Golden Business Ideas

Marketing by Database

Most businesses have a powerful marketing guru at their disposal—and they probably aren’t even aware of it. The guru is any staff person who is savvy about the use of databases.

Most businesses have some of their customer information on computer—probably in the accounting software database—and they can export the data into a standalone database application. In most cases the data includes the customers’ names, addresses and purchase histories. With that information alone you can devise some interesting marketing strategies.

For example, using Zip codes, you can target a sales effort to geographic areas. With knowledge of past purchases, you can focus on customers for upgrade sales or complementary products.

If you have customers’ e-mail addresses, you can use the database to e-mail newsletters or special promotions. An e-mail does not need a 33-cent stamp. The opportunities are endless.

If no one on your staff is database savvy, train a bright employee.

Get Feedback From Customers

Consider putting together a customer advisory council—a group of recent and longtime customers. Ask them what they want from your company—what they like, don’t like, what needs improvement. Ask them, too, what new services or products they would like to see your company develop.

Reward them with special discounts and priority service. The cost is small compared with what you’d have to pay to compensate an outside consultant to tell you half as much.

More Productive Meetings

Meetings don’t have to be long and unproductive. Some steps to make them both powerful and swift:

  • Make a detailed agenda. If someone raises an off-agenda issue, jot it down and offer to consider it later.
  • Estimate how much time each item needs and assign one person to keep time, issuing a verbal warning (or ringing a little dinner bell) when the allotted time is running out.
  • If the meeting is stalemated, try asking participants to vote on options they can’t support. Eliminate those that get the most votes, and ask participants to explain their concerns about the remaining options. That will narrow the focus.
  • Recognize that not all decisions should be made collectively. When it’s appropriate, select an ad hoc group to make some decisions.

Invest in the First-Time Customer

No one has to tell you how expensive it is to acquire new customers. But do you do anything special to be sure that you keep them?

In all likelihood, if you’re going to have a problem with a customer, it’s going to surface with the first order: That’s the time when he or she is least familiar with your company and its products or services. So it’s probably worth your while to provide special treatment at that time. You may want the sales department to follow up with a call to be sure everything is all right and to provide a convenient way to report problems. It’s a good time to tell the new customer how much you appreciate the business.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.


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