“I’ve always believed the greater danger is not aiming too high, but too low, settling for a bogey rather than shooting for an eagle.” – Peter Scott

One of the best ways to build your online business is to build your house list of potential customers. But you can also do it by changing the way you market to your existing customers. Today, I want to show you how breaking up your existing customer database can boost your sales.

Data mining, or database marketing, is basically the art of slicing and dicing your own in-house list of names. You do this to help increase the response to your online sales promotions.

You see, once you divide your list of names into smaller groups (“segmentation”), you can specialize your product offers. Then, by targeting your offer based on customer needs, you’ll be promoting products to people who are more likely to buy them. You increase your customers’ satisfaction as well as your potential conversion rates. (The conversion rate is the number of people who not only read your offer but actually purchase the product.) And higher conversion rates means more money for your company.

One proven model is the RFM method. It’s practiced by direct-response marketers all over the world, and is a marketing method we use here at ETR.

“R” stands for Recency, how recently a customer has made a purchase. “F” stands for Frequency, how often the customer makes a purchase. And “M” stands for Monetary, how much the customer spends.

Here’s how you can use the RFM method to help lift your sales.

  • Recency

Whether your house list is made up of people who signed up to receive your free e-zine or people who paid for a subscription, you can segment your database according to how long your customers have been with you. Let’s say, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12+ months.

You would look at these groups as your hot subs (newest subscribers), warm subs (mid-point subscribers), and cool subs (those who have been subscribing to your e-zine the longest).

Let’s say your list is made up of subscribers to your free e-zine. Here’s how you use that information…

Because your “cool subs” may have lost their initial enthusiasm for your e-zine, you should cross-reference them with your open rates. If most of them haven’t been opening your e-zine in six, nine, or 12 months, you should consider sending them a special message asking if they still want to receive your e-zine.

But that doesn’t mean you ignore them. These inactive subscribers are a great group on which to test new marketing approaches, new prices, new subject lines, and so on. After all, you have nothing to lose. Your goal for this group is to re-engage them. And since they aren’t responding to your current e-mails, why not use this platform to test?

Your “hot subs” are your newest, most enthusiastic subscribers. They are ripe to learn more about you, your products, and your services. If you handle this group properly, you can cultivate them into paying customers. So you may want to send them targeted offers and messages.

For example, you could send them a special introductory series of e-mails. This special series would introduce them to your e-zine’s contributors and philosophy. It could also tempt them with specially priced offers. Sending an introductory series like this can not only increase the number of subscribers who convert to paying customers, it also increases their lifetime value (LTV) – the amount they spend with you over their lifetime as your customer.

If, instead of subscribers to a free e-zine, your house list is made up of people who paid for their subscription, the same segmentation process applies. You break your active subscribers into hot subs, warm subs, and cool subs. You also break out expirers (those who allowed their subscription to run out) and cancels (those who cancelled their subscription).

Cross-marketing to these lists is usually effective. The expirers often just forgot to renew and simply need a reminder. And just because someone cancelled one subscription doesn’t mean they may not be ideal for another service or product that you provide. If they’re still willing to receive e-mail messages from you, add these folks to your promotional lists.

Once you’ve gotten these otherwise inactive subscribers to open your messages, turning them into paying customers is just a matter of time. Most Internet marketers would have written these people off. So any revenues you get from them are “extra.”

  • * Frequency

“It may seem counter-intuitive,” says Michael Masterson, “but in the direct-mail world, the best names you can mail to are people who have recently bought products and/or services very similar to what you are selling. The closer you can get to mailing to those who have bought similar products/services, the greater your response rate will be.”

This connects to another important way to break down your house list: by how frequently customers have bought from you. So once you’ve divided your list based on recency, you look at it in terms of your customers’ purchase behavior. First, you identify your multi-buyers – customers who’ve purchased more than one product from you. You then split this list further, segmenting out two-time, three-time, four-time (and more) buyers.

Those who have bought from you most often have proven their loyalty and obviously like the products and service they’ve been getting from you. So if, for example, you’re considering launching a new product with a high price point, these would be your best prospects.

  • * Monetary

Finally, you look at your list in terms of money.

One way to do this is to divide your list by the amount of money each customer has spent with you. You might, for example, assign a benchmark dollar amount, such as $5,000, $10,000, or more. Customers at that level make up your “premium buyers.” This is the group that has the most favorable LTV for your company. These are your “VIPs.”

Once you discover who your VIPs are, you can design products or offers specifically for them. Let’s say you have some kind of exclusive – and expensive – lifetime membership club. You would market this to multi-buyers who also fall into your “premium buyer” category.

If you offer payment options to your customers, another monetary way to divide your list is according to the payment options they have chosen: monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. This will help you determine the initial purchase tolerance of each group of customers and which ones may respond best to future price points.

As you can see, by looking at your customers’ purchasing habits – recency, frequency, and monetary – you can identify the best customers for certain products. And by offering a product to customers who are likely to want it, you can improve your conversion rates.

By using the RFM model and other data-mining techniques, I’ve seen conversion rates double and triple. I’ve also seen inactive subscribers’ open rates surge from 0 percent to more than 30 percent. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering that the average open rate for the industry is about 20 percent.

I’ll go into more details on how to leverage the power of your own in-house list through segmentation in future issues of Early to Rise. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about data mining and how to get the most out of your current customer database, I highly recommend an excellent book titled Strategic Database Marketing by Arthur Hughes.

[Ed. Note: Wendy Montes de Oca is ETR’s Vice President of Marketing & Business Development. Enjoy the success you’ve always wanted with ETR’s Direct Marketing Quick-Start Kit. This 4-CD program is the most effective, quickest, and least expensive way to move you toward financial independence.]

WendyWendy Montes de Oca, MBA is President of Precision Marketing and Media, LLC and publisher of the popular marketing and business building newsletter, Precision Marketing. She is an online marketing and direct response expert with nearly 20 years of experience leading the marketing efforts for top publishers such as Agora/Early to Rise, Weiss Research, and NewsMax as well as Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric, Chase Manhattan Bank, CitiGroup, and Automatic Data Processing.

Her consulting clients (past and present) is like a “Who’s Who” including top copywriters, anti-aging nutritionists, online publishers, supplement companies, travel service providers, political websites and more!

Her background includes multi-channel marketing (print, email, direct mail, radio, TV) with expertise in direct response marketing for the Web. Her marketing initiatives helped bring in millions of dollars in revenues for the companies she has worked for.

Wendy received a Bachelor of Science degree from St. John’s University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Nova South Eastern University. Throughout her career, she has been recognized with various awards for quality, innovation, teamwork, and new product/new business development.

She is also a distinguished speaker at marketing conferences such as Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) and author of several marketing and business articles for Early to Rise, Makepeace Total Package, and Target Marketing, just to name a few. Her blog, www.musclemarketing.blogspot.com  was named by marketing industry staple, Best of Web, as “top internet marketing blog.” For more information visit www.precisionmarketingmedia.com.