* What they have bought from you, when, and from which salesperson - so you can identify what they seem most likely to buy and then plan your sales and marketing efforts
* Their service history and any complaints
* Their account history, to assess whether they pay on time, and how profitable they have been - some customers may not actually be very profitable

In total, this information should give you an idea of your best and worst customers, and what they buy from you.

You might include areas such as the response to previous promotions. Your purpose is to establish the "how" and "why" of responses or sales.

The next stage is to decide an appropriate structure for your data. If you are selling to business markets, you could compile information about:

* What they do - industry sector, public or private sector, turnover, number of employees and location
* Their buying behaviour - how they place orders, their size and frequency
* Names of contacts within a company

If you are selling to consumers, you could compile information about:

* Your customers' buying behaviour, including product usage and brand loyalty
* Their age, gender, occupation and approximate income