Great Ideas for your Small Business: Create an Active Database
If you look at the piles of business cards on your desk and just see a mess—look again. What you’re really looking at is potential income.
No matter how small your business may be, you should be creating and updating a database. With simple software, a current database allows you to easily mail newsletters and sales information to customers. You can also target prospective customers by renting mailing lists. Add telephone numbers, and your database becomes the basis for a telemarketing initiative.
Collecting detailed information about people and their companies is easier than you think. Business cards, sales invoices, catalogs, directories, and magazine and newspaper articles all contain invaluable information and contacts. Small business magazines such as Entrepreneur usually include contact addresses and telephone numbers in their articles.
The easiest way to create and maintain a database is with a simple software program. There are many very affordable programs on the market that keep track of the information and allow you to cross-reference and access it in several ways. Microsoft’s Outlook is one of the more popular programs.
More complex programs, such as Goldmine, Act!, and Sharkware, organize your daily appointments and remind you when to place important telephone calls. The biggest headache is entering the data into the program, but you can certainly assign this task to a staffer or hire a temporary worker or student to do it. Before you hand over material to be entered, be sure to indicate exactly what information to include in each field.
Keep in mind that every year a certain percentage of people in your database will move or change jobs. A database filled with out-of-date information becomes a waste of time and money, so it’s important to update the information at least once a year.
A simple, cost-effective way to clean up your database is to send out a perforated, two-part postcard with a simple offer or discount and a space for people to update their information. Be sure to print or stamp “address correction requested” on each card, so the post office will return the undeliverable cards. You’ll pay the postage, but it’s worth it. When the undelivered cards come back, spend time deleting the names. Then update the responses as they are returned.
Once your database is up and running, you’ll find that you’ll be using it frequently to keep in touch with the world. In addition to purging annually, be sure to add new information on a weekly or monthly basis to keep your list clean and accurate.