How many email addresses do you have in your DMS database? Most have less than 25%. You might want to do a count today to see what progress you’ve made collecting email addresses. What if you needed to tell all your customers about a rebate that was expiring next month and there were too many to call? Does the thought of doing a mail merge make you sweat – since the last time it took hours and you ended up correcting half of the letters?
Almost every book that I’ve seen that has mail merge instructions starts the steps in Word, but I have some tips to make your merge go better and it starts with your extraction from your DMS system and Excel. Using these simple steps, you should be able to create a perfect campaign export file and if you’re doing your own mailer, follow the steps in the mail merge article in this issue to mail out.
Step 1. Get a good data file. There is a point in the Mail Merge instructions where you open your data file. At this point you have limited ability to fix the data file other than to sort or select or deselect customers. If we get a good data file, we’re 80% done with our mail merge. When the person who wants to do the mailer says, “we need to send a letter to our customers and let them know about the $2,500 rebate that ends June 1st — you need to ask them a few more questions:
1. What year, make, model do we want to send to?
If you’re sending out a service mailer, you might not want customers in the shop that don’t own the makes you service.
2. What do you want to be the last sold or service date?
You certainly don’t want to tell someone who purchased before this rebate what they missed!
3. What zip code range?
There is nothing worse than completing a 2,000 count letter mailing and while you’re stuffing it notice how many customers live in Alaska (unless you’re in Alaska!) That’s a lot of wasted paper.
4. What fields to pull?
Here’s my suggestion: First name, Last name, Addr1, Addr2, City, State, Zip, Salutation, Cust#. Make sure they are the first fields you pull and in the left columns. Make sure City, State, and Zip are separate fields (some DMS systems have two choices; a single field with City, State, and Zip and three other fields with these items.) You need the State and Zip separate to exclude those Alaska owners.
5. Data extraction tips: Save the file as a CSV file format if you have that option. This file behaves better than an Excel file does coming from your DMS. If your DMS or CRM system doesn’t save to Excel or CSV, see if you can see the data on the screen with an inquiry. Highlight the data and copy. Open Excel and paste special. You might need to then highlight in Excel and Copy, open another worksheet and paste special again. Sometimes that web formatting is tough to get rid of!
Always run the report first to the screen (terminal) to see what the data looks like. For example last service date might look like this: 02MAY11 and last sold date might be 1/12/11. If you don’t enter the date correctly, you might not get the data you wanted. For ADP and R+R the wildcard is “]” the right bracket on your computer. Everyone in area has a zip code starting with 97, so I’d put in 97] . If you’re in a smaller state, you might want to enter two states like “MA” “VT.” Even better, if your full database is less than 20,000 records – pull in all the data – don’t exclude anything and we’ll do the filtering in our next step.
Can’t find the file to run this report from? It’s in your service department! Move over to a service login or menu and run the report writer again. For ADP, it’s VEHICLES, For R+R ERA, SERINDEX, for Power users, it’s your SIN database.
Step 2: Using Excel as your customer database. Now that there is no limit to the amount of records you can put into Excel 2007, it will do nicely to clean up this data. Click the filter icon. Now you’ll have little arrows next to each field. Using these arrows, start filtering and selecting our data based on your list above.
To get a sold date greater than two years ago – you have to think backwards. Select Custom and “is less than.” I also want the customers who have a blank sold date (purchased somewhere else), so I’ll add an “or” and equals blank. Continue your filtering and when you have your perfect list of customers to mail to, highlight all (including the field names) and copy. Open a new file and select paste special-values. This will give you a pure list without the filtered items.
You can now see how many you really have and might want to go back and filter more. Save this file with a place and location that you’ll remember. You can either send this to your printer or mass marketing provider to do the mailing – or do your own mailer using Microsoft Word’s Mail Merge.