Print-Plus: Keeping Your House in Order
We all know that a catalog company's most valuable asset (other than people, of course) is its housefile — a consolidated database containing each customer's name, address and summarized order information. After all, your previous buyers are what keep the lights burning. Proper maintenance of a housefile is an extremely valuable marketing skill. Here are some ways to help you maintain your housefile so that you can get the most out of this extremely valuable asset.
The first and most important aspect of building and maintaining a housefile is to be certain that all pertinent information is being properly captured. Your ability to make decisions is only as good as the data you're collecting and analyzing. Decide in advance what information you want to capture, how you'll capture it and what you'll do with it once you have it.
I often see companies going to great lengths to capture data they'll never use. Determine how you're going to use the data before you take the time, trouble and expense of capturing it. Your plan has to be both convenient and scalable.
When deciding which information to capture, it makes sense to retain all customer and associated transaction data during the order-processing step. Such extensive data can all be incorporated into a large-scale marketing database. For the purpose of creating a simple housefile, however, the basic information required includes name and address, date of purchase, dollar amount of the purchase, and the source code related to the purchase. From these few pieces of data you can then go on to determine a customer's gender, total lifetime dollars spent, original purchase date and most recent purchase date.
Once you have this information, you can begin to segment your buyers by recency, frequency and monetary (RFM) value. This information is critical for both small and extremely large-scale marketing campaigns. As your campaigns get slightly more sophisticated, you might want to include additional information into your housefile such as phone and fax numbers, email addresses (a must), gender, age, categories of products purchased, income, and other demographic or purchase information. These are just a few examples of the types of information that can be maintained in your housefile to give you a more robust marketing database.