Tips for customer acquisition, retention and reactivation

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Whether you are selling a product, raising money for a charity or seeking investors the process is the same. In human terms, acquisition is the possibility to make new friends, retention is keeping your friends and reactivation is strengthening your family ties.

First, money in is always from "family." For charities, they are your current donors; for a catalog, your buyers; and for raising money for a startup company it will be literally your family you go to for first money in.

In direct mail terms this is your in-house list. You must protect it and expand it. To protect it the only way to keep a list from being stolen for unauthorized use is to have fake names in it, which also are in the phone books. It is cheap to add a line to a trunk/main line. So my name might be Article Mandel at my home address, which is a house but I would add an apartment number to the address to make it a decoy or seed.

Any name in the actual Bell companies phone book or www.superpages.com cannot be run against the same phone book to pull out your decoys. If someone is telemarketing and they ask for the decoy/seed, you play along and get them to mail you something in that name and you can sue to stop them from illegally using your list.

Never allow service bureaus or anyone to know what these seeds are. Protect your family, your in-house list.

Be kind to your family. Remember them with a thank-you note for contributions and purchases, investments and any action your family takes. The holidays are the time people are generous and your in-house list must always be mailed prior to Christmas, and perhaps even the Fourth of July.

At least once a year it should be telemarketed to ask for suggestions, and of course, a new sale or contribution. A minimum of 25 percent will give again, buy again, invest again.

Telemarketing in-house lists always doubles your bottom line. With acquisition rates as low as 1 percent to 2 percent, 25 percent is the reason family comes first for your time and money.

Retention of your friends can be looked at either as your lapsed donors, buyers or investors. They are the ones who gave or bought once but not for over a year. Even if they were considered family 20 years ago, they are simply a friend now. Or they can be those who gave or bought very little. The trick here is to get them to give or buy again and at a larger amount. With lapsed friends you must start with the telephone. Calling a lapsed donor you begin the call with "We were so pleased to have your donation of $50 dollars three years ago." Then let them know that for $100 they can pay for a dozen meals or whatever your charity does.

For catalogs, you might let them know about a similar more expensive product to what they bought and offer it to them.

An investment company might now be offering preferred stock instead of the original private placement.

I personally worked on staff for a charity years ago and called anyone who had given under $100 and got them to give more. I increased the total amount by 400 percent just by calling them and knowing their previous history.

As long as a name is deliverable it should never be removed from your in-house list, but it should be sub-categorized for different methods of moving them to the "family" section of your database.

You reactivate prospecting for new buyers or donors. The list business is really apples to apples, oranges to oranges, meaning you must seek names of people who are as similar to your in-house list as possible.

For this reason, you must know the demographics of your own in-house list of age, even birthdates for special mailings to them, sex, income, education and any other demographical information available, so that you can order outside lists that match them.

Taking a survey of this information from your in-house list is another method to get the donor or buyer interested in you in a softer way than a hard sell.

Finally, in all mailings you must make certain you mail a clean list. Why buy a million names without making sure they are deliverable? Test this by mailing 1 percent to 10 percent with a First Class stamp to find out.

All lists require constant cleaning. NCOA does not include deaths in the United States, which are 13 million a year. The Social Security Death file only has 75 percent of Americans who have died and will only provide the direct marketing industry with the name and ZIP code. No street address is available (except one on the Internet).

So, all names must be run against services which offer to match your in-house and acquisition lists against every local Bell companies' internal billing records.

This does not account for people who changed to cell phones, for which there is no current phone book for (yet). In some states as many as 50 percent of consumers have dropped their landlines and the only way to determine if they are alive or not is to mail them by First Class mail. You do this to any non-matches to any of the above.

In order of changes, people with bad credit or low incomes move and die the most. Catalog lists follow. Finally, the donor lists with high incomes not only remain at their homes for year after year but live the longest.

I have been in the list business since 1967 and every cleaning of my lists proves out the same statistics year after year after year.

A name is only a name. It is how you use it, add to it, and maintain it that gives you your profits.

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