Some of you know this, some of you don’t. But I live in a Kingsville, Ontario just south of Detroit.

Kingsville is small town whose claim to fame is being the most ‘Southern Town’ in all of Canada. It shares the same equator line as California, and residents enjoy warmer-than-most-Canadian-town summers (though I’ll be the first to point out that we don’t escape the Canadian winter snow).

In a town of 21,000 thousand people, one of my clients – a local restaurant, generates revenues that would be considered very successful in Canada’s largest cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

How do they do it? What’s their secret?

I’d like to say their biggest secret has been working with me over the past seven years, but one of their secrets is that they’re very diligent about collecting customer information, and tracking the behavior of every customer who walks in their door.

One way they collect their data by using a simple loyalty card. After implementing the loyalty program, they went on to have their best years of business, in over 20 years of business.

Did I mention that all of this only took an afternoon to set up?

The customer is number one and they have the data to prove it.

For example, they know exactly who their top customer is (even if he doesn’t). More importantly, the staff knows to treat him just a little bit better than your average Joe.

John’s drink is made before he even walks in the door.

Noah’s burgers always have extra bacon (yes – this Noah).

And they know which families will arrive every Friday night like clockwork and have their tables ready.

They have a special menu that only the best and most loyal customers can order from. And this is something that you can bet hasn’t escaped the notice of the rest of the customers in the restaurant, who of course, want to be part of the “club.”

It’s doing things like this that have helped them to nurture better, more loyal customers than most restaurants could dream of having.

The good news is that it’s never been simpler to set up similar systems in your business.

We set up their system in an afternoon.

But even if it took a full week or three months, is there any question that it would have been worth it?

There’s no excuse for even ‘mom and pop’ operations not to be tracking some elements of their customers behavior, and to start using that information to make customers feel special, valued, and appreciated.

In turn, those customers return the favor by being much, much more loyal than they would otherwise have been. Larger organizations can afford to set up more sophisticated systems, but that complexity can sometimes be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

As you can imagine, it’s easy to drown in data, and with too many different models or too many different types of data collected, it can be almost impossible to make any sense of it.

In fact, I always caution that any company, whether it’s a family owned burger restaurant or a 10,000 employee firm, start the process of data gathering and modeling by asking simple questions about their current customer behavior and begin building from there.

My golden rule is simple: If you can’t explain to a 12-year-old what you want to know, and how that will help you make better decisions, then you probably don’t need it.