There are a multitude of considerations that should be carefully thought through before you get your first customer.
Most importantly, all functions in your business need to agree to your definition of customer. For example, Sales should introduce the customer data the same way as Product Development.
That’s the first alignment that needs to happen.
Planning for how a customer is represented throughout your organization is key.
But even then, you may find that your first customer is very unlike your 100th.
2. Revisit the definition of customer annually, at least.
As your business changes, your definition of your best customers will also change.
Those changes may not be drastic, but keeping abreast of how customer data are represented in your systems becomes very important. With a fast moving and highly successful company, you may look up in a year’s time to discover that you have hundreds of customers, 50% of which have similar names.
For example, you may have IBM, International Business Machines and I.B.M. Each is correct, but the addresses and the individuals associated with each might be different. Reevaluate your definition of customer so it best assists your employees as your company grows and changes.
3. Keep customers data up-to-date by using it.
Marketing departments are notorious for wanting to know as much as they can about the customer base, especially in a startup company or with a new product line.
But collecting information such as an individual’s title, mobile phone and email address requires that you also keep that information up to date. Here’s a rule of thumb: never collect a piece of information that you DO NOT have a plan for how to keep current.
That may require that you carefully evaluate your processes each time someone wants a new piece of information collected from the customer.
If your process does not include a way to keep data up-to-date as well as an estimate on how often the information will be used, then you might reconsider collecting that information at all.
Next- Things to know about customer data as you grow your company 4 and 5
About the author
Theresa Kushner is a journalist-turned-marketer and Vice President of Enterprise Information Management at VMware. She is responsible for master data management, business intelligence and advanced analytics. She and Maria Villar co-write a column for LatinBusinessToday.com. They are co-authors of Managing Your Business Data: From Chaos to Confidence, published by Racom Books in 2008.