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Lets have a look at the legal aspects of collecting personal data from your customers. Our country has quite specific privacy regulations in place. For instance, you have to notify the Privacy Commission when you start to collect data on customers and prospects. These also need to know that their data is being collected and stored and for which purpose.
And customers and prospects have to be able to contact you to review their data and correct it, when necessary. And, of course, contacts also need to be able to tell you they don’t want their data to be used for marketing purposes.
Most companies settle these matters in the Privacy Policies you’ll see on most web sites. It’s not a bad idea to draft one yourself because they also tend to increase the customer’s trust in your business. More information about how to arrange this from a legal point of view can be found on the Privacy Commision’s web site: www.privacycommission.be/en. Don’t hesitate to head over there to shed some light on matters.
Now that you know what you can and can not do, it’s time to collect data. The most straighforward way is to buy it. There are quite some companies in Belgium who collect and sell data to all takers and they will be happy to help you out. The cost of purchased data doesn’t only depend on the volume you want to buy, but also on the level of detail. If you just need names and addresses, that will be cheaper than buying a database that also includes things like age, profession, income class, etc. These databases are not cheap but they allow you to target your campaigns very narrowly to the right audience.
There are a number of ways to get data for free. Each time you’re in touch with a customer or a prospect, that makes for a great opportunity to get their data. That in itself is the major benefit of things like networking events, workshops and trade fairs. Ever notice how nearly all of them find a way to collect business cards from visitors?
But you also meet customers and prospects in your business or shop. So why not ask them if you can keep them abreast of the latest news, services and developments?
Loyalty programmes are also a good way of keeping in touch and of recording a data. Because you do ask for your customer’s email address when registering her for your Loyalty Programme, don’t you?
It goes without saying that your web site is crucial in your data collection strategy. The goal should be that no visitor leaves your site without leaving – at least – their email address. Have them download things (a discount coupon, a whitepaper, …) in exchange for their email address. Or have them register for a game, raffle or newsletter.
And, when you do ask customer’s to register for something, keep it short and simple. Make do with their email address and, if you have to, with their full name. The more you ask, the less inclined people will be to part with their personal details.
So now you’re collecting all of that data, of course you need a place to store it: a database. If you already have one, it’s a good idea to give it a good spring cleaning before you add new data. Just to make sure it’s still current. Also make sure you keep it up to date at all times because databases have an uncanny tendency to get very messy after a while.
So it should be easy to store, edit and query data in your database. And it helps if there’s an easy process to export data, to your email software for instance.
It will cost you in time and effort, but clean data will help you save time and built a better attachment (and get more revenue) from your customers.
Lots of database or emailing software lets you record which messages were sent to which customers and whether or not they responded. This helps you determine who the really valuable prospects are so you can focus your time and attention on them.