The Science of Trade Marketing – Issue 2: Customer Census and Classification

First You Find Them
Customer Census is exactly what it sounds like. You are basically taking the strategy you defined at the beginning of this process and using it to determine what your desired customers and prospects might look like. This is, essentially, the potential customer universe for your company. Since you now know what the customer you want looks like, it’s up to you to gather them together into a common platform. This is Customer Census.

There are a number of sources you can use to source your customer list. The obvious first choice would be internal company records of existing customers or prospects. Another good source for potential customers is syndicated, or standardized external, data from a reputable source such as Trade Dimensions or Dun & Bradstreet. It’s important not to discriminate during the Customer Census process. All you’re trying to do is identify the full customer universe, in its entirety, which potentially fits your strategy. You can exclude those customers that represent less opportunity later on during the Trade Coverage Planning process.

Then You Classify Them
Customer Classification is, in short, the process of applying a set of common attributes to all the potential customers in your customer universe. These attributes can be standard to your industry or they can be unique to your company. The important thing is that these attributes will be meaningful to your company and can be used later on to define the relative value of one company in your universe versus the others.

Following are some examples of key attributes you might apply during Customer Classification.

Volume – How much do they purchase or sell in units?
Dollars – How much do they purchase or sell in dollars?
Control – Is it a single entity (independent) or part of a larger corporate or buying group (chain)?
Channel – What trade segment would they fall into (e.g. Food, Drug, Mass, Hardware, etc.)?
Customer Type – Is it a wholesale, retail or buying office type location?
Customer Status – Is it a current customer or a prospect?
Next Steps
There are many potential attributes to choose from and they can be revised periodically based on changes to your business. Whatever attributes you decide on, however, should be associated with the specific customer records in your customer database. These records will be the basis for segmenting your customer universe during the next step in your Trade Marketing planning process. It is now time to move on to that next step in the process, called Trade Coverage Planning.

John is the President of the Frontera Marketing Group, a full service agency in eastern Iowa offering advertising, design and web development services with emphasis on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media.

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