You’re planning a surprise birthday party. It’s time to invite your husband’s family and friends. What’s the first thing you do? Create a list… Who are you inviting? Where are they? How do you get in touch with them? You need to know, and most likely, need to know fast.
These are the exact same questions your business should ask when planning an email campaign, content marketing program, or sales incentive. How do you make sure you have the answers? By creating and maintaining a healthy customer database that includes both current and prospective contacts. Don’t have a database? Here’s how you get started:
1. Mine Your Existing Files
Who are your current clients? Take a look at your emails, invoices, and other correspondence. These sources are a quick, easy ways to gather the necessary, basic database information:
- Place of employment
- Job title
- Address, phone, and email
You may not have all of this information, but even partial data can allow you to create an entry. In addition, make sure to create a field for delineation between “current” vs. “prospect” – and if pertinent, who your current sales or team contact is for each.
2. Check Out Social Media
Have a Facebook or Twitter account? Take a look at who’s following you, and better yet, interacting with you on a regular basis. Most profiles are at least partially public, often providing access to name, location, and employer. If a follower or commenter looks promising, do a bit more investigating to find his/her contact information.
To most easily learn titles and emails, turn to LinkedIn. In addition to person-by-person search, the platform supports by-industry or organization searches – helping you grow your prospect list quickly and efficiently.
3. Lead-Generating Ads
Whether banner ads on industry websites and social media, or an e-blast via a publication, lead-generating ads are an easy way to gather these personal details. Entice interest for “clicks” by offering a product trial, enter-to-win scenario, or thought-piece download in exchange for contact information.
Of course, remember that all lead-generation options are not equal. Do your homework regarding where your prospects gather information, as well as which outlets and publications they respect most. Before spending money, set some goals (and if possible, test with a minimized budget).
4. List Purchase
There are many vendors that sell “lists” of leads – organized by industry, title, location, and more. List purchase is the fastest way to bulk up your database. That said, it is recommended that you attempt the above contact-generating efforts first.
Before purchasing a list, know exactly who you’re looking for – in as much detail as possible. Also, be sure to ask about list age in order to avoid outdated information.
Now you have your list – a few extra pointers…
- Conduct regular database “hygiene” by weeding out bounce-back emails and duplicated information (as contacts may switch jobs). You may also want to trim the individuals who just aren’t responding, or at least, mark them as email-only to avoid investment in more costly direct mail.
- Stay up to date on CAN-SPAM and other compliance laws. Rules are constantly changing, as well as vary from region to region. Know whom you can contact where, and whether he/she has provided the required opt-in permissions.
- Get creative and encourage your team. Just like you’re constantly looking for new ways to entice customers, also seek new ways to identify them. This is often best done by encouraging and reminding your team to share names and details of leads they know (or want to know).
- Finally, remember to ask… Attend an industry event or place an advertisement? See if the organizer or representative has contacts to share. Friends of friends are potential friends. You may be told “no,” but it never hurts to inquire.