While small businesses don't generate the same amount of data that larger companies do, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with how to effectively utilize the customer data that is collected. The obvious and most effective way is to leverage email to engage with customers, drive traffic to your website, and hopefully convert to sales.

Email marketing takes time, however, and if not effectively used and managed, you run the risk of turning customers away, or worse, landing your email on a "spam" list.

There is an answer. Countless CRM (customer relationship management) and email services are available to help customers manage data.  Infusionsoft is one such service that we at Wild Creations have used and found effective in the past. Here are three ways Paul Sokol, Small Business Consultant at Infusionsoft, suggested you leverage your data.

Find an external service to help sort data.

Attempting to keep emails in a spreadsheet and database, then creating generic and impersonal emails that are cut-and-pasted or sent to long distribution lists is a very ineffective use of your time, energy and resources. By far, the most effective use of your marketing efforts (and dollars) is to use a service that is designed to help you manage your data.

A company like Infusionsoft, for example, can take your data and provide you with a web-based platform and easy user interface to effectively set up and automate engagement. More importantly, a service will then collect and help you analyze the marketing programs for effectiveness so you can quickly and easily adapt to the behaviors of your customers and the trends of your industry.

Another benefit of using a service is that it will typically allow you to create automated and personalized emails. These can be used for sending regular emails with a discount code on customers' birthdays to timed emails to someone who has opened an email or visited your site.  

Make your website customer friendly.

Emails are the first impression, but your website is where the magic happens. Because email engagement will direct people to your website and/or landing page, your website needs to look sharp, be optimized for conversions, and most important be mobile ready.  

Focus on a few key metrics.

Managers need to analyze the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and make adjustments accordingly.  Services, such as Infusionsoft, capture a ton of information after engagement has started.  Additional data points such as click-through rates (emails that lead to an action), bounce rates (visitors who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page), and conversion rates (visitors who engage in the call to action) are just a few of the data points you can use. This information allows you to determine if your engagement is aligned with the visitor's intentions. 

I know many business owners who fall into the camp that believes that collecting and using customer data is invasive. You wouldn't be wrong if this data were being sold to third parties or used in improper ways. I believe, however, that most customers appreciate receiving information that is useful and pertinent.

In the end, remember this: It’s happening already, so if you are not engaging with your customers, someone else will.

Do you have tips for better leveraging your data?  Please share in the comments below.