Get More Customers by Getting Organized

by Julie Chance

When it comes to marketing, do you ever feel like you are at the mercy of the tides – following up on a referral here, chasing a lead there and more often than not ending up battered and bruised by the rocks along the shoreline? There is a simple solution. It is a solution that will put you in control of your marketing efforts and help assure a steady flow of prospective clients: develop and use a contact management database.

Now what could be simpler? And if you invest in developing your database, like an investment in a great stock or mutual fund, your return will be many times the initial investment. As with most things knowing what needs to be done is simple. Actually doing them or doing them successfully is a little bit more complicated. That is why so many of us have contact management databases like ACT! or Goldmine installed on our computers with nary a name entered in while we continue to be tossed about helplessly like a seashell in the marketing tide.

Gain control of your marketing efforts now!
Set-up a contact management database – Pick a program – ACT! and Goldmine are popular contact management databases. Outlook may even work if you’re just getting started. And coaches should definitely explore Client Compass, a customized business management software including a client and prospect database, developed for coaches by coaches. Talk to other people in your line of business to see what they are using and what they like and dislike about the program. Give some thought to how you might use the database and what types of information you want to collect.



Here are some general things to consider as you start this process:

  • Have one list. Setting up multiple lists for example one with everyone you met at one networking event, another with names from a second networking event and a third from a mailing list you purchased leads to duplicates that at best needlessly increases costs and at worst irritates your prospective clients with duplicate mailings. Be especially careful of this when doing mass e-mailing.
     
  • Set-up fields so contacts can be sorted in multiple ways. For example, you would want to include fields for the source of the name; the type of business the individual is in; which of your products/services they are most likely to be interested in; and whether they are a suspect, prospect, potential referral source, current client, past client, etc.
     
  • Determine other purposes for which you may want to use the database. Client Compass for example has a multitude of functions helpful to managing a coaching practice including client and prospect information tracking, coaching call summaries, administration, marketing and invoicing. There's even a credit card billing option. Goldmine can be used to track both opportunities (proposals that you might have out and the status of the proposals) as well as active projects – especially helpful for consulting projects where multiple people may be involved.
     
  • Be sure you can easily use the names for direct mail and e-mail purposes. The database program should have the capability to do merge mailings and e-mails to selected groups or the ability to export to other programs such as Excel so mail merges can be accomplished.

Invest in the technology and the assistance necessary to set-up a functional database system because this is one of the most valuable tools in constructing an effective marketing program.

Feed the database on a regular basis. The best designed database with all the latest technological bells and whistles is useless if it doesn’t have any names in it. The primary objective of much of your promotional efforts should be obtaining contact information for individuals who fit the profile of your target customer. You can then enter this information into your database and begin the relationship development process with these individuals.

So how can you feed your database?

  • Networking. When you are networking be sure to ask for the cards of the people you meet who could be prospective customers. In fact, it is much more important to obtain their card than it is to give them your card.
     
  • Speaking. When you speak or do presentations be sure you have a mechanism for obtaining the names of the people in attendance. A door prize is one good way to do this.
     
  • Writing. If you write articles be sure to invite readers to your website to sign-up for your regular newsletter or a free guide.
     
  • Direct mail and advertising. With a few exceptions, the goal of direct mail or advertising should not be to make a sale. It should be to obtain contact information so you can continue to market to those individuals who have shown an interest in your services. Therefore your promotional pieces should be designed to get a maximum number of people with even a slight interest in your services to provide you their contact information. Giving away a free guide is one excellent way to accomplish this.

Obviously once you have contact information it must be entered into the database. The 500 cards you collected through networking activities last year aren’t doing much good wrapped in a rubber band lying in desk drawer. If you get even a few business cards a week that need to be entered into the database it is well worth an investment in a card scanning program such as CardScan. Be sure the program you select allows export of the contact information to the contact database program you will be using. In fact, a program like CardScan could serve as the primary contact management system if you are just getting started. If adding names to your database is something you just never seem to get done the investment in some administrative support to accomplish this task can pay off handsomely.

Consistently nurture the names in the database. A great database with hundreds or even thousands of names in it is useless unless you actually have contact with the names in the database. This is a topic for another article or even a whole book. At a minimum there should be follow-up with every contact shortly after you receive their contact information (i.e. a note or e-mail to someone you met at a networking event within a few days of meeting them) and regular, planned contact with them at least monthly going forward. With today’s technology much of this can be automated.

Protect this valuable asset. Your contact database is one of your most valuable assets. Be sure you protect it. Do regular back-ups and store these back-ups off site. For about the cost of a week’s worth of Starbuck ’s coffee you can have all of your files backed up automatically each night and stored on a remote server. What would be the cost of replacing your contact database?

Get your feet planted solidly in the sand. Invest in developing, maintaining and using a contact management database to harness the power of the marketing tides and generate the leads you need to grow the business of your dreams.

© 2005 STRATEGIES-BY-DESIGN.

Julie Chance is the President of Strategies-by-Design. She has over 18 years of professional experience in training, marketing, management and operations. Visit her web site at www.strategies-by-design.com or email her at

 
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