Databases are a small businesses most our most important marketing tool. The following article discusses how to ensure the data within your database is valid and reliable, how to systematize or automate your database marketing, and how to obtain a useful prospect or mailing list. Whether you keep your contacts in Outlook, ACT, Goldmine, QuickBooks, Excel or another contact management program, the thing that matters most is that the database needs to be updated - new contacts should be added often, the database should be easily accessed, its content should be accessible in a mail merge process as well as downloadable. If your database is not in a computer program, you have a problem; you probably are not keeping in touch with your contacts often enough since you cannot even use your data to create a document with a mail merge feature.
It is imperative that you take whatever steps necessary to enter your contacts, business cards, emails, scraps of paper, or other items that contain client/potential client information on them, into a computer application. At the very least, use a program such as Microsoft Excel to build a spreadsheet. If you to not type or feel it might take you too long to complete, DELEGATE this task! Pay someone, such as a Virtual Assistant or administrative type person, to enter and organize your information so you do not have to do this yourself. Remember, doing this type of work does not make you money; you need to be concentrating on increasing your list and making more sales. Make sure you include a column or category to capture 'where you met them', if they are 'hot, warm or a cold prospect', a 'client, active or non-client', a 'referral source', 'vendor' or other contact.
This will allow you to extract data into separate groups and mailing lists since you will need to send different messages to each group. Prospects will need sales messages, while clients will need additional services and/or touchy-feely messages, while referral sources will need to be asked for referrals and need to know about any new service and/or products your business is offering. In order to obtain a useful mailing list, I always recommend using a direct mail list company or list broker; I can refer you to one if you need it. Typically, lists cost about $100 per 1000 names. However, the more criteria you want included, such as demographic or psychographic info, the cost will increase incrementally. It can increase to as much as $300 per 1000.
You can also obtain lists in Microsoft Excel format through email, so they are mail merge ready. These can typically be available within two to six business days. For one of my clients, a shoe store, I acquired a list of women age 30-60 who lived in two specific zip codes AND who had shopped for shoes in the last three months.
That is a huge way to really hone in on a specific target audience! You can obtain a list for almost any target you may have -- attorneys, school administrators, specific age groups, income or geographic areas. It is a great way to increase your database quickly. However, for small business owners, I do always recommend networking in person to build your list the best. Really, the more people you meet and add to your database, the more you can market to by mail, email, phone, and other marketing methods. This will also lead to more referrals and increased business.
In order to systematize or automate your database marketing, I recommend that you first sign up for and using an email marketing program. Email marketing is free (except for low fees if you work with these companies to manage your programs) and can be the best use of your marketing budget. I prefer to use Constant Contact because it is easy to manage, creates my templates, uploads logos and photos and includes links. In addition, Constant Contact tracks every email that I send, captures which the individuals open them, who clicks through to my Web site, who opts out, and other valuable information.
I love it! I recommend emailing your database (everyone you know who has email) at least once a month. However, you should do this twice a month or more if you really need to promote your products and/or services online. Depending upon the type of business you have, more than likely, you will also want to do some direct mailing campaigns. If you have a tough market like real estate, mortgage, insurance or financial services, you will definitely want to do monthly mailings. The key is that you send something of value to your mailing list. Make sure you send information that your audience want to know more about, not just what you want to tell them about.
YOUR MESSAGE IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS! Making your mailings automatic can be as simple as designing a campaign of 6-12 postcards or letters all at one time. You can do so by setting up the printing at a mail house or local printer. Then, every month, all you have to do is email them your updated mailing list and they will, in turn, print and send the materials.
If you plan your mailings, not only will it save you money, but also it will help you target your message and allow you to plan for specific times of year (e.g. holidays, special sales). If you do not do this, you might end up frantically trying to put together a mailer each month, fitting it in between appointments and a few late nights.
In addition, it is likely that nothing will flow, your message might not be clear, might not grab your reader's attention, or worse yet, you could forget about your branding (e.g., how your list recognizes your pieces from others every month).
Finally, if you cannot manage all of this yourself - JUST DELEGATE IT! Hire a graphic designer and/or marketing company who can design your pieces and coordinate your mailings. Then, hire an assistant for your office or a Virtual Assistant to manage your mailings each month. It will save you money in the end. Believe me.
(c) Copyright 2008 K.Sawa Marketing Katrina Sawa is an Award-Winning Relationship Marketing Coach who's helped hundreds of small business owners take dramatic steps in their businesses to get them to the next level in business, revenues and life. She offers one-on-one coaching, group coaching and do-it-yourself marketing planning products. Go online now to get started with her Free Report and Free Audio at http://www.jumpstartyourmarketing.com For more information about Constant Contact click here.