Five Deadly Sins—and Salvation—of Contact Database Management

, Posted on Nov 27

A well organized and regularly maintained contact database is the crux of successful and effective electronic and direct mail communications. Simply maintaining an Excel file of names, email addresses and phone numbers isn’t enough. A truly useful contact list should be segmented by multiple components to ensure that contacts are receiving communications that are timely, relevant and meaningful—to them and/or their business.

Pulling contact information from every email and business card you’ve ever received and proceeding to blast those inboxes with emails on a daily or weekly basis will get you blacklisted…fast!

And so, here they are: the five deadly sins of database management, including best practices to live by:

  • Blanket blasting. Overuse of your contact database. Blanket blasting crosses the line of irritation and borders on spamming. The salvation? Make sure you’re only sending a communication to clients and prospects when you have something meaningful to say. Think about the annoying guy at the dinner party who just won’t stop talking and hogging the conversation. Don’t be that guy! One good tip is to combine newsworthy items that may not be particularly timely into a regular e-newsletter. That way, you’re getting the information out there without sending five different emails.
  • The lazy lion. Effective communications of any kind must take the audience into consideration first and foremost. If you don’t segment a contact list, it is a virtual certainty that the message content won’t be relevant to some folks on the list. The salvation? The vast majority of email services and database management systems today allow for various details to be input, including geographic location, type of client, interests, status of contact (e.g. client, prospect, partner) and preferred communications. Use this information and create targeted, segmented email communications. That way, you can send your news more frequently, but it will only reach the people who are interested.
  • Who knows her? All too often, there are dozens of contacts in a database who NO ONE within the organization sending the communication can identify. Maybe the person who knew that contact is no longer with the company. Maybe the contact was input after a random trade show in the 90’s. Either way, you’re likely wasting postage or e-blast credits on that particular person. The salvation? Every contact in a database should have an “owner”—a person(s) at your company who is accountable for the relationship. If that contact is no longer with a client or if it simply is an outdated relationship, the owner should remove that person from the corporate database. Otherwise, there will be dozens of UFCs—Unidentified Foreign Contacts.
  • Listless. If you’re like us, you get a dozen emails a day from database and “market research” companies looking to sell contact lists. The effectiveness of these lists is up for debate, but one thing is certain: If you buy a list of email addresses, your email service account (e.g. Constant Contact or MailChimp) could get shut down very quickly. Why? Because you’re spamming people you don’t know! The salvation? These contact lists can be effective in two scenarios. The first is for direct mail campaigns. While you’re not reaching a group of people you know, the market research companies are able to provide mailing addresses based on pretty targeted demographics. If your retirement planning client is entering a new market and is hosting a seminar to get his name out there, a direct mail piece to homeowners in that market ages 45 and over could be a great approach. If you really need email contacts, the market research company can design and distribute an e-blast on your behalf. This isn’t technically against the rules because they aren’t giving you the email addresses. The audience just won’t be nearly as captive.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat. Databases left to their own devices will get stale and, without proper maintenance, could end up full of unidentified contacts. Worse yet, clients and prospects who should be on the list may be missing. Little oversights like typos in an email address can also be a huge hurdle to overcome. The salvation? Set a maintenance schedule for your list. If every contact on the list has an “owner” (see sin #3), this should be a fairly simple process. The owners should go through their contacts and make sure that portion of the list is up to date and accurate. The overall database manager should be responsible for executing this process on a biannual or quarterly basis.

Do you have other contact database deadly sins and/or best practices to share?

This post was co-authored by the lovely Kristi Wysocki.

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