Arguably the most important tool for any b2b company is an up-to-date database of its customers. Most b2b companies have just a few thousand (and sometimes just a few hundred) current and potential customers. And yet, if you asked to see a list of these companies with all the required contact information, you would be surprised how many would fail this acid test.
This list is the most important vehicle for talking to customers. It drives communications through newsletters, product launches, company announcements, price increases, and more. It is the starting point for a more sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Why is it so difficult to prepare this simple tool? There are a number of reasons:
1. Salespeople are extremely protective of their accounts. They believe that knowledge is power and they seek to keep their contacts close to their chest.
2. The customer contacts are a moving feast with a constant churn which is hard to track.
3. The task of keeping the database up to date is often considered trivial and boring; beyond the responsibility of anyone in a position of seniority. Indeed it is sometimes delegated to an intern as something to keep them occupied.
Keeping an up-to-date database of customers and potential customers is an ongoing effort. Yet, it is one of the most critical tasks in growing any business.