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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Build A Customer Database

Many people dream of having thousands of customers but only a few do the work that must be done to find and win them. In the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that great companies pay attention to details and no task is too tedious. Collecting the name, address, phone number, email and buying habits of every customer is tedious and Sue Montgomery does it.

Key Question:


Communicate with your customers on a  regular basis by  building and maintaining database.

Q: How does Sue leverage her own mailing list?

A: She and her fellow merchants on the main street of Libertyville share their lists with one another and send a joint newsletter to promote their shopping district. If she had NO list to share she would not be considered a player and not have the opportunity to spend her marketing dollars in this efficient way.

Scott and Marthalee Mooney are the owners of Country Supply. They are part of our library here and they told us when they started building their mailing list that no task was too small. They started before there was such a thing as a PC. The couple would go to the library in their small town to search the newspapers and they hand-copied the names and phone numbers of people who were selling horses or equipment from newspapers' classified ads. Often there was only a phone number in the ad so they would call the number and ask the person's permission to add their name to a mailing list for a catalog offering low-priced horse care supplies. They were young and did what they could afford to do. Marthalee typed up the lists and for the first few years they made photo copies of the lists, cut the lists into labels and glued them on to the self-mailer catalog.

Today their company has 450,000 names in a very sophisticated database and the business generates $17 million in revenues.

Think about it

Do you know who your customers are? How do you communicate with them?

Clip from: Mickey Finn

It is hard to imagine at one time this downtown was bleak.

Libertyville, Illinois: Discover how two men changed the face and the fortunes of a town. Pat Elmquest and Bill Sugars invested in their local community when no one else would. They dared to dream an impossible dream. The old downtown was virtually abandoned -- over 60% vacancy -- with pawn shops and the like.  Pat had bought a little pub; then with a $2 million loan, they expanded to make a brewery and restaurant... and the old downtown transformation was underway.

They were true pioneers ...the visionaries.  Today, Libertyville is an award-winning historic business district.

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Mickey Finn's Brewery

Brian Grano, Today's Owner & CEO

Founders: Pat Elmquest & Bill Sugars
412 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Libertyville, IL 60048

Visit our web site:

Office: 8473626688

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1990

Build A Customer Database

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Mickey Finn's is part of a revitalized, historic business district which has a mix of retail stores. I walked down the street to see Sue Montgomery, owner of Heartland Cornucopia.

Hey, Sue.

SUE MONTGOMERY (Heartland Cornucopia): Hi. HATTIE: I was hoping that... (Voiceover) She told me about one of the marketing tools that is working for her and some of her colleagues.

SUE: We couldn't reach the people that we needed to on our own expenses, so we came together--all of us are a part of Main Street--and we developed this newsletter (referring to The Villager). For instance, our grand opening is in here. Or we all have coupons in the back.

HATTIE: Who do you mail this to?

SUE: We mail this to all of our customers and every resident of our town. And what we did is we--everyone consolidated their mailing lists and we...

HATTIE: You mean you shared your lists with everyone?

SUE: We shared our lists with everybody because...

HATTIE: Did you have fights over that or discussions?

SUE: Not at all. It was--we knew that whoever shopped in my store was shopping in her store. And if we can reach one more person, then that's one more customer for me. So we brought all of that together. We have a huge database of probably about 40,000, and we trim it and decide what this issue is all about and then we send it to the 25,000 that we can. And as we grow and add more businesses, we'll, of course, mail to more people.

HATTIE: So the word is collaboration, isn't it?

SUE: Definitely. You have to work together to make it happen.

HATTIE: Don't compete; collaborate. Is it working?

SUE: Definitely. It's the most a--it's the only advertising I do.

HATTIE: Our viewers are giving us a lot of great ideas, and we want to start sharing them with you. (Voiceover) One of our viewers writes, `When I started my business, I tried to be all things to all people, just as my competition was doing, and growth was slow. On one of your programs, a business owner said, "There are riches in niches." When I heard that, I pulled my team together, and we decided that we could go after our own niche. By applying your advice, we have tripled our billings, and today, our sales exceed $3 million. Thank you, thank you, thank you!' John Fareed, president, Fareed & Company, advertising and public relations, Norfolk, Virginia.

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