Great, but how do you determine who your best prospects are? The standard definition of best prospects is those who have had involvement with your programs: current participants, past participants, or people who have inquired about your programs. While this is a useful way to slice up your potential audience, it remains a relatively crude method of segmentation. A more refined method is to create a value profile for every record in your database. A value profile includes information on the following:

1. Recentness: When was the last time a prospect came to your meeting?

2. Frequency: How many times has a prospect been to your meeting?

3. Monetary Value: How much revenue has the prospect generated by attending your meetings? For example, did the prospect purchase ancillary products such as tapes offered at previous meetings?

The Catch There is a catch: Creating a value profile based on the recentness/frequency/monetary value formula means being able to capture this information in your database. This means, at very least, you should be tracking individual attendance dates and volume of participation over time. Even better, you should also be able to summarize how much money an individual has spent attending your meetings. And remember as you put your information-gathering systems into place that you must be able not only to store information about prospects, but to retrieve it in a form that will be meaningful. This is the arena in which information systems managers earn their keep-consult with them early and often about what you need to be able to do.

The Prize Being able to assemble a value profile makes it possible to calculate periodically the performance record of each customer. This information gives you a great prize: the ability to predict the future potential of that customer. In short, a prospect who found value in your last program is more likely to find value in your next one.

Once you know who among your prospects has attended most recently, most often, and generated the most revenue for you, determining who should receive your promotional pieces with what degree of intensity will become easier. This approach directly relates the cost of promotion to the potential benefits to be derived from each prospect.

Next time, we'll establish the actual formula for a value profile, and plug in some numbers. With the results, you'll be able to think about building attendance in a new way: acquiring prospects, one by one.