The personal touch

In today’s data rich environment, some methods of considering customers can be overlooked. Some approaches can be simple to apply, with outputs very powerful, in some cases changing a business’s direction.

Imagine the time before computers. Owners of most corner shops around the United Kingdom would have a number of things about their customers logged in their brains.

They would know:

  • All their regular customers by name
  • What they like, and just as importantly what they don’t like
  • If they are good for credit
  • Who their top spending customers are, and treat them a bit differently


This is a great checklist for businesses of all sizes to get to know their customers better as we use computing to scale-up the number of customers we have a relationship with.

Powerful sales and marketing strategies can be created with these insights.

Knowing regular customers by name
A fundamental of 1-2-1 marketing. Taking the time to get this right helps make feel special: “Good morning James, great to see you again”.

Treat all customer data you handle with the same respect. The longer someone has been a customer, the more important this becomes.

Knowing what customers like, and just as importantly what they don’t like
This could mean pointing out special offers on something customers regularly buy, knowing what they buy every week and having it ready for them, or making it easier for them to buy, maybe even keeping it to one side if stock is low (and telling them you have done so).

Using data on past purchases and pre-populating order forms with regular purchases will increase incidences of repeat purchases significantly. In addition, orders will return more quickly, improving cash flow.

Just as importantly, don’t offer products to customers that you know they don’t either like or want. Such behaviour will be counterproductive.

Knowing if they are good for credit
This is one key area that sales and marketing can improve the overall profitability of a company.
Businesses want lots of customers that always pay on time and not customers that pay late or default on payments.
If the data can show when there are traits common to either customer type, it will help to find profitable customers, and the types of products offered.

Knowing their top spending customers are treating them a bit differently
We want to keep our top spending customers happy. Similarly, the corner shop may treat their best customers a bit differently to other customers. They may get unexpected gifts at key times, such as Christmas or their Birthday, giving them a bit of surprise and delight when simultaneously recognising their value.
The extra investment is worth it as they are likely to stay customers longer and maybe get them to spend more. They might even tell their friends.

As marketers we want to understand what these top spending customers look like. Are there any common traits? Once we know this we can look at how we might be able to recruit more people who have these traits. They may not all spend to the same level. But some will. Spending marketing budget to find more of these customers will benefit your business more than finding twice the number of customers who may only buy once a year.

But how can we define who a ‘top spending customer’ is? Where do we draw the line?

Another simple yet underused tool is Pareto Analysis, also known as the 80:20 rule.

Pareto analysis can cover a wide variety of business processes. For marketers, it can be used in a number of different ways to help with the analysis of both products and customers.

For example, a national retailer in the UK did a Pareto analysis and found that:

  • 20% of its stores generated 80% of the company’s turnover
  • 20% of its products generated 80% of revenues
  • 20% of their customers generated 80% of revenue


To apply this idea, find the top 20% of customers by spend, and see how much revenue they generate in relation to total revenue overall or by product or service. You may be surprised by the results.

Pareto can be used to quickly apply focus to marketing tactics. It’s also important to then look at the wider picture. For example, the customers generating 80% of the profit may be hard to convert, or expensive, or take a long time to recruit.

Therefore, the overall strategy might be have a blend of lower value customers that might be quicker and cheaper to find while keeping a focus on top spenders.

Once thing is for sure, looking closely at your customer base will always throw up new and interesting insights that can improve your marketing. Data gives you the ability to challenge the status quo based on hard facts check that your approach is as relevant as it could be in an ever-changing world.

Decisions will have a foundation based on hard facts about customers. It is then time to get creative!

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