(Time to read this Blog is about 4 minutes)

Before we get to the main topic, here are a few things to get you thinking:

  1. My Quote of the week:

“There are two ways to elevate ourselves.  One is to do the work to become a better version of us.  The other is not to do the work but, instead, put everyone else down so that, by comparison, we elevate ourselves in our own mind…but not in the mind of anyone else.”
…Donald Cooper.

  1. Quick Biz Tip: Two simple steps to become an ‘employer of choice’ for top performers.  In the USA it’s estimated that there are over 11 million open jobs right now.  This is 5 million more than the number of people looking for work.   It’s probably similar in your market. 

Rather than wasting your energy complaining that you can’t find good people anymore, take two pieces of paper and 60 minutes of your time to sit down with some of the best minds and hearts in your business and honestly answer these two simple questions…

  1. On Page #1 answer this question. “What kind of business in our industry, in our market, do the best people want to work for?  Describe in point form how it would recruit, hire, train, pay, reward, coach, mentor, communicate with, listen to, empower, celebrate, thank, reward, celebrate and grow its people.   What would its benefits look like, hours of employment, the sense of fairness and basic respect for both staff and customers?  What would it’s ‘higher purpose’ be that truly engages good people?  All businesses sell stuff…great businesses are on a mission to improve the human condition in some significant way.  What is your ‘significant purpose’?
  2. On Page #2 answer this question.“What must we do to become the kind of business that we just described on Page #1?” What must we fix, create, change or stop doing?  Then, commit to becoming the best business to work for in your industry, in your area.  You can’t be a world-class business without being a world-class employer.
  1. Covid deaths compared to smoking deaths. It’s estimated that about 2 million people a year have died from Covid-19, since it began. But it is also estimated that 7.7 million people die, world-wide, from smoking-related illnesses every year.


Now, to this week’s important topic:


Are you proactively building a million-dollar database?      

My wife and I typically spend three wonderful weeks every December at our country house in the Muskoka Lakes area, two hours north of Toronto.  What I’ve discovered about most of the business people in that region is that they do nothing to proactively grow their businesses.  They have, however, become quite proficient at whining about how lousy business is.

In just one day, the week before Christmas, I…

–  bought a new power drill at a local Lumber Yard,

–  shopped at a Gift Shop,

   browsed through the studio of an Artisan Potter,

  bought flowers at a Flower Shop,

–  purchased a gift certificate at the local live performance Theatre…and,

   had lunch at a local chef-owned Restaurant.

The sad thing is that not one of those six businesses asked me if I’d like to be on their database so that they could proactively advise me about upcoming events, special offers or community happenings.  Not one of them is building a database that will allow them to communicate, add value, build relationships, create loyal fans and grow their business. 

Not only would this simple step add to their bottom line every year but, some day, when they want to sell the business, it will be worth a lot more with a large, active and loyal database than without one.    

Depending on what business you’re in, the least amount of info about customers and prospects that you want to gather for your database is their name, business name (if that’s relevant) and email address.  If it’s helpful, over time, you may add to that basic information by documenting some or all of the following info: 

address and phone number,

name of family members or relevant family info,

what they buy, when and how much they buy,

how they prefer to pay,

their likes, preferences, dislikes and special needs,

their interests, values and concerns,

special dates in their lives, or in their relationship with you,

how long they’ve been a customer,

past complaints or service problems and how they were resolved.

For example, Fairmont Hotels, worldwide, knows all those things about me and also that I’m allergic to feathers, prefer a King bed and a room on a high floor, near the elevator.  And, they use that info to serve me wonderfully.

On the other hand, in the last four years I’ve spent over $20,000 at Home Depot on lumber, stain, tools, flowers, mulch and a large garden tractor…and they don’t know me from a hole in the wall.  I think I’m an important customer there, but never get treated that way because they haven’t got a clue who I am.  What a missed opportunity. 

It’s tough to have a relationship with people that you don’t know a lot about.   So, here’s the thing…if the pizza place around the corner, that your family orders a $15.00 pizza from, over the phone, every few weeks, knows more about you and your preferences, your buying habits and your family, than you know about some of your biggest and most valuable customers, you have a problem in today’s hyper-competitive world.  And the problem can be solved, easily, with a little effort and some very affordable software. 

Stop whining about needing more sales and do something about it.  The internet is the greatest ‘gift’ to the art and science of marketing ever devised.  It allows you to proactively market directly to people who already know you, trust you and love you.  And, if you choose, your growing database may allow you to market far beyond your physical location through your website, blogs, E-Newsletters, ‘special announcements and social media. 

