Data You Should Know About Every Customer

Updated: April 30, 2009

Editor's Note: In this two-part series, experts reveal the best-kept secrets in maximizing CRM results while minimizing liabilities in both the B2B and consumer realms.

CRM is widely viewed as the best and most efficient way of tracking customers and leveraging contacts. Though aware of CRM's abilities, many users do not know what specific data they should track to increase sales and still avoid the snares of privacy invasion and customer-identity theft .

The Basics

A good rule to follow in the B2B universe is remembering to track both the person and the position in order to maintain contact with a customer after a staff turnover . This allows you to follow the exiting contact to his or her new position. Most companies follow only the person or the position and miss the opportunity to add to their marketing bases with every staff shift.

To aid with this tracking, many companies are combining contact managers with CRM products. "I have used a lot of CRMs, such as Act! , GoldMine and Salesforce , but I am actually using a Microsoft plug-in now called Business Contact Manager . It's just a bigger contact manager in Outlook," said Chris O'Hara, senior vice president at .

Whether you elect to use straight CRM or try a contact-manager/CRM combination, you still need to collect the right data. The 10 most essential pieces of information, according to O'Hara, are industry, company name, title, source of contact, rating, spend level by year, contact information and preference, an assistant's contact information, a second contact, and the most recent date of communication.

Bonus Data

Stuart Watson, vice president of emerging media and technology at Camelot Communications Group , a media and marketing agency based in Dallas, said he would include historical data as well. "I would add company-name history, so you can pull up any previous company employment and decision person, which clarifies if this person is one of the key people making purchase decisions or if someone else in the organization is," he said.

For cross-marketing purposes, such as establishing a path to connect with an elusive prospect, you might want to collect a few more pieces of information. "Other organizations and associations they belong to can be very helpful," said Cary SueLavan, vice president and banking-center manager at Midwest Bank and Trust Company in Chicago.

Consent Counts

There are also a few data points you can add to lessen your liability. "I will just add as [the] No. 1 item the customer's consent to use their personal data for sales, service and marketing purposes, including contacting them, and their preferred contact method, channel and time," advised David McNab, president of Objective Business Services Inc. , a boutique consulting firm based in Markham, Ontario.

"Perhaps your respondents assumed privacy and choice information was included already. I believe it is too important to be implicitly assumed. In fact, in Canada it is not legal to do so; opt-in is required to be explicit," he warned.

McNab's point is important: Just because you want or need the data does not mean you are entitled to collect it. Laws vary from country to country so make sure your data collection measures up accordingly. Remember it is a twofold problem: You must adhere to regulations governing the data-collection process and laws that restrict who you can share the data with - even staff in your company.

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