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Build a Database of Names and Contacts for Successful Marketing

Norbert J. Hobrath

When I meet with new customers for the first time, they are always eager to get started promoting their company’s products and services. “What should we do first?” is a question that comes up regularly.

While projects such as developing new advertisements, updating the website, kicking off new social media events, etc., are all important considerations, the first area we like to examine is the state of your database. Who are your customers? Do you have their contact information? What do you know about them? Where is this customer information kept? Can we easily access the data and is the information in an orderly organized and consistent format?

Why is the database so important? Let’s unravel this question. Imagine, creating the best direct mail campaign, or the sharpest looking enewsletter, but not having anyone to send these to. What good are they? You need names! And for pinpoint marketing, you need to be able to dig down and extract exactly the target audience you want to reach with your messages.

That is why starting at square one is the best approach, and that involves building and/or growing your marketing database.

1) Where to House the Information - There are many database software programs available such as Microsoft Access or Filemaker, etc., and also a host of other contact management programs. You can also create or purchase web-based databases and services that can hold this information. Or you may just want to start building a database using a simple Excel spreadsheet. If possible choose one central location that database information can come to and be housed.

2) Set Information Parameters You now need to set the information fields that you want to populate. Customize this to exactly how you want so that you can get to your optimum contact list quickly. Here are some key parameters:

City, State, Zip & Country
Office Phone
Fax Phone
Mobile Phone

From here you can add myriad fields, specifically to tell you what kind of prospect/customer you have.

The point is, when you want to mail a postcard about your latest product offering, you can access those specific contacts quickly and easily so you can get the information out. Or if you have breaking news, you can send an email or ebulletin quickly with the latest developments.

With the database properly set up, you can call up, for example only the contacts in one state or even zip code area, and offer them a special promotion. Or pick just one set of customers interested in a special new product or service and do a ‘test’ promotion to them before kicking it off to everyone.

3) Building and Taking Care of the List

Creating and maintaining a list of contacts should not just be a one-time endeavor. The list needs to grow on a regular basis, and be pruned as well.

To grow the list, make sure everyone in the organization is aware of your initiative to build the database. All sales and marketing personnel should especially help in this effort to provide contact information and details for a centralized database. In addition, create a sign-up form on your company website and ask for participation. And put the word out to your various contact points that you want to promote better, more timely communication so obtaining their details is important in this effort. Sometimes a contest or giveaway works well to garner new contacts. I know of some companies that have ‘incomplete’ database information. At one time they started down the road to building a database, but only obtained mailing addresses and telephone numbers. In today’s fast-paced new marketing world, you need to get those emails too. I advise my clients to start making phone calls and get their databases up to speed.

Sometimes you can buy mailing and/or email lists. I am usually wary of these, but when they are obtained from good sources, such as industry trade shows, or trade magazines with a pre-determined audience, they can be good purchases.

Now, on the other end, when you send out emarketing pieces such as ebulletins and enewsletters, you may get a response back to remove the name from your future marketing. So immediately you should comply. This may also happen in your direct mail program, where mailed pieces will be returned by the postal service with bad addresses, etc. So cleaning up the list is easier than you think as long as you are diligent about getting the updates posted in the database.

4) Track your success – It can be fun to see how the database changes over time. Are you adding more names over time? Do you notice that the ‘take me off your list’ responses are diminishing each month? That means your list is getting better. You should also see your response rates increasing as you learn to target your promotions better. Good luck in your efforts. All the hard work you put into the database will help make your marketing dollars work harder for you.

If you'd like to talk more about e-marketing ideas for your organization, send me an email.

Norbert Hobrath believes in the power of content marketing, both in words and images, and the powerful combination of these two. For more than 30 years, he has developed interesting, informative and influential strategy and content for both industrial and service-based B2B clientele. He has also directed marketing and communications programs as Director of Marketing Communications for a worldwide manufacturing company, and as Communications Manager for the Fortune 500 American Greetings Corporation, and for a BASF chemicals company. He enjoys promoting corporate and product brands through effective storytelling. He is President & Chief Content Officer of Hobrath Group, LLC in Cleveland, Ohio. www.hobrath.com

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Norbert J. Hobrath
Founder and President