How to create and use a database
Databases are an efficient way of managing big amounts of client data. They make it easier to do content, email and direct mail marketing, which is why most businesses need them.
Here are the first five steps to implementing a database:
1. Choose your software
If your business is small, you could keep the information in Excel, Access or similar software. You could then use Word’s mail merge feature to customise and send out newsletters.
As your business grows, you may want to switch to CRM software. This software will manage and store the information, so you don’t have to. (Also see: How to create a great automated email series).
2. Choose your database fields (client information)
Before you create your database, you should decide which fields you want to include. For example:
- First name only, or first name and surname?
- Complete address or only the location?
After that, the questions you ask clients will depend on your business:
- A financial adviser would ask: “How much do you have to invest?”
- A real estate agent would ask: “Are you buying, selling, renting or letting?”
- An accountant would ask: “Are you employed or running a business?”
The amount of questions to ask depends on whether the person is already a client or not. A client may be willing to disclose more personal details than a prospective client, because they know and trust you. In contrast, a prospective client might be put off if they’re asked for too much personal information.
3. Choose your mailing lists
Before you create your database, think about the information you’ll need and how you’re going to use it.
For example, if you divide your clients’ data into separate mailing lists, you could more effectively market the right service to them:
- A financial adviser could have a mailing list for those investing up to $100,000, $100,001-$500,000 and $500,000+
- A real estate agent could have four mailing lists: for prospective clients, prospective buyers, sellers, tenants, and those letting their properties
- An accountant could have a mailing list for individual clients and small business owners
You could create separate databases, but depending on your software, you could include a category in a single database to differentiate your records.
For example, a real estate agent’s database headings might look like this:
- First name (a field customer types in)
- Surname (a field the customer types in)
- Location (select from a dropdown list)
- Category (select from a dropdown list e.g. owner-occupier, investor, tenant, buyer)
4. Integrate the database with your website
CRM companies help you collect the information and store it on their servers. So if you want to integrate the database with your website, all you need is to include a form on your website. This typically involves copying and pasting a few lines of HTML code.
You could also ask a web developer to create your own database and integrate it with your website.
5. Integrate your permissions
You could ask for those permissions when people fill in the form, or send them a follow-up email asking for their permission.
The follow-up email is a good way to test that you were given a valid email address. In this case, you would keep the information in a temporary file until you receive the consent. Once received, you would transfer the information to your database.
Most CRM software will automatically ask clients to validate their email addresses before adding the entries to your database.
How to maintain your database
Once your database is created, you could import your existing customer data into your database.
Of course, a database is only effective if you use it. And your marketing efforts should focus both on retaining your existing or potential clients (database entries) and adding new contacts to it.
Here are four ways to do that:
1. Give people a reason to part with their information
Start by offering people something they want: an answer to their question, helpful information, a special offer or something fun like a contest. Newsletters are one of the most common reasons people will part with their information.
Another option is to write an ebook. For example, you could ask people to fill in a form to receive a download link for your ebook. You could also offer to send a download link to anyone who signs up for your newsletter.
Writing an ebook is a big task, but fortunately Hunter & Scribe can write it for you. Tell us your topic and we’ll take it from there.
2. Stay in touch with your database
Once people have signed up for a newsletter, it must be interesting or helpful enough to entice them to stay subscribers. It should also arrive in their mailboxes regularly, so they learn to expect it (and hopefully look forward to it).
So instead of just advertising your services, consider giving helpful tips about your industry or a summary of the latest news.
Writing regular newsletters takes time, so consider asking Hunter & Scribe to write the newsletters for you. We make it easy by helping with topic selection, sourcing the information, and writing the content in plain English.
If you had divided your mailing lists, you could customise your newsletters.
For example, a property manager could send one newsletter about rent increases to the tenants on their mailing list, and explain why rents are rising in their suburb.
The property manager could send a different newsletter to their investor clients, explaining why the suburb’s low vacancy rate gives them an opportunity to increase their rents (which is not something they’d want to tell their tenants).
Similarly, a financial adviser wouldn’t want to send a newsletter on property investment to clients with only $10,000 to invest, because it wouldn’t be relevant to them. But it would be relevant to clients with $500,000 to invest.
3. Encourage subscribers to share your content
Although you could end your newsletter with a line: “Please forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues,” it may be more effective to create an incentive.
For example, ask subscribers to forward your newsletter and if at least three of their friends sign up, they get a reward like:
- If you’re an accountant, offer your clients 5-10% off their next tax return
- If you’re a financial adviser, offer your clients a free strategy session
- If you’re a buyer’s agent, offer your clients a 2-5% discount on your fees
It may be more difficult if you offer a service you can’t easily discount, but you could always partner with other companies. Then those that refer your newsletter to others get a voucher from a local business instead of from your company.
4. Ask an unsubscribe question
As people’s interests change, so do their newsletter subscription habits.
Companies often ask subscribers to choose a reason for unsubscribing. This is something you could consider doing.
But a more helpful question might be: “Could we contact you again in a year’s time?”
Someone who just bought a property may no longer be interested in subscribing to a real estate agent’s property listings, but might be in the future. If they say yes, you would pause their subscription instead of completely losing them as subscribers. (But make sure your database has a date field, so you could correctly implement this feature.)