Tag Archives: steven hodgkiss

10 Questions to Ask When Collecting Customer Data

When your customers disclose their personal and financial information to you, they're taking a leap of faith that you won't lose, abuse or otherwise mess with it — accidentally or not. Your customers don't want you to spam them every two minutes, hawk their info to third parties or, worse, expose it to cyber attackers. 
 
Collecting Customer Data 
 
 
Collecting customer data has been notoriously loaded with a tangle of privacy pitfalls. But when done right, the benefit to your bottom line could outweigh the risks. Leveraging customer data can lead to happier customers, reduced client churn and bigger profits. 
 
Gathering sensitive customer information isn't something business owners should just jump into and make up as they go. Get up to speed with these 10 essential questions to consider before you ask your customers anything: 
 
1. I don't have time to get anything from my customers but their money. Do I really need to collect data from them, too?
 
Without customers, you wouldn't be in business. Knowing who they are and what they want, particularly from you, can lead to more effective marketing, increased brand loyalty and the holy grail — more sales. 
 
"Collecting customer data helps you know each customer more individually and treat them that way," says Jeff Tanner, professor of marketing at Baylor University and director of the school's "Business Collaboratory." And the info you glean from them can empower you to "craft offers that increase purchase rates at higher margins while also delivering better value to the customers because they're getting things they want," he says.
 
2. What types of personal data should I collect and why?
 
Start with the basics, such as customer names and mailing and email addresses. These allow you to personalize your communications with them, directly market to them and follow up with them if there's a problem with their order. Other data points to collect for an overall demographic snapshot are age, profession and gender. 
 
As you develop trust with your customers, Tanner suggests going deeper and asking them for certain psychographic data points, like details about their personalities, values and lifestyles. For example, if you own a furniture store and find out your customer has children via a customer questionnaire, you might consider marketing children's furniture to them.   

3. What types of transactional data should I collect and why?

Recording and analyzing each customer's transaction history — what they purchase from you, when and how often — helps you know which products and services to offer them in the future. Companies like Amazon, and Zappos are some of the best at this powerful marketing practice, also known as "basket analysis," automatically delivering sometimes impressively personalized product recommendations based on past purchases.   

4. What are the best ways to collect customer data?

You can start by accumulating customer data every time they interact with your company — on the phone or in online chat with customer service, in-store with a salesperson or via online survey or contest, Tanner says.
 
It's important to note, though, that the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 prohibits procuring email addresses from certain online sources, including blogs and internet chat rooms, without the permission of site users and owners.  

5. How should I organize and store it?

Once you obtain the customer data you want, dumping it into a basic Excel spreadsheet won't do you much good. The best, most time- and cost-effective way to store, track and make sense of customer data, Tanner says, is to use an all-in-one customer relationship management (CRM) solution. 
 
He suggests trying CRM packages for entrepreneurs from Pipeliner ($30 per month with a 30-day free trial), Zoho ($12 to $35 per month with a 15-day free trial) or Teradata (prices available by contacting Teradata sales). 

6. How can I best protect my customers' personal and financial data?

 
Encrypting all of your customers' data is your first step in safeguarding it. This includes their names, email and physical addresses, credit card numbers, spending habits, social media logins and any other sensitive data points you're privy to.
 
Best practices for data encryption vary from industry to industry. Here's a guide to creating a strong cyber security plan for your small business, complete with expert encryption tips. You might consider hiring a data security specialist to take on the task for you. 
 
If you hire a third-party to collect and store your customer data for you, be sure that they use the highest encryption standards available. 

7. How can I be sure what I'm doing is legal?

All that's legally required of you when collecting customer data is to create a customer information privacy policy and give your customers access to it, Tanner says. 
 
In an ideal world, your privacy policy should closely follow the Federal Trade Commission's Fair Information Practice Principles, which are guidelines for securely collecting electronic consumer data, though they aren't enforceable by law. 
 
Clearly state in your policy exactly who is collecting which types of data, how it's used and with whom you share it with (and if you intend to share it at all). You also have to allow your customers to opt out of receiving marketing material from you.  
 
Specifically, if you own a business in the healthcare industry and gather patient information, you have to abide by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) laws. Or, if your company's target demographic is children and you interact with them online, compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is mandatory.  

8. Should I sell my customer's information to third-party marketers?

The choice is yours and plenty of companies do — and profit from it. But Tanner warns that doing so could alienate your customers. And they generally don't come back once they've gone. 
 
"If [business owners] use customer data like a mailing list, then they spam," he says. "If they use data to have an intelligent conversation that includes relevant offers, then they become a preferred partner. You might be able to sell access to your customer list, but no customer will want to stay with you once they figure that out."  
 
If you decide to sell customer data to third parties, clearly say so in your privacy policy.  

9. What's the best way to benefit from the customer data I collect?

Leveraging it to offer added value to your customer is the biggest advantage. Customer data helps you paint a clear picture of who your target customer is and how to best communicate with, advertise and market to them. 
 
When you know your ideal customer better and really understand their needs and wants, you can better craft offers to entice them, which should in turn boost sales.  

10. What are some common mistakes to avoid?

Perhaps the worst in the bunch, Tanner says, is asking for too much at one time and overwhelming your customers.
 
Other common faux pas Tanner suggests steering clear of are not using the data at all and making assumptions about customers based on collecting transactional data only.

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Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blogging Tips in MarketHive and Elsewhere

For all you budding Bloggers here in MarketHive. Once you have posted your article, display the post and use the Share buttons to send it around the Internet … Use StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn etc.. I also use Buffer, as it allows me to share it once and then it sends it Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn all at the same time. I mention this as I see many posts with 0 views and this means that you have not even shared it once to your own social media accounts.
 
