Your customers and clients are important. More than important, essential; what is your business without them? And how much of a future is your business likely to have if you can't be sure of customers coming around in the days and years to come?

All of which is fairly obvious. Of course you need people to be willing to part with their money on a regular basis. However, for the vast majority of companies, it's not enough that a customer of client should pay for goods or services just the one time; loyalty, coming back time and time again, can play a critical role in ensuring that the organisation has a stable and prosperous long-term future. Encouraging existing clients to think of your business first is a task that should never be overlooked, should always be given the time and consideration that it deserves.

Now, if your organisation is very small, it may be that you have but a few regular customers and you know them all personally. That's certainly a pleasing and helpful situation in which to find yourself. However, it's not one that many businesses would recognise - so, if your company has a large number of frequent customers or clients to keep loyal, the benefits of having a system for managing those connections can be very significant.

What you need is a database. After all, if you really want your customers to feel loyal towards your brand, it's not enough merely to know who they are. By storing details in a database, you can maintain a whole lot more than just names or details. What has the customer previously bought? When? How often, and where from? How much do they spend? Mix in demographic details, and you can put together quite a thorough picture of a customer - and, most importantly, of what would be likely to convince them to keep coming back.

With this information, it's easy to target marketing and offers directly at customers, suited to their specific individual requirements. We've all probably come across this at one time or another - you buy such-and-such from a company, then a couple of months later receive an email asking if you'd like to buy that again from them, and here's a discount if you do. It's a very simple and effective form of marketing, and one that encourages customers to believe that you're providing a service specifically tailored to them.

That said, you'll have probably come across targeted marketing that doesn't seem to be aimed particularly well. If you're going to work with the most useful information, the information most likely to produce positive results for your organisation, then its important to arm yourself with effective tools - not merely maintaining records on customers, but using the best techniques to analyse those records to identify the key aspects of the data. Fortunately, Microsoft Access makes it easy to analyse any element of your data, producing reports that isolate exactly what you need to know with just a few clicks.

And as you're already using Office software, once you know how to target the right marketing to the right customer, you can simply create a template for the communication in Publisher or in Word. Take, for instance, the targeted email offer: everyone on the mailing list will receive an email that looks essentially the same, but the details of the offer will be automatically tailored to suit the individual customer. With Access data and Publisher or Word templates, it's a quick, straightforward and highly effective process to ensure that everyone receives the communication that's right for them, without anyone at your end having to put a great deal of extra time and effort in. Encouraging customer loyalty without increasing expenditure or reducing productivity - what business wouldn't benefit from that?