A key factor in any marketing organization’s success is the ability to understand customer needs. Having a repository of customer data both quantitative and qualitative will greatly simplify your ability to analyze market trends. For example, if you need to trend requests for a particular product capability or feature, it is useful to have a repository of all recent RFPs from which to start the analysis. If you need to build a case study for a particular customer, the process can be greatly accelerated if you can quickly assemble everything that you know about the account.
In this post, I will describe a best practice that I have developed over the past 10 years that I would recommend for product management, industry marketing and other customer-oriented marketing professionals. It is a very simple technique, yet few people take the time to do it. And it is something that you can do on your own without any significant company-wide effort.
Start by creating directory called customers on your hard drive. Then create sub-directories for each of the major accounts (e.g. GE, Toyota, Cisco) your company holds. Each time you have an interaction with the customer directly or the account team, then store the associated information in the respective folder. Contents might include:
- E-mail messages (which can be stored by Microsoft Outlook using a Save As…)
- RFIs, RFQs, RFPs and your company’s responses
- Meeting notes taken by yourself or others
- Presentations to or from the customer
- Contract terms and pricing
- Contacts from scanned in business cards or Microsoft Outlook VCF files
If you maintain the discipline to follow this practice you will discover that after a few years you will have accumulated a robust library of information on your major accounts. Each individual e-mail or meeting note is not significant in and of itself. However, the aggregation becomes highly valuable as you accumulate data over time. You may wake up to find one day that your customer profiles are better than those maintained by the sales organization. People transition between companies frequently in the technology industry. Sales representatives will come and go. Even those which stay with the company may switch territories or named accounts. And it is always nice to know more than the sales organization about a specific account you are discussing…