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Marketing: How to Build a Great In-House Mailing List

No matter what marketing tactics you use to generate and develop leads, nothing is more important than your prospect list. There are seemingly endless options for buying prospect lists – some a lot better than others and the better ones priced accordingly. But, very often the best sources of a list are right inside the company. Before you spend a dollar on buying or renting an outside mailing list, it pays to check out the following commonly overlooked in-house sources. Most companies can find enough prospects to fill the funnel for a while.

1. Your Sales and Marketing Database. This is by far the largest source of hidden prospects in just about any company. It may be your CRM application. It may be your Outlook database. It’s wherever your company stores (or perhaps more accurately “dumps”) names of contacts that weren’t ready to buy at that moment.

One company we worked with had a well-organized telesales effort that included 5 sales assistants identifying and contacting a minimum of 10 new prospects a day. This resulted in 250 new prospects added to the database every week. In most cases, these prospects weren’t ready to buy immediately, so the sales assistants made a note to re-contact the prospect in a few months. More often than not, the second phone call never took place. When we got involved, the database contained over 15,000 prospects who were in the right positions and the right companies to be potential buyers.

2. Current, Former and Inactive Customers. Even though everybody knows it’s far easier and cheaper to get additional business from existing customers, a surprising number of companies don’t actively cultivate this additional business. Ask yourself these questions: Are you maintaining good contact with your clients once the product is sold or the project has been completed? Are you looking inside your clients’ organization for a chance to meet other needs internally? Are you actively asking for referrals? If your answer to any of these questions is “no”, you could be ignoring your best source of new prospects.

3. Spreadsheets and Lists Stored on Your Server. Have you looked at your network servers lately? Sales and marketing folders in particular can be hiding some good lists. Just recently we took a look at a client’s server and found two recent convention attendee lists, three association membership lists, a strategic partner’s mailing list, and a target list that had been compiled for a 4-city seminar tour. None of these lists had been incorporated into the marketing database.

4. Info Requests from Your Website. Today it’s very easy to input web inquiries automatically into your CRM, but many companies don’t do that. Instead they have inquiries go directly to the sales staff for follow-up. Often, these never make it to the database. Your webmaster can probably create a list of all incoming inquiries that can then be compared to the active database. If not, track down the address to which inquiries are sent.

5. E-newsletter subscriptions. If you use a third-party email distribution vendor for electronic newsletters, you probably have a separate database growing on the vendor’s servers. These companies do a great job of managing subscription lists, but only the most sophisticated can automatically integrate with your internal database. This means your e-newsletter subscription list(s) are completely separate from your sales and marketing database, and are undoubtedly a very good source of untapped prospects. Comparing the two is also a good way to clean up email addresses in your active database.

6. Your employees. Everyone in your company is a potential source of prospect names. These could be people they’ve met at industry events, contacts who’ve sent in technical questions, suppliers and partners, friends and neighbors. It’s worth the effort to ask everyone to check their own lists and forward all potential prospects to the marketing department. Be sure to carefully define a “prospect” when you do this.

And after that … Once you’ve flushed out all of these sources, you can always pay to add new prospects. Mailing list rentals and purchases can get you a lot of names in a hurry, but we’ve found that home-grown lists are almost always the most effective. It may take a little more time to build your list yourself, but the quality will be far superior.

© The Tatum Group 2007

About the Author: Susan Tatum, President of, helps business owners and leaders accelerate growth with effective, sustainable marketing programs. She publishes a free monthly newsletter, Better Marketing Now!, and for a limited time offers subscribers a free copy of her special report, How Business Leaders Ensure Marketing Success.

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