Some businesses do ‘get it’.  Last Valentine’s Day my wife and I drove 120 miles and paid a lot of money to have Valentine’s dinner at the beautiful “Inn on the 20” in Niagara wine country, southwest of Toronto.  Why did we do that?  Because they asked us to. 

We drove past 100s of very good restaurants that were much closer to home and probably less expensive, because ‘Inn on the 20’ served us wonderfully the last time we were there, got us onto their database by asking us if we’d like to know about special gourmet dinners and culinary events that they offer from time to time. 

We cheerfully gave them our email address and, magically, two weeks before Valentine’s Day a beautifully designed email arrived on my laptop describing their special Valentine’s dinner…just as I was starting to worry about how I was going to make that a special day.   

I called their 1-800 number immediately, booked the dinner and was asked if we’d like accommodation in the Inn that evening and, perhaps, a relaxing couple’s massage the next day. 

Now, here’s the bottom line on all of this.  When we arrived at the Inn at 6:30, the dining room was packed with happy couples.  This Inn is in the middle of nowhere, especially in winter, and they filled the place because they built a customer database, created an extraordinary event and then promoted it to their database, at virtually no cost to them.  They were proactive…and they were making money.

Proctor Marine in Simcoe, Ontario uses their database to send out a helpful, monthly E-Newsletter with important info on boating, boat maintenance, new products and tips on where and how to fish.  It’s a marketing masterpiece. 

Peter Swanek, owner of Peter’s Players in Gravenhurst, Ontario started with about 200 email addresses of people he thought might like to know who’s playing at his newly opened Blues and Jazz venue.  By using a Pop Up on his website, he quickly grew that list to over 6,000 followers and fans and, using that list, sold out every show in a few hours.  To do this, you need a great web designer.  Don’t deal with amateurs…even if it’s your nephew.

What’s really goofy is the thousands of businesses do spend the money to create a customer database…and then do absolutely nothing with it.  They have all the expense and none of the benefit.  I see it all the time.  It’s nuts.

A few years ago, we had the built-in humidifier in our condo serviced by a company recommended by the manufacturer.  When the service man (also the company owner) finished the work, he used his cell phone to take photos of the equipment and the label with the model and serial number on it. 

He told me that when he returns to his office, he’ll create a database file for us and insert those photos, along with a note about the work he did and what work will likely be required on his next service visit.  Then, when we call for future service, he’ll simply look us up in his database and immediately know what tools and parts to bring and how much time to schedule for the work.

He also assured us that he would create an automatic ‘bring forward’ in his database system and proactively call us when the next seasonal servicing is required. I was impressed!   This is brilliant, proactive marketing that creates customer ownership and increased sales….except for one thing.  It has been 4 years since that visit and he has not followed up once.  Not a peep.  Nada.  Nothing. 

Many business people tell me that their customers simply won’t divulge their name and contact info.  That’s a sure sign that your customers don’t like, value or trust you.  Clearly, you’ve failed to build a meaningful relationship with these folks, and that’s a huge problem.  

If people believe that you will honestly send them valuable and interesting information, news, insights, reminders, updates and special offers…and that you won’t abuse the relationship or ‘sell’ their info to others, they’ll gladly give you their contact info.   So, if you can’t build trust, you can’t build a database.  But then, without ‘trust’ you can’t build anything.

Bonus thought:  In addition to your database of customers and prospects, you should create a separate database of media and key influencers who write, broadcast or blog about what you sell or the lifestyle that you deliver.  Then, every few months, send them some interesting or even controversial info about what you do, or your industry.  Tell them what’s new, what’s special, what’s next, that their followers will find interesting.  These people can help make you ‘famous’…and famous is good. 

So, what will you do to create and then consistently and responsibly use a database of customers, prospects, media and key influencers?  How will you use it to deliver value, build relationships, inform, amuse, inspire, increase sales and grow your bottom line?


That’s it for this week…

Stay safe…live brilliantly!       

Donald Cooper 

Donald Cooper speaks and coaches internationally on management, marketing, and profitability.  He can be reached by email at donald@donaldcooper.com in Toronto, Canada.

One Response to Are you proactively building a million-dollar database?
  1. Great advice once again Donald. Have seen so many opportunities go past for businesses I attend. Thank you for the reminder Donald.


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