When running a business, you are expected to maintain lists of your receivables, payables, inventory, and payroll, to name a few. Often missed out or completely disregarded is the customer list, a record of your potential and repeat clients and all information related to your doing business with them. For Fireball Group CEO and founder Ian del Carmen, once a company realizes the full potential of a customer list, it is not only able to send out targeted marketing messages, but is also on its way to staying in business forever.
Del Carmen was once a junkie for freebies available all over the Web. However, soon enough, he realized that he did not really get those “free stuff” for free. He gave to each of the sites his personal information: name, email address, and at times, place of residence and telephone number.
He thought if he could offer something to people for free, then he could build his own list. Then, he would have a way to connect with them, and sell to them virtually anything, as frequently as he desired. And thus the Fireball Group of Companies was born. Under del Carmen’s leadership, Fireball created subsidiaries with its own list of customers with special interests—e-book lovers, software junkies, and multimedia aficionados, among others.
While growing his company, del Carmen saw that customer lists could help a business in three ways: market research, feedback and repeat business. “If a business is thinking of creating new products to be introduced to the market, they could do quick surveys and directly ask the people on the list,” he says.
Getting feedback after a sale and offering new products are also easier when your clients are just a click or text away.
A company must build two types of lists: prospects list and buyers list. The former includes people who have not tried your products or services but could be turned into buyers once aware and convinced of your offerings. The second list composes of people who already love your product and are more likely to bring in more sales without much marketing effort from you. Consequently, “if you have an open communication line with them, you could cut advertising costs because you should know who to contact first whenever you have new products—your past customers,” says del Carmen.
When building a prospects list, a company can offer a free newsletter or a free product (in physical stores, on the company’s website, or both) in exchange for their registration, and thus their personal details. You may also ask for proven buyers’ information to provide support and future product notifications, del Carmen advises. For Web-based strategies, using auto-responder systems “make list building easier and almost automated,” he adds.
Building lists, as del Carmen’s experience shows, is a numbers game. The probability of making a sale from a number of subscribers depend on how targeted the list is. Del Carmen had also re-organized his lists in terms of demographics or interests, then marketed to them accordingly, a method he calls sub-listing. He says: “Sub-listing should be more effective in all aspects. But depending on your type of business or product, sending a marketing message to a general list could be hit or miss.”
Indeed, a customer list fulfills its purpose only with a conscious effort by the company to understand its prospects and buyers, nurture a relationship with them, and translate the relationship into actual sales. “If you know who your customers are, based on gender, age bracket, buying power, or even location, and if you have a way to communicate with them, your business could stay forever.”
This article was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.