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July 16, 2013

If your summer is slow, focus on marketing & sales for a competitive advantage; part 5 – database clean-up

laptop_pool_smSo far, our recommendations for getting through the slower-than-we-want-it-to-be summer have been pretty positive, pretty upbeat…

But now, we’ve got a recommendation that’s a little boring and a little tedious… but hugely beneficial!

Summer tip #5: Clean up your databases

I can see you now… rolling your eyes at the prospect of having to read through hundreds, if not thousands, of client and prospect records.  I get it… it’s no fun.  But it’s critical.

Clean databases are important for emailing (which I’ll bet you do – at least occasionally) and for your sales team (even if it’s just you).  They improve efficiency and ensure that the right people get the right message at the right time.  Further, they make sure that those who don’t need to see your communications don’t… that is, your competitors.

Everyone one of us has two databases… our primary business database (generally in some sort of CRM) and our LinkedIn connections.  Let’s start with the primary one…

  • Export the entire database into an Excel spreadsheet… it’s easier to work offline and go back later and enter the changes.
  • Make sure you export [at a minimum] the following fields: name, title, company, address, phone, email, website, country, industry, type of firm (client/prospect, vendor, competitor, other).  If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll be surprised how many competitors are in your system.  You’ll also see how many are uncategorized.
  • First pass – clean up any obvious mistakes: typos, misformed emails, improperly labeled contacts (e.g. they’re labeled as a ‘client,’ but they’re really a ‘vendor’).
  • Second pass – fill in the holes, especially email and type of firm; also, spend a little time with geography – ‘State’ is important so you understand what time zone they work in; also show ‘Country’ – especially is they’re based in a place where you do not do work.  Note: if you’re not sure about the information, you’ll have to go to their website, LinkedIn profile or industry directory to look it up.
  • Third pass – dedupe the list.  If you have any contacts listed more than once (and you will), combine them and reduce them to one.
  • Idea: if you happen to use an email program that provides bounce-back reports, now would be the time to use that info to help with the clean-up.
  • Now, with everything on a spreadsheet, get someone other than you to do the data entry!  But before the updating begins, are there any other fields you want to add to your system that aren’t there now?  E.g. Perhaps you capture that they’re a client/prospect, but it would help to know what industry they’re in.  Now’s the time to add that field and update the spreadsheet.

Now that your list is cleaned-up, three things to remember going forward:

  1. Keep it clean and updated.  As you learn about changed emails, relocation notices, title changes, etc., implement a process to make sure those changes are made in the database ASAP.
  2. When you send your marketing emails, make sure to sort your list before you blast; specifically, make sure your competitors, vendors and those in countries where you don’t work are not on the list.
  3. And now because your list is sorted, you have the ability to send very targeted communications.  Let’s say that one of the ‘industries’ you’ve created in the database is ‘automotive’ and you’ve written an article titled, “Using bulletin board focus groups to speed up the automotive design process.”  Rather than sending an email to everyone in your database (many of whom wouldn’t care about it), you can now be very targeted and send it just to the automotive group.

Now, on to your LinkedIn connections…  As you probably know, LinkedIn provides the ability for you to ‘tag’ each of your contacts.  That is, to sort them into the appropriate “buckets” – clients, vendors, competitors, etc.

Depending on how you connect with someone, they might be automatically tagged for you.  But you also have the ability to create and use your own tags.  Look at the image below (which I found on Google Images) – and all of the different tags along the left side.

Do you see the problem?  Look at the bottom of that list.  Notice all of the ‘untagged’ contacts?  All of us have a fairly large percentage of our contacts in that group.  This is the group to focus on.  So here we go:

  • Go through all of your Untagged contacts and tag them appropriately.
  • Create any new tags as needed – it’s easy and can be done on the fly.
  • Then, go back through the other groups and make sure those contacts are in the right place – again easy to change on the fly.

Why is this so important?  The rationale is similar to why a clean primary database is important – so that the right people get the right message at the right time.

The communication tool, InMail, available inside of LinkedIn is essentially an email platform that should be used as part of your marketing program.  And just like other email platforms, you want to target your mailings for maximum impact and results.  Appropriately tagged connections help you to do that.  It also helps to keep your messages out of the hands of those who don’t need to see it.

So this week, if you’re not too busy – or if you’re relaxing by the pool – spend a little time cleaning your data.  The resulting improvement in efficiency and accuracy can provide a competitive advantage that your ‘unscrubbed’ competitors can’t match.

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