Key learning outcomes:

  • Discover if you have a database or a clientbase.
  • Learn about the benefits of maintaining good quality customer contacts.
  • Establish that occasional, engaging communication is more productive than frequent, irrelevant communication.
  • Recognise that a clientbase should be regularly reviewed and updated.


Over the past 10 years or so, collecting customer information has become an important part of doing business. Knowing who your customers are allows you to build better relationships and to promote your business to those people who are already aware of your business or have had prior dealings with you.

Every time you sign up to one of those loyalty programs or for a newsletter, the business is capturing your details to allow them to promote to you down the track. Some businesses do this very well and have sophisticated programs to ensure that you receive information and offers that are relevant to you. Essentially, they try to add value to the customer experience. On the other hand, some businesses take your details and either never contact you again or bombard you with too many messages and irrelevant offers.

The key difference between these two types of businesses is that one has a database and the other has a clientbase.[wlm_ismember]

How can you tell a database from a clientbase?

Our info graphic below highlights the key differences so you can assess if you are operating with a database or a clientbase.


Frequently asked questions

“But aren’t more contacts better?”

A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking that bigger is better. This is only true if all the contacts are of good quality. This means that you have full details for each customer and that the information is up to date. If you find that you have a large number of contacts that are missing information, such as email addresses, last names or phone numbers, you need to try and build on this information or remove the poor quality contacts.

“How can I turn my database into a clientbase?”

The first step is to clean your data. You want to make sure that the contacts you have in your clientbase have sufficient details. Our standard for a good quality contact is a first name, surname, ideally a postal address and either an email address or phone number. This will allow you to vary the format of your communication. Next, you need to make sure you have a system for categorising the customers, as this ensures that your communication is relevant to the customer’s interest. For example, a sporting goods store may have a category for each sport, which allows you to send specific information to customers who are interested in a particular sport.

“But isn’t sending something better than not sending anything?”

The aim of your clientbase is to add value to the customer relationship. It is important to ensure that your communication with customers is relevant and of interest. Sending a poorly worded or inappropriate message is far worse than not sending anything.

“How often should I communicate?”

One of the keys to building relationships is to address the consistency and frequency of contact. How often you should communicate will depend on your business type and what would be appropriate.  For example, it might be appropriate for a café to send out their specials weekly but this frequency would be too much for a fashion boutique.  It is also important to consider how confident you are that you will be able to maintain your efforts over time. Inconsistency shows a lack of organisation and professionalism; therefore, you may be better to start with a less frequent communication that is well written and goes out on time, than starting something that becomes hit and miss.

“How do I know what my customers are interested in?”

Your type of business will give you some clues; for example, a kitchen store is likely to attract people who are interested in cooking and a sports physiotherapist is likely to have customers who are interested in health, sports and injury prevention. If you are unfamiliar with your customers’ interests, the best way to find out is to ask them.  Often you can set up a system when you are collecting the customer’s details to also gather what products or information would interest them.

“If I just keep sending things, shouldn’t something stick?”

It is worse to send communication pieces out too frequently than not at all. It is important to remember that your customers are more time poor these days, and are likely to receive information from multiple sources. Once again, working with a clientbase is more about quality than quantity, and it is about adding value to the relationship.

“How do I maintain my clientbase?”

This takes work. You need to be constantly reviewing your clientbase to ensure that details remain up to date, watch for returned mail items, and undelivered texts and emails. Consistent contact is the best way to ensure your clientbase remains current. We suggest you set up a system for each category of customer. For example, all customers may get your monthly newsletter, a birthday card and perhaps a Christmas gift. However, if we go back to the example of the sporting store, tennis players may get special offers to coincide with major tournaments or golfers may get a communication that goes out in line with the change of seasons. The key is to have a systemised approach that ensures all customers receive consistent communication.


We encourage all of our members to build clientbases and not databases. One of the real benefits of a clientbase is the higher return from each customer through increased levels of repeat and referral business. Once you can shift your mindset to start building a clientbase rather than simply collecting customer data, you will start reaping the rewards. By adding value to the customer relationship you will experience an increase in the level of customer loyalty over time.

We have a number of articles on “Client Nurture ” in this section of the website that will assist you to start building your clientbase and guaranteeing the future of your business.[/wlm_ismember]

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