By Sharon A.M. MacLean
One of the best lessons I learned from my days fundraising and direct response marketing—before magazine publishing—was the value of a good database.
I call them Smart Lists.
It became my mission to gather names of people as well as their age, gender, postal or zip codes, and anything else we could ask to build a profile. A tedious task, to be sure. Yet, the lists gave us a chance to stay close to clients and to develop long-standing relationships. I liked to think of the practice as staying connected with friends and family. And, since they had expressed interest in what we were doing, people on our lists didn’t mind hearing about new services, special events, or the latest products we’d just developed. The key was they trusted what we had to say.
Of course, privacy rules that came about in the mid-2000s changed everything. Gone were the days when telemarketers phoned an entire phone book to find new customers. Conservative Cabinet Minister Rona Ambrose, who wrote for Edmontonians in those days, was an early policy wonk on the subject. Today, we must ask permission before connecting with anyone on a data base. Otherwise, it’s called spam.
The gateways to nurturing a sustainable business is the Smart List…and knowing the lifetime value of your customers. It’s up to you to treat them with respect by connecting with them regularly and following up quickly through their preferred method of contact: automated email, social media, text messages, podcasts, video, or webinars.
One more thing: It’s also all too easy to get caught up in messages that are all about you. “Our products are brilliant because”…nope. It’s all about your customers. Make them the focal point, monitor their conversations about you online, and learn their preferred method of contact.
The era of obtaining permission to contact people is a good thing. What we don’t want is to forget to connect with the people on our lists—or take too long to follow up. It’s where your fortunes lay.