Getting More From Your Data

I had the opportunity to speak at the International Association of Exhibition Management’s Mid-Year Meeting. My presentation was about mining your database for better marketing information, and focused on setting up and managing a system for collecting and using data from your members and customers.

One of the attendees, Wayne McKinnon of The McKinnon Group, sent me a nice email after the presentation, outlining the significant points. I liked his outline so much that I asked him if I could use it for this tip, and he agreed. So thanks, Wayne, for sharing this with the rest of us. Here is the process Wayne extracted from my talk, with further explanation from me:

  • Ensure the infrastructure is in place – Simply put, this means you have to have a solid foundation in place for managing your data. My bias is toward off-the-shelf centralized databases offered by the many vendors in the association community. But regardless of what system you use, it needs to be able to handle the broad variety of data that your organization manages, such as membership, dues collection, product sales, event registrations, certifications, and so on. If your system can’t handle these processes, the rest of these suggestions aren’t going to be very useful.
  • Gather at least enough contact information so that you can go back for more when appropriate – When you initially reach out to new prospects (for membership, product sales, or anything else they may buy from you), be sure that you are requesting enough information that you can contact them again at a later date. For some this may mean only an email address; for others this may require name, title, company, address, phone, fax, and email. Once you determine what minimum amount of data you need to gather, be sure that all staff are collecting that when talking to members or customers.
  • Create campaigns to further categorize and gather additional information – Once you have captured new contacts, don’t stop there! Develop communication campaigns that will help you further identify the types of individuals and/or companies important to you.
  • At every step, look for ways to ask for supplemental information, and use that information to analyze trends – Identify key information that you need to gather about your members, customers, and potential buyers. Whether that information is individual demographics (gender, age, etc.) or company information (sales of company, size of staff, etc.), your staff should know which questions to ask. In other words, build into your day-to-day process the constant collection and updating of information in your database. With this information in the database, you willl be able to identify trends among your buyers and membership that will help you develop better products and services.
  • Increase the value of communications by leveraging the information gathered – Using the information you’ve gathered in steps 3 and 4 above, start tailoring what you say to members and customers, as well as how you say it. My favorite example: I prefer to receive ALL communication from my membership organizations via email. I don’t like snail mail and I detest faxes. So once my membership organization knows that about me, they should know to send any information I want via email. This increases the value of the communication to me and increases my likelihood of responding to the message.
  • Update content annually (or at some interval) by sending something of value, and asking the recipient to reply with current information and interests – This is critical! As we all know, the easiest way to dismiss an entire database is to find one or two pieces of bad data. Be sure that you are regularly and systematically updating the information in your database. And if it takes incentives to get updated information, find out what motivates a response, and offer it.

The steps are actually pretty simple and straightforward. The execution of the steps is the key.

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