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Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Key Idea: Communicate With Customers

Laurie mails a catalog to customers and also posts her catalog on the web.  At markets she gathers more leads to add to her list.

Key Question:


Put your name in front of customers as often as you can afford to.

Q:  Where does every customer communication plan begin?

A:  With a database.  Building a database should be one of the primary components of a business owner's total business plan. It's absolutely critical that you retain key information about your customers.

Carol Schroeder, owner of Orange Tree Imports, maintains a database that includes the name, address, phone number and purchasing history of her customers. She sends direct mail to them regarding specific items they would find interesting. She also reaches customers with print and radio advertising.

One technique Carol uses to grow her mailing list is to rent the list of a business that has customers like her customers. She told us about renting the one-time use of Bon Appetite’s mailing list for the Zip codes in and around Madison.

Everyone who responded to her mailing by using the coupon or returning the response card is now a permanent part of Orange Tree Imports’ list.

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.

Scott and Marthalee Mooney, founders of Country Supply, used the good-to-great strategy and didn't even realize it. They wanted to build a list and no task was too small. Scott and Marthalee hand-copied the names and phone numbers of people who were selling horses or equipment from newspapers' classified ads sounds very naive. However, he was only 22 years old when he started the process of building a mailing list. Scott did what made sense to him at the time. He did what he could afford.

Eventually he thought of buying lists from magazines and over time he learned how to find qualified names with less effort. Of course he was naive in 1984 -- but not now.

Scott is a perfect example of a person who eventually learns by trial and error and he is perfectly happy with this technique. In fact, he would probably argue it is the only real way to learn.

To grow your database you can try Carol's technique and/or work with a list broker. First do a profile of your existing customers and your best customers and determine their demographics and the psychographics. If possible, determine why and how they purchase from you. A good list broker will know how to find additional lists of people who look like your best customers.

Think about it

Do you have a customer database?  What does it tell you about your customers?  How often do you contact your customers?  What tedious task needs to be done for you to move your business forward? We guarantee, it is something that no one wants to do.

Clip from: Flap Happy started by manufacturing hats!

Hattie encourages us all,  "Set Profit-Margin Goals."

Santa Monica: In this episode of the television show we take you inside a California business that is making children's hats for Talbots, Nordstrom, Children's Wear Digest and dozens of others. Now they make hundreds of items for retailers (mostly small children's specialty retailers) all around the world.

Laurie Snyder started Flap Happy because she was afraid her very fair-skinned, freckled-faced baby boy would get seriously burned by the California sun. Laurie created a hat by enlarging the brim of a traditional baseball cap and by adding flaps. Other mothers saw the hat and wanted one for their own child.  That was the beginning of this special business.

Meet Laurie Snyder. Meet her Mom, her Dad, her husband, her sister, her "model" child and her other children, too. This is the team that sacrificed to build the business.

Go to all the Key Ideas and video of this episode...

Flap Happy, Inc.

Laurie Snyder, Founder / CEO

2330 Michigan Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Visit our web site:

Office: 310-453-3527

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1987

Communicate With Customers

HATTIE:  Many Flap Happy products are sold from catalogs, and thanks to her father, Marty, Laurie has her own.

MARTY: I think we were doing individual sheets and then she said, `We're going to have a few more.' So I said, `Well, why don't we take those sheets and fold them in half and that'll make a little four-page catalog?' So we put a bunch of the hats together; and for the first time, there's a single 8 1/2 by 11 sheet. And, it just grew like topsy from that. This whole catalog is a labor of love; it represents my daughter's ingenuity, and it represents our whole family staying together as a unit, which is very important to me. And it's just -- it's great. It's a mitzvah, which means it's great. It's a blessing.

HATTIE: Flap Happy has taken the time to build a good database, and they mail their catalog to everyone in it. John Wargo thinks we can learn something from Flap Happy: we all need a good database.

JOHN: First of all, capture the information of your best customers. When you begin talking to a customer, first thing you want to do is to get their name and get it spelled right. It's very, very important to them. Get their title, because that could be important to them, particularly if they worked hard to get it. Get their address because if they bought that house, they want you to know where it is. Get the city, get the state, get the ZIP code.

You need to know these things because they're a good customer. But while you're doing that, you're actually beginning to build your database. And with today's PC, you you can actually beginning to build a huge database.

With some good database software, building that list is simple as doing business.

Now the result is you're actually becoming more efficient as an administrator. It becomes a contact list, a support list, and a mailing list. It begins to show you quantitatively how many customers you really have. Where are they? What they bought and what they think about it.

At some point it may make sense to call a professional in to do some outsourcing. Now you're doing what big business does. You are bringing a level of expertise to your small business that you don't have. Building and maintaining the list is key to building your business. These professionals can give you a competitive advantage because you don't need to be the jack of all trades. You need to be good at your core competencies.

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