Building an Effective Customer and Prospect Database
- Begin with basic contact information
First, you will need to conduct a complete inventory of the market, collecting all forms of contact information including names, position titles, emails, phone numbers, and addresses to maintain or establish future contact.
Depending on the industry, this initial data collection can be relatively simple (e.g., mapping U.S. public school principals) or rather challenging (e.g., mapping U.S. construction companies). It’s important to note, the larger the account, the more valuable specific information is. Trade associations, conferences, and directory searches may be helpful starting points.
- Identify your core variables
To derive real value from the new database, you'll need to populate datasets with individualized, relevant prospect information—but be selective. At this stage, less is more.
We’ve determined that identifying four to five core variables will help narrow initial targeting and contribute to a more robust dataset in the future. For example, for a SaaS company with public school prospective customers, the core variables may be the number of students, after school activities offered, zoned neighborhoods, and type of student registration software.
Focus on variables which currently impact the product, end-customer, and sales cycle to identify core variables for the prospects in your database.
- Leverage unique system data for existing customers
Your existing customers offer opportunities to gather more in-depth, leverageable information. For instance, if you offer a general ledger software system, your knowledge of each account's profitability can help identify who to offer product add-ons.
Module and features utilization data are also beneficial in understanding customer/product patterns. If the software doesn't have utilization tracking built-in, key populated data fields (indicative of use) are a useful proxy. Knowing this information for key stakeholders allows you to have cross-selling conversations or advise usage for maximum product utilization.
- Data collection the old-fashioned way
When collecting this level of information, for public institutions or well-documented, narrow markets, you can often find the data on public sources or purchase it from third parties, whereas, in most vertical markets, it isn’t often as readily available. The data collection can prove to be time-consuming and take much of the ever-valuable employee bandwidth.
Though not the most elegant of solutions, a team of dedicated interns able to search the internet, make the calls, and populate information, can lead the charge.
- Keep the database alive with a dynamic CRM
Improving the database should not be a one-time exercise and is a process which will only increase its effectiveness over time. There will be variable information which is difficult to track down, not currently listed, or will change throughout the sales process, so it’s important to set up your CRM in a way that allows database updates.
“We have seen success deploying this framework within our portfolio.”
"While this framework can consistently be applied across industries and business models, it is important to note that this is not a cookie-cutter playbook."
The customer and prospect databases enables customer segmentation, account targeting, and territory design to help shape selling, marketing, and product design strategies. It is the foundation for all future sales optimization initiatives—no small feat.
If you’re ready to establish a robust customer and prospect database to make your go-to-market efforts more impactful, we’re ready to help.
Serent Capital invests in profitable, growing software and service companies. We typically invest in founder-led companies and often represent the first institutional capital in the company. We are highly selective, choosing to invest in only a handful of businesses each year. Our selectivity ensures that all our companies receive the attention and expertise that they need. Learn more about our portfolio companies.