Show Me The Data: What’s In It For Me?

I have found my way to several Websites lately that have offered items I would like to purchase for business or personal use. The companies have offered product descriptions, but no shopping carts, no links to other sites or to retailers from which I could buy the items I want.

The “Contact Us” pages have offered me e-mail facilities but I have searched in vain for a toll-free phone number. The implicit message is that these firms want me to buy their wares.

But the lack of an explicit call-to-action and a means to execute that action in each case led me to look for alternatives from other better designed, more communicative Websites.

A cataloger once included a business reply card for a drawing for a free item in a summer prospect catalog. When 20,000 cards appeared there was no one assigned to perform the data entry and tabulation. A card was drawn to receive the free item, but then the rest of the cards were bundled and set on the shelf.

Six months later the embarrassment of having the company president ask about the cards again drove the catalog director to arrange for data entry and to make sure each responder was added to the regular mailing list.

Similarly, when a firm mailed information about a product to online inquirers they included something that had not previously shown up on their website – a return address at headquarters.

The subsequent arrival of thousands of letters and postcards forced the company to bring in temporary workers to open and sort the mail. The receiving departments from the legal counsel to customer service then had to allow additional hours to process and respond to all of the communications.

Tell me and all of your other prospective inquirers and buyers what you want us to do. Buy your products? Just ask, and tell us how. Respond to your drawing and mail us your catalogs? Have someone able to add our names to your file. Invite us to communicate by giving us an address to use?

Assign someone to receive our letters and e-mails and tell us what you are going to do in response. Think through what you want your prospects and customers to do, whether to buy from, respond to or talk to you. Then be ready to deal with the consequences of what happens when they do what you want and your business and your customers will both gain.

Bill Singleton writes “Show Me The Data” each month for Lists and Data Strategies. He is a Manager of Analytics and Consulting Services at The Allant Group in Naperville, IL. He can be reached at