Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Operations: Marketing for all - databases

I am tempted to start regular monthly posts on the theme of Marketing for All, but I am no expert in the field and there are plenty of organisations out there who are. Social media professionals are just one side to that. However, what I do intend to do is share the basic ground rules over the coming months just as I did with my Connecting You article. As and when I do, they will appear with the heading Marketing for All.

All these things are covered by a whole raft of business adviser services far more comprehensively than I could achieve as I haven't full knowledge. As business people we need to choose from the vast array of options out there on the basis of which suit us best. They need to suit our ethics and policies, our style and nature of work and perhaps most importantly our way of communicating. We simple can not learn or gain from people who we struggle to understand. Much depends on the vocabulary used in each case. As people, we are drawn to others who communicate as we do, on the same level - more so if they share the same sense of humour and way of thinking. It's a fact - why lie about it? It doesn't preclude trading with others too, does it?

So, to business...

The value of marketing
The reason marketing has turned into such a vast industry in it's own right is simple... we can not hope to sell our products and services if we don't tell people about them. From there it starts to become obvious that to cut back on networking, advertising and promotional activities is extremely unwise in times of economic crisis and yet it often becomes one of the first things to suffer. That's illogical and a false economy in my opinion.

Crucial to effective marketing are our databases not just of pre-existing clients and customers but of  all our suppliers and contacts as they may have contacts that could easily turn into new customers of ours. Remember my tweets, "Money only works when it is moving" and "One never knows who a person knows or may come to know". ...?
Databases are in effect our foundation stones from which we can build. If we don't look after them then the whole structure starts to be at risk of collapse. What happens in a recession though?

Recession dangers
When job losses occur the database foundation stones are at high risk of getting seriously damaged, so the knock on effect is that the whole structure of the organisation is also at high risk. When was the last time you checked out if every single contact on your database is still in the same position they were in a year or two years ago?

Administrative departments as well as marketing departments are generally the ones to look after the database of all contacts, but not exclusively. It follows then that when they are affected by job losses/redundancies then the pressure on those who are left to manage the database increases - more so when the drive is to increase and build upon that database of contacts (potential clients).

There are two essential ways to avert all this though.

1. Keep your database up to date as much as possible at all times by ensuring everyone lends a hand to ensure accurate records are kept.
2. Regular reviews of the database and, if applicable, overhauls.

What happens if you haven't done this though and then there are job losses. Sadly the database, (that foundation stone to your business) is all too often one of the last things to be considered when in the midst of major restructures due to a downsizing of staff. That leads to whoever is left with a major job on their hands to sort it out. Administrative structures should be, in my view one of the first things to consider when restructures of any kind are on the cards, be it for economising on staff or indeed for gearing up for new projects and thereby increasing staff including using contractor services.

Yep, that's one of the services I offer to help fix that on a short-term contract basis far more than data entry but I do that too on occasion for clients I have a particular passion for. Just as with anyone in business, my communication style and way of working might not be yours. That's fine, because I keep stating, I believe there is room for all and I feel, it would be dull indeed if we were all the same and worked in the same way anyway. We are human beings first and last, and as such we base our policies, structures and style of working according to our collected experiences in the work environment. It's how we arrive at them isn't it?

Logical decisions work best
There is no such thing as one style of logic being superior to another, there is just logic. Decisions on structure and methods of working are based on historical facts (one hopes) and not on random ideas from all and sundry. I, at my level do not expect to ever be privy to those facts unless they are things that those who contract me deem it is necessary for me to know to do my work more efficiently. I can ask for more information to help in that, but I think I would be unwise to demand it!

Facts are crucial. When we have facts (however limited they may be even for business leaders), the best we can do is not to then make assumptions from them, but to work with them at all times and go in search of more facts to help us develop further and indeed inform our decisions. Learning is a never ending activity, or should be in my opinion. Those at the top of an organisation should have the most facts about the sector they are trading in and are constantly adapting and honing initiatives as things change in the wider world. That is why they are leading! Assuming that no one has moved on from their positions over the last two years I feel is dangerous. Check - get the facts straight.

Assumptions are not good to make but sometimes we have to. I am by no means immune to making them myself, but it is prudent to to note them as being assumptions pending further facts as and when they become available. More facts might not ever materialise so the best we can do is follow our best instincts and be prepared with contingency plans to do a u-turn if need be. Hopefully u-turns will be exceptions and more commonly business professionals adapt and adjust.

I am aware that many have all this firmly under their belt, but some don't (particularly start-ups) and even highly experienced business professionals sometimes need a prompt to review things... I know I do!

But I digress... back to databases...

Five essentials to include on your database
What should be on the database? In a word - everything. However, that's impossible as there isn't the time or the manpower unless you happen to be a particularly large organisation with all the staffing and resources and gizmos etc there are going. The essentials then...

1. Full contact details
2. Trading history (if any)
3. All expressions of interest in products and services offered
4. Communication records (in case of any complaints/disputes or new ideas). Commonly this is done through cross referencing with separate archives via short notes of dates/times
5. Interests of all contacts (sadly often missed by start-ups but vital to record as they are leads to how you can develop not only new contacts but your own products and services)

So there you have it, my basic beginners guide to databases which I hope will help readers develop   and grow their enterprises from all the lovely new contacts they are gathering from making the most of their social networking activities. At some point I hope to do a follow-up on the social networking... the next stage. When I simply don't know at this point. However, if you need that now... why not contact the professionals in that field? There are plenty to choose from, find the one you feel most comfortable with, that suits your style and company ethos.

I am currently looking for more contacts for that social networking article so if that is your profession, I will be happy to mention the first ten organisations that get in touch, almost regardless of ethical differences. I am and wish to remain as impartial as possible but I own I am human and those who talk the same language as me will naturally end up being referred to slightly more often. That's the way of business isn't it? It doesn't mean that others are not better than those I mention or prefer, does it?

Final cautionary word
Never wise to assume a thing about others really... it nearly always leads to wasted time and energy better spent dealing with facts and in positive, proactive activities.

Happy hunting for what YOU need.

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