Volume 14, Issue 6 - November/December 2010

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Managing Prospects with Databases
by Manny Hondroulis

So far we have discussed how PowerPoint and Excel can have an impact on our window film businesses. Now we turn our attention to Access, another component of the Microsoft Office Suite. Access is database software. An overly simplified explanation of a database is that it stores information that a user inputs where it can be retrieved at will in various ways. Imagine storing all of your prospects and customers into a database and being able to analyze that data to learn how and why your prospects became customers. With that information you can determine which marketing strategies worked, what percentage of your leads were commercial versus residential and, for example, what percentage of prospects inquired about window film for energy savings versus security benefits. In addition, you can also modify your marketing strategy accordingly.

Database Components
Think of a spreadsheet and how it is made of rows and columns (see related article about Microsoft Excel on page 10 in the September-October issue). Well, the same can be true for a database. Each row of a database is a record and each column of a database represents different aspects of a record.

Let’s walk through the components of a simplified database that tracks your prospects.

Imagine that a prospect is a record. Each row of data (think in terms of the spreadsheet) represents a prospect and each column represents different aspects of that prospect. The type of information you would store in this database would be detailed contact information (name, address, company, title, telephone number, e-mail), demographic (gender, marital status), reasons for buying (safety, sun control, glare, fading, lower utility bills) and so on and so forth.

Filling in the Details
So, how do you enter the data described above in a database? You can simply input the data in the rows and columns of the database or you can use a form to do it. A form is created in Access and allows you to input data into the database in a user-friendly way. In the non-digital world, a form is something that you hand out to collect information or fill out to give information. It may consist of fill in the blanks, check boxes, multiple choice questions and so on. Imagine a form of a database as the same thing. You’re presented with a form on your screen and the information you input into the form is then uploaded into the database. In this case, each prospect would require a different form. Your form might ask for the following information:
• Prospect’s name;
• Prospect’s address;
• Prospect’s contact information (telephone, e-mail, fax, etc);
• How did the prospect learn about you? (Yellow Pages, post card, Internet search, trade show, etc.);
• Why did the prospect contact you? (smash-and-grab, windstorm, furniture fade, glare, reduce utility bills, control winter heat loss, etc.);
• Application type (residential, commercial, government, automotive);
• Glass type (single pane, double pane, clear, tinted, annealed, laminated, tempered, etc.); and
• Film type.

Retrieving Data
Now that all of the information is in the database, how do you retrieve it? You retrieve the information by creating queries. A query enables you to tell Access what data you want to retrieve and why. For example, let’s say there is a string of burglaries in some nearby housing developments. You may want to market to your prospects who have previously expressed an interest in window film for residential applications. Rather than scrolling through the contents of your entire database, you simply set up a query that retrieves a list of prospects that have been tagged as residential customers interested in window film for smash-and-grab crimes. At that point you can send a mailer or make some friendly calls to those prospects advertising the safety and security benefits of your window film against unwanted entry.

Hopefully you can see how having detailed information that can be retrieved in numerous ways can help you market your business. The hardest part about using a database is creating it. The most mundane part is entering the data. But once you get over that, the rest is smooth sailing to a more effective marketing strategy.

Manny Hondroulis is marketing manager for Energy Performance Distribution in Baltimore. Mr. Hondroulis’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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