One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is to grow your marketing database. Why? If your database is full of people who’ve actively signed up to your mailing list – and legally it should be, instead of people you’ve added without their permission – you have a ready supply of names and contact details of people who already know about your business and are interested in what you sell. It’s far easier to sell to these warm leads who are already part way through the customer journey than to sell to people who know nothing about your business.
Having an up-to-date database is also important because it’s yours and yours alone. Lots of small business owners make the mistake of collecting likes and follows on social media without capturing their followers’ contact details. If you have thousands of likes on Facebook, what would happen if the social media giant decided to remove your page? All those names would be lost. Your database, however, can’t be touched and is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.
If you want to sell to more than just friends and family – and what business doesn’t? – then it’s never too late to start building your database. But how? In this blog, we’ve put together some of our most effective techniques:
- Create a database
The first step is to create a customer database where you keep everyone’s contact details in a central place. This doesn’t have to be all-singing, all-dancing. You might decide to add all your contacts to Microsoft Outlook or create a file in Microsoft Excel.
Alternatively, you might consider using a Customer Relationship Management tool such as Capsule CRM, Salesforce or InfusionSoft (although these charge a monthly or annual fee) as they give you more scope to log and manage opportunities, projects, leads, tasks and much more.
- Pull all your information together
You may find that you have information about your contacts in several different places. Perhaps you have a pile of business cards people have given you at networking events or an email folder full of people who have enquired about your services.
To simplify your systems and processes moving forwards, it’s a good idea to centralise your database so that all of your contacts are in one place. Make a note of where you met the person and anything you may have discussed within each contact entry so you can mention this when you contact them again.
If you keep data about other people and businesses, either on a computer or even in an address book, and you live in the UK, you may be legally required to register and pay an annual subscription with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under the Data Protection Act. The ICO has a free self-assessment tool, which will walk you through a series of questions to determine whether you must register. You can also read more about how small businesses can comply with the data protection act at: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/business/
- Create an ‘irresistible freebie’
These days, people’s inboxes are more crowded than ever before, which means that most of us are more selective about where we share our email address. It isn’t enough to say ‘Subscribe’ or ‘Register’ on your website without giving people an incentive.
What will they get in exchange for giving you their email address? How will they benefit? How often will you contact them? People want to know what’s in it for them.
The ‘irresistible freebie’ is where you provide a free gift as an incentive to signing up to your mailing list and therefore your database. This might be a free ebook, podcast, video tutorial, cheat sheet, templates, white paper or something else altogether. The idea is to create something that your customers will find of real value because it answers a common question or meets a common need.
- Add a sign up to your freebie and newsletter on your social media pages
If you have an opt-in/mailing list sign up on your website, remember to share it on your social media pages. Facebook now allows you to add a newsletter sign-up widget and call to action to the top of your page, while the Twitter Lead Generation card enables you to add your sign-up form to your Twitter account. You could also add a link to your irresistible freebie to your Pinterest boards or LinkedIn profile.
If you send out a regular newsletter, add social media share options, as well as the option to email a friend with the newsletter.
- Grow your network
You might want to dedicate some time every month to growing your professional network.
- Do you know any businesses that would be a good source of referrals or that might be willing to feature a blog post written by you on their website?
- Have you considered sending out a press release to trade publications, local or national press?
- Are there any forthcoming exhibitions where you could connect with your customers and offer an incentive, such a prize draw, for them to sign up to your mailing list?
Your wider network could be an excellent, but currently untapped, source of potential customers who would love to sign up to your mailing list.
Remember, quality not quantity
We always advise our clients to think about quality, not quantity when it comes to building a mailing list. It is far better to have a small mailing list of 100 people who are incredibly interested in purchasing your products and services than buying a mailing list (that may contravene data protection laws) for thousands of contacts who aren’t interested in your business.
If you do plan to contact your mailing list regularly with an e-newsletter, for example, be clear about the frequency from the outset and resist the temptation to spam people with non-stop sales messages. Also, although it can be tough to see things this way, try not to take unsubscribes personally. If someone no longer wants to receive your newsletter, it just means they weren’t your target customer.
Do you have a mailing list? What strategies have helped you build it? Do you have a goal for how many names you’d like to add to your mailing list this year? Perhaps you have an irresistible freebie you’d like to promote? We’d love to hear your experiences.