Customer Data Management: A Beginner’s Guide


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With the ever expanding scope of technology solutions, collecting data on customers and prospects is easier than ever. But how exactly do you get it, and what are you supposed to do with it? Here are the Top 10 Customer Data Management tools for beginners to start addressing the plight of overstocked, underused data, and ensure the knowledge well never runs dry:

1. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)

Long gone are the desktop Rolodex and overstuffed files: nowadays, a CRM is a must to keep customer data on point. Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs) help you track of every shred of pertinent info in a paper-free digital solution.

CRMs are equipped to handle every aspect of your customer interaction, from leads and the sales funnel to client phone calls, customer service and support, documents and everything in between. In return, you can expect increased productivity, an upswing in sales and customer service, and the ability to easily search and filter information in ways traditional filing systems can’t compare.

Small organizations might be able to get by with a free CRM, like Insightly or Zoho. But larger companies with multiple users should look into a higher functioning option, like Salesforce or Freshdesk.

2. Inbound Marketing Tools

If you’re spending too much time casting for leads and coming up empty, it might be time to rethink your technique. Don’t chase: let them to come you. Inbound marketing platforms, like Hubspot, help you attract more leads and close more deals. The secret? People are searching for products every day, and Hubspot helps them get discovered.

Hubspot has the power to help you maximize your content’s SEO, post content to social media channels, collect data from site visitors, construct calls to action, create landing pages, and track customer interests, all in one central platform. You might also want to check out Pardot and Marketo before you commit.

3. Email Marketing Software

Despite the intensity of the CAN-SPAM Act, email marketing is far from dead, especially when you use a professional email marketing program, likeMailChimp or AWeber to fill your recipients’ inboxes. With access to powerful analytics, you’ll hit the jackpot in your data treasure hunt that can strengthen future email campaigns and laser focus your marketing efforts.

4. Survey & Data Generating Software

When the right data doesn’t flow freely to you, the only choice is to churn it out yourself. Sending out custom questionnaires using services like Survey Monkey can help you capture only the info you want to know, then help you analyze it.

5. Data Capturing Solutions

Once you know what types of data will prove most beneficial, you need solid ways to capture it. Companies like KISSMetrics deliver superior analytics that help you strike gold in the customer data mine. Services like DocuSign help you capture digital signatures on important paperwork in person or via email. And companies like Typeform can help you craft beautiful contact forms for landing pages, job applications, customer feedback, and more.

6. Mobile-Ready Solutions

The need for data doesn’t always arise when you’re seated behind your desk. When you’re choosing data management tools, it’s important to look at mobile capability.

With the trending on-the-go work style, it’s imperative to be able to access any important detail at a moment’s notice. Make sure you’ve got full functionality across every device, so you can take care of business at your desk or your dinner table.

7. Automation Assistance

How can a CRM keep track of MailChimp data, record results collected in Survey Monkey, and input all your leads from your landing page? Write down the words “manual entry,” and draw a big red X through them. Then, integrate an automation tool like IFTTT or Zapier into your data mix and never worry about missing a beat.

IFTTT and Zapier allow you to set specific triggers when certain things happen that will, in turn, make other things happen. If you’re using a multitude of data and marketing tools and want to ensure they all speak the same language, automation solutions act as a translator that integrates your platforms without manual entry. It’s a huge timesaver, and definitely worth the investment.

8. Housekeeping & Maintenance

Phone numbers change, businesses move, contacts advance to other opportunities, so it’s essential you employ a database housekeeper to keep your flow of information neat and tidy.

Some helpful hints on maintaining your info:

  • Audit your data regularly. It’s easier if you update or cast out old info as you go, rather than letting it amass over time.
  • Assign responsibility to someone to monitor your data’s shelf life. It doesn’t have to be a full time job (depending on your company size), but hand over ownership of the task to someone who is detail oriented and can tell at a glance if info is worth keeping.
  • Invest in data-cleaning software. Manual cleanup doesn’t always make the most sense, especially when dealing with thousands of entries, so consider partnering with a data cleaning pro. Services like BriteVerify will let you know if an email address is still alive before you click the Send button. Email integrations like MailChimp will cleanse emails from your email list after the first bounce. And solutions like Hooversintegrate with your CRM to continually stream information and keep records fresh.

    Another important factor is online reputation management, to ensure your brand meets the necessary qualifications for your customers.

9. Data Protection

Cyber crime isn’t new – and certainly isn’t going away – so make sure you take measures to protect sensitive customer information. One small data leak can potentially flood your business with customer unrest, so avoid the trust issues from the start. Companies like Falconstor, PKWare, and McAfeecreate robust protection solutions that work behind the scenes and help you prevent hacks and data hijacks. Your customer’s info will remain safe, and in turn, you’ll remain in their good standing.

10. Data Map

There are probably companies out there that can create this for you (and charge a pretty penny), but a data map is something you can create yourself. This involves drafting a bird’s eye view of your overall data strategy and its inner workings, and illustrating how each piece is integrated.

First, make a list of all the programs and solutions that somehow affect your data. This includes all of the tools listed in this article, as well as other programs like call monitoring software, transaction records, and invoicing software. Then, sketch out a blueprint of how each piece connects with other pieces to form your completed schema.

Data maps come in handy when new need-to-know positions are filled or when you’re considering adding a service or new vendor to the mix. It also helps you understand the importance of each data point, and whether or not your company can function without it.

Brian Sparker
Brian Sparker is a content marketer, web developer, and entrepreneur. He has helped companies like Microsoft and Procter & Gamble communicate and convert, either as an employee or as a consultant. He's been published in marketing, tech, and lifestyle magazines including Lifehacker, Mashable, Social Media Today, Kissmetrics, and Spout Insights. His usual writing topics are content marketing, marketing automation, consumer finance, or media.


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