If you own or run a small or medium sized business and you don't currently track customer, lead, or inquiry data, starting to do so could be magic for your business.
Keeping quality data on customers (and on leads or inquiries - people who contact your business but are yet to take the next step) could prove incredibly powerful in terms of gaining insights about your business and future marketing efforts.
I've spoken to many small business owners both in a professional and social context and I often ask them this question:
"How would you feel if you had the email of every single one of your previous customers available to you right now?"
They usually respond by saying that it would be amazing to have that - the longer they've been in business the more amazing it is. Once small business owner in California that's been around for over a decade remarked that having that sort of data would be like gold - it would allow for excellent marketing opportunities since tens of thousands of happy high-transaction customers have walked through the business's doors over the course of more than 10 years.
Beyond just emails, knowing very simple things like the Zip codes of your customers would add a level of intelligence to your marketing and advertising efforts without which business owners are using primitive methods devoid of any sort of business intelligence that is so easy to acquire in today's environment. Without knowing anything a business owner is shooting in the dark in terms of marketing and advertising. By knowing just the Zip codes of previous customers, marketing strategies could be more finely tuned in order to get better returns on advertising spend. Google, Facebook, and even print ads are all advertising mediums that easily lend to the use of such information.
Any small or medium sized business owner or manager who currently keeps poor data has the ability to transform things today with the use of a computer and a bit of time. The great thing is that it's very easy to start. Although most business owners and managers who haven't started this already have likely procrastinated because they thinks it's too difficult or too complicated for them or their business to implement, that's just false - it's incredibly easy to start for anyone with a computer and a licensed copy of Microsoft Excel.
We recommend using MS Excel (not Google Docs or Apple's Numbers) because Excel is at once easy to use and powerful. Excel is robust enough to handle large sets of data and will allow for various sorts of analysis and manipulation in the future - it's basically the gold standard in terms of entry-level data suites and going for a more simple or easy-to-use suite might be a mistake here.
Here is an example we created to demonstrate how easy it is to start collecting useful data (see image below). We created various simple fields that will be applicable to all businesses:
Date: So you know when the record was taken
Privacy and Compliance
Always make sure to ask for data - don't just input it yourself. Additionally, let the customer know that you're storing it and that you intend to keep it secure and private. Make sure you actually do so by using robust passwords and access protection methods, storing hard drives in safes or secure/locked locations, and refrain from transmitting the data via unsecured connections or to parties who are unaffiliated with your business.
The best rule of thumb is to treat the data as if it was your own or your families' information.
Example MS Excel sheet for collecting data that can be set up in 30 min. or less