This article was written by Laurie Whittier of Maestro Copywriting. Laurie specializes in direct response copywriting — the kind of writing that uses lifestyle benefits, emotion, and even a touch of psychology to ensure your marketing message evokes action. Maestro Copywriting is a member of Jottful Community.

People like to be understood. You can’t do that if you approach all your customers the same way.

The more you can appeal to their personal preferences — as long as it’s not overdone in a creepy Big Brother kind of way — the better chance you have to win their business… repeatedly.

But first you need to collect information about your customers and prospects. Here are eight data-capture techniques you could try in your small business.

1. Add offer codes to marketing materials

If you send out promotional offers, try assigning offer codes. These codes can be digital or printed on a direct mailer. Track the offers people respond to — and even the ones they DON’T. Data is information, and it’s all helpful!

2. Launch a reward or loyalty-card program 

We all love saving money at the store by swiping our loyalty card. These programs track your buying history. Retailers use that information to tailor future offers or print coupons on your receipt to woo you back. 

For your business, you don’t even need to use actual cards; you can share a digital code your customers can enter at checkout. 

Loyalty programs are also useful in identifying who might be interested in a new product or service!

3. Ask customers how they heard about you

This one tiny question can help you identify a treasure trove of marketing opportunities.

4. Make use of “lead magnets”

Offer something of value in exchange for an email address, phone number, mailing address, or other demographic information. Such “lead magnets” might include free: 

  • E-newsletter
  • Weekly text tips
  • Guides or white papers

Make whatever you are offering worth their while. If your lead magnet isn’t special, they won’t feel the love.

5. Put out an incentive-based survey

Maybe returned surveys go into a drawing? A holiday giveaway perhaps? Get creative! 

Ask for useful info in the survey, like their interests, brand preferences, marital status, household size, job title, and so on.

6. Track website usage

Marketing-automation software can follow prospects and customers as they visit your website. This trail of breadcrumbs can help you identify their interests. Use this information to target future communications.

7. Conduct a poll

Everyone loves to be asked for their opinion. So devise an online poll and promote it on your invoice, on a package insert, or via email. 

You could ask: “How did we do with product X?” or “Would you buy X product? Why or why not?” “What products would you like to see?” “How could we do better?” 

8. Analyze your social media engagement

What are your customers liking and sharing? Which links are they clicking on? Use this information to create customer segments that you’ll message differently, according to their interests.

Information can help us make better decisions. And collecting data on our customers and prospects can help us better market our business.