 
 
How to Blog Almost Every Day
  1. Read something new every day. …
  2. Talk with people every day. …
  3. Write down titles and topic ideas in a notepad file. …
  4. Maintain a healthy bookmarking and revisiting habit. …
  5. Find 20-40 minutes in every day to sit still and type.
  6. Follow an easy framework. …
  7. Get the post up fast, not perfect.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

11 Ways To Stay Organized When You Work At Home

11 Ways To Stay Organized When You Work At Home

 
Staying productive while working at home requires creating a workspace, staying semi-formal, and creating a schedule that includes breaks.
 
 
staying organised at home
 
 
When you decided to become a work from home mom, you imagined how productive you would be. Not only would you be able to throw a load of dishes into the dishwasher, but you'd be able to fold clothes while on a telephone conference call, too.
 
Now that you're actually working from home, not only are the dishes piling up in the sink, but you haven't done laundry in two weeks, either. And the clean clothes? Forget it. They're in an ever-shrinking pile in the corner of your bedroom.
 
So what happened to being organized? Ironically, it's harder to be organized when you work at home than when you're in a traditional office job. But there are ways to stay organized and be productive when you work from home. Read on to see how-and to see when you should really be washing your delicates.
 
Create your workspace. If you don't already have an office space or an extra bedroom that you can convert into an office, you should take a walk around your house. Pick a spot that is not smack dab in the center of the action-like the kitchen counter-and where you won't be fighting with mops, brooms or other household items. Choose a location that can be yours indefinitely, and make that your dedicated space.
 
Set your hours. If you don't already have a schedule set by your boss, it's a good idea to come up with one. Having regular hours ensures that you can get your work done in a timely manner without working over your allotted hours. It also keeps you on track-and focused-by giving you a deadline by which to complete your work each day. If you work a little here, and a little there, you might end of stretching an 8 hour day into a 10 or 12-hour workday-and your mind will be scattered.
 
Make a list. In order to stay organized, a list (or four) is essential. When you make the list is up to you-you can carve 15 minutes at the end of your day to assess what needs to be done for the next workday, or you can write it all down the next morning while your computer is loading. A list is extremely helpful because it is a tangible reminder of what you need to get done during your day, before daily distractions interfere.
 
Be semi-formal. When you worked in a traditional office, you had to wear a suit every day…even during summer Fridays. By far, one of the major perks of a work at home job is that you can show up to work (i.e. your desk) wearing whatever you want. But that doesn't mean you should work in your jammies all day, either. Showering, changing out of your PJs and putting on something professional (yet comfortable) is a key step in helping you to mentally transition into work mode. After all, if you look and feel sloppy, it can cause you to be disorganized in your thoughts-and your work as well.
 
Find your peak hours. Everyone has a time of day when they feel their best. Perhaps you're a morning person, capable of getting most of your to-dos done by noon. But you might be a night owl, coming up with your best ideas-and increased productivity-while the rest of the world slumbers. Figure out when you have the most energy, and then adjust your schedule accordingly, giving yourself tougher tasks to perform when you're at your peak and feel the freshest.
 
Avoid doing housework. You innocently slip downstairs to put your bedspread into the washer when you notice that the kids have left their breakfast dishes in the family room. As you put the dirty dishes in the sink, you replace the paper towel roll and wipe down the counter. Without realizing it, 20 minutes have passed-and so has your deadline. While it makes sense to do some housework when you work at home, it can be one of the biggest distractions. It may not be the most exciting way to spend your lunch hour, but organize your household activities for your break times instead.
 
Clear your desk…daily. At the end of each workday, clear the clutter from your desk. File important papers in folders and shred the rest. Wipe down your desk (including your keyboard, mouse and screen) and remove any lingering coffee cups. The idea is to leave your desk as you would like to see it the next morning, clean, neat and organized. That way, you will feel energized-and not deflated-when you sit down at your desk tomorrow.
 
Screen your calls. Your family and friends all know that you work from home. So why does your Aunt Linda constantly call you at 10:30 AM, right when you're in a mid-morning work groove? People who don't work from home have a hard time understanding that while you are home, you are actually working. So it's a good idea to clarify to your callers that you can't be interrupted during certain hours. But if your bestie keeps ringing your number, it's best not to pick up the phone. That way, your clamoring callers will get the hint, and you won't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings.
 
Take breaks. It may seem counterintuitive to take breaks when you're trying to stay organized and maximize productivity, but you'll be far more successful if you take mini breaks throughout the day. To help add order to your day, try to take your break at the same times throughout the day.
 
Focus on one task at a time. Sure, everyone wants to consider themselves master multitaskers, but the reality is that humans can really only do one thing at a time effectively. So shine some of that laser-like focus only on one project, and do it really well. After all, if you have 10 windows open on your two computer screens, are on a conference call while you write that press release that was due an hour ago, you're going to do a bad job at all of it. Like everything else, it's about quality, not quantity.
 
Be flexible. You may have done everything possible to ensure a distraction-free day. But then your child became ill and had to come home early from day camp. The thing is, when you are a work at home mom, things happen. And since you're most likely the manager of your home, it's up to you to handle it all. So don't beat yourself up if your day isn't as productive as you might have liked it to be. One of the beauties of having a flexible schedule is that you can-and must-be adaptable. When your sick camper hits the hay, you can always jump back on the computer to complete your work-and get it all done.
 
While working from home has so many benefits, it can be an ocean of distractions if you don't know how to navigate it properly. Stay focused to keep a clear, organized workflow, and watch your productivity soar.
 

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member