11 Ways to Build Your Business Contacts Database MOO Business Cards

The email marketing charlatans are busy emailing us promises of thousands of targeted contacts and email addresses. They’re happy to charge for it too. And, they seem to love the colours red and yellow, which make my eyes hurt. Are their promises worth it? And, are you purchasing a list that is legal?

Lay the Foundations

The following is a list of several ways in which you can grow your business contacts database, without falling foul of the law. See below for some points of caution.

  1. Trawl through your Inbox and Sent Items folders and subfolders, carefully recording each name and contact details of those you wish to keep in touch with in a spreadsheet. Yes, this takes an almighty long time to complete! This spreadsheet can then be uploaded to a database, CRM software or email marketing package, as appropriate.
  2. Unsubscribe from those email newsletters you don’t read.
  3. Mark as Junk all those irritating unsolicited emails, such as people promising you a £7m cut from a recently-deceased relative’s estate, for passing their frozen legacy through your account.
  4. Establish rules and diverts for those regular emails you receive that you won’t have time to read immediately. This keeps your Inbox a little clearer for those random emails that often require a swift response. Rules set up by email address, or sender, often work better than those containing a certain word, or phrase (unless it is a particularly unique phrase), since many other emails may get diverted into a folder and missed in error.
  5. Gradually, remove all businesses who are using personal Profiles on Facebook from your list of friends. Yes, this is painful, but it will declutter your lists significantly. Similarly, remove spurious Causes, those who you have no contact with, and those who’ve not been active for months. Ensure that you are connected with them in some other way, if you wish.
  6. Look through your LinkedIn profile. Add contacts to the spreadsheet.
  7. Peruse your Facebook Profile friends and fans on your Pages. Add contacts to the spreadsheet.
  8. Scan your Twitter profile. Add contacts to the spreadsheet.
  9. Consult the growing spreadsheet, and connect with selected people on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, bearing in mind which network they seem to prefer, depending on their level of activity on a particular network. Consider how you know them. Many people consider Facebook to be a little more intimate than LinkedIn, for example. For contacts you don’t know that well, consider connecting only on LinkedIn. Go with their preference, not yours.
  10. Look at your calendar. Who have you met recently, at training and networking events, meetings or while conducting work for clients? Add from that list to your spreadsheet and connect on your online profiles, if appropriate.
  11. Take that expanding accordian of business cards and add the contacts to your spreadsheet or online profiles.

Get Your Paperwork in Order!

By this stage, you will have decluttered your online profiles and added depth to your network of contacts. Further, you now have a spreadsheet of contacts to do with as you wish. If using this for email marketing, consider the following points.

  • In terms of sheer numbers, bought email lists may provide a decent ROI, but are they legal? The chances are, no.
  • Have you been provided with a list of contacts who’ve opted in to receive your email marketing? Take care. How would they, if the list is being sold online to thousands of random businesses? If people have not voluntarily signed up to your email newsletter or alerts, then it’s probable that sending them unsolicited emails is illegal. You are allowed to send people regular marketing emails if they have opted to receive them.
  • You may, in addition, email someone if they have had a previous business contact with yuo, until they tell you to subscribe.
  • Another issue arises. Do you supply an unsubscribe link in your emails? You are required to. Just do it. It is a legal requirement, as people are entitled to opt out at any stage.

Bring in the Professionals

  • Use an email marketing package such as Constant Contact, eWeber, or Mailchimp.
  • Use a CRM system to deal with your growing list of clients. This will help you stay in touch and on top of quotations, proposals, invoices, credit control, and telephone calls.

Maintenance is Key

  • Get rid of email addresses that bounce.
  • Keep in touch with your contacts, especially regular clients.
  • Process new contacts’ information monthly, inviting them to connect on a social networking site of their preference, or via your newsletter.

It’s bricks and mortar. Blood, sweat and tears. Ensure your tears aren’t caused by prosecution over illegal practices, or the anger of irritated clients.

Image credit: strandell.