Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Managing Your Contacts

I confess: I can be a database geek.

In my primary job, I am the Director of Data Management and Training for a local nonprofit. I work with our database and manage information on our donors, our prospects, and more and then train our staff on how to use it. I spent the majority of my time today analyzing the effectiveness of our direct mail solicitation. (I'm pleased to say our revenue in this area has grown 27% since I first started working with it!)

So, it's only natural for me to gravitate to other databases, be it for my hobbies in genealogy and knitting or my home fragrance business. My goal is to share with you today the importance of managing your contacts and information you can glean from them.

As I stated last week, I manage my inventory through Stitchlabs. I was able to begin using this platform when the basic plan was offered for free. For other Etsy sellers, Etsy offers an application with Craftybase, which seems to be most similar.

Take a minute to think about the variety of contacts in your business:

  • Vendors
  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Prospects

For each contact, you need to collect the following information:

  • Name (individual or company)
  • Contact (person at a company)
  • Shipping address
  • Billing address
  • Phone number, including cell phone if you can get it
  • Email
  • Website
You may need to track additional information for each type of contact.  For vendors and suppliers you may need: 
  • Tax identification number
  • Resale license
  • Payment terms
  • Distribution agreements
  • Purchase orders
For your customers and prospects, you may need to track the origin of the sale - for example, is your customer from Etsy, a craft show, or the neighborhood?

The benefit I found with Stitchlabs is the real-time sync with my Etsy shop. With every sale, a contact is created or synced, saving valuable data entry time. As you'll see in future posts, this sync also tracks your inventory and your sales.

Of course, you can track this information with a simple Excel spreadsheet or even a table in Word. Your Etsy sales are also able to be exported, which can work as long as you copy and paste current month sales and update your existing file. You'll have to be sure to clean your file for duplicates should you choose this method.

What are the benefits of managing your contacts? Here are a few benefits I have recently used:
  • Invite customers to sign up for your newsletter, to follow you on Twitter, to like you on Facebook.  Be sure to check for anti-spamming laws with Twitter and Facebook, as well as with Etsy and any other online vendor.
  • Create  newsletter specific to your wholesale accounts.
  • Mail a "See What's New" postcard to customers, especially those who have lapsed over the past year.
  • Identify your geographic spread. For example, the states I ship to the most are California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York. This is especially important with the recent increase in shipping rates.
  • Understand the breakdown of your sales. For example, I learned 46% of my sales for 2012 came from Etsy, 28% from my wholesale accounts, 13% local customers, 11% consignment shops, and the balance from craft shows. This is great information to help me establish my 2013 sales goals and actions.
  • And of course, know your best customers. I recently created a referral program to reward my best customers for their purchases.
  • As my business continues to grow, I hope to be able to know just what my best customer's preferences are and to create target marketing plans for them.
Some of this does require an advanced knowledge of Excel to be able to export your file and to manipulate your data into useful information. 

What do you use to track your contacts and how do you use the information? If you don't start today, even with a simple Excel spreadsheet. You'd be surprised just what you can learn about them!
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