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Tips for Building a Prospect Database
By: Wendy Ogryzek ~ 2/13/2009

This information is targeted at those of you who are in the beginning stages of building a prospect database for your e-marketing campaigns. These tips are to help you exert the least amount of energy to build your database.

The most common mistakes that we see with prospect lists is inconsistency and a lack of planning and big-picture thinking. Remember, you only want to insert this data once, editing and organizing it when you enter it into Excel or directly to your database will save you time later. And a little big picture thinking will serve to build trusting relationships with your clients while you test the data before you enter it into your database.

Here are a few tips to help make building a subscriber database as easy and as seamless as possible so you can turn turn it into gold:

1. Encourage Legibility: Encourage legible handwriting on your subscriber signup sheets. "Please Print" is a nice way of saying I can't read illegible handwriting. A lot of prospects are discarded because of undecipherable handwriting.

2. Edit: Edit your lists before you start entering data. Delete incomplete email addresses and discard entries that have undecipherable handwriting.

3. Identify: Identify what data you are collecting, storing and how it needs to be categorized in an Excel doc.

4. Categorize: Use the categories to store only that data. Create a spreadsheet with a column for each distinct piece of data you are collecting (first name, last name, company, email address, street address, city, state, zipcode, area code, phone number). Use your categories only for like pieces of data. For example, if you created a column in Excel for prospect's last name, use that column only for a last name ("Smith" not "Smith- ABC MFG"). This will become increasingly important to you when you transfer the data from an Excel doc to an actual database. If your Excel doc cells have entries that combine data you will be editing those cells, instead of simply copying and pasting.

5. Spam: To minimize the appearance of your newsletter being labeled spam by a company's spam filter avoid collecting multiple contacts from company directories.

6. Collect Tidbits: Your Excel doc is a great place to store tidbits of information about your prospect so you can easily personalize a follow-up email to 1.) test the address before you enter the prospect data in your Excel doc or database, 2.) begin building a trust based relationship with the prospect. Tidbits might appear to be insignificant pieces of data -- they are not. They are the very foundation on which your online store sales will be built. Think personal, think big!

For example, if you collect names and email addresses at an annual event record that you collected those prospects contact information at that event in your spreadsheet. If the prospect disclosed some piece of personal information at the event, make a note of it. (For example, if you and your prospect had a sidebar conversation where you learned that they have a Golden Retriever named Skippy who is coming on three years old who still has a shoe fetish, make a note of these tidbits. This is a great way to begin building a relationship with the prospect especially if you inquire about Skippy and the condition of the prospect's shoe collection and give something away, like a 20% off coupon for their next purchase. Clients are always amazed that we remember important details of their lives and that amazement plants the seeds of trust.

7. Increments: Really great prospect databases are built over time. Collect your prospects in increments and add them to your database in increments. Data entry is easier swallowed in small, measurable doses rather than with pages of prospects. Building your database in increments also affords you the luxury of time to email using one of your tidbits to connect with each prospect on a personal level shortly after you collect their contact information.