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A list of customers who have previously bought from you is your most

important asset. These are the customers who will provide you with return

business, which is more profitable than the first sale. But, are you

getting the most from your customer list? There are some secrets you should

know, so you can squeeze the most benefits out of your mailing list.

Most business' customer lists consist of this information: Name, Address,

City, State, Zip. That's it. Unfortunately, this mailing list is almost

worthless. You need to have more information in your files than just that.

I have 32 information fields in my customer database! You should be able to

set these up in your computer's database, or, if you don't use a computer

(you REALLY should), all this information should fit on a large size index

card in a card file.


Here are the fields I have in my customer database:

Product Code


Issue Purchase

LastName Of Customer

FirstName of Customer


Address2 / POBox

City; State; Zip;

Amount Paid

Ship Date

Phone Number

Almost any address possible can be put into my database without having to

leave out information or abbreviate. The next three are for phone numbers.

You MUST have your customer's phone numbers, when possible, to be able to

follow up quickly and efficiently. Making one phone call can be the

difference between a big sale or NO sale.

The InqDate field is where I record the date the customer first inquired

about my products and services, and the date I sent the information, since

it's always the same day (there's no excuse not to follow up your inquiries

on the same day you receive them).

This information, coupled with the ReferSource field, tells me when

my ads are hitting, and how quickly people are responding to them.

If I see that inquiries are coming in slowly, or long after the ad is out, I know that I need more action incentives in my next ad. The ReferSource field is where I enter the "key" from my ad.

I use a letter code after my street address to indicate which publication and

issue the inquiry comes from. I also code my mailings, for the same reason.

I enter a date into the two FollowUp fields to indicate when I want to send

follow up literature to customers who don't order on the first try. I

usually put a date two weeks from the InqDate in FollowUp1, and one two weeks

later than that in FollowUp2.

Then, every day, I run a search on these two fields to pull up any records that have today's date as a follow up date. I can then print labels and put them on the envelopes and literature I have ready for follow ups.

I use the next three fields (SubDate, SubAmount, RenewDate) for the

newsletter I publish. These would have the date I receive their

subscription, the amount they paid (I sometimes run special prices), and the

date I want to send subscription renewal information (usually 10 1/2 months

from the SubDate). I can then print labels in the same manner as I do for

the FollowUp fields.

Next come the Purchase fields. I have three sets of purchase fields, one

for each purchase the customer makes. In the Purch1 field, I enter a code

for the product they have purchased. The other two fields get the date and

amount of the purchase.

The second and third sets of fields get the same information for the customer's second and third purchases. The best customers to mail offers to are the ones that have purchased within the last 90 days, so I don't have to worry about many customers making more than

three purchases during that time period (though I hope they will!). If

someone does make a fourth purchase, I move the second and third sets of

data up to the first and second lines, and enter the new purchase information

in the third data set.

These fields are extremely important. I can instantly pull up a list of

customers that have purchased within the past 90 days, or 60 days, or 30

days, or even 15 days. When you rent out your house mailing list, like I

do, this information is vital. The rental amount you can charge increases

as the amount of time since the customer's purchase decreases.

The Comments field is used to store any miscellaneous information about the

customer that I think is important to know.

I use the final field, Cust#, for a specially coded customer number that I

assign each customer. I use this code to identify the recipient of any

commissions I may pay to customers who have brought business my way.

That's a lot of information, and you may be wondering why I would need all

of that. Well, I've already told you how I use the purchase data fields for

identifying the "age" of the customers. I can also use the TotAmount field

to compile a list of customers who have bought more than a certain amount

from me.

Together, these field searches can be used to produce a customized

mailing list of, for example, customers who have bought more than $50 in

the past 30 days. These would be the most responsive people to mail to, and

would render the highest rental rate.

I can also use certain mailing list fields to identify people who should be

dropped from my list. For example, I can search for customers with

FollowUp2 dates that are four weeks past today's date, and TotAmounts of

zero. These customers could be erased from my list.

Or, I could leave them on file, and put a word or two in the Comments field

reminding me not to mail anything else to them, in case they inquire again. This saves me the cost of mailing something to someone who probably won't respond. They might,

but chances are they won't.

Finally, if I get a customer who has returned too many orders, or has

defrauded me in some way, I can put that information in the Comments field. Then, if they order again, when their file comes up, I will see their

history, and can use extra caution with them.

As you can see, if you use foresight when initially setting up your customer

list, you will have a valuable tool that you can use to increase your order

potential, increase your income through specialized list rental, and

decrease your mailing costs by eliminating "deadwood" from your list. This

is one of the most important methods you can use to increase your chances of