Database Marketing is Alive and Well

I’ve been practicing the B2B marketing thing since the late 1980s, when the term “database marketing” first started being mentioned. Endless articles and entire conferences were devoted to the subject. While the buzz around database marketing has waned, its importance to the B2B marketing community has not.

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You can find a lot of definitions for database marketing (just Google the term), but here is the working definition that I employ: “Building a permission-based contact list of suspects and prospects in order to facilitate re-marketing efforts.” Note that I used the term “permission-based” in my definition. You can’t practice good database marketing by buying a list of contacts that have no desire to hear from you and promoting to them relentlessly. At best you will just annoy people – at worst you will find your outbound emails blacklisted.

In my former life as a software company marketing executive, and in my current life as a B2B marketing consultant, I have used database marketing techniques to dramatically increase lead flow, lower the cost per inquiry, and improve sales close rates. In the early days of the direct marketing era, we used push marketing techniques like direct mail and telemarketing to generate leads. Today we are heavily oriented to online methods like pay-per-click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), social media and permission-based email. But while the media has changed, the principles of database marketing are the same. Here are few of the most important:

  1. Give people a reason to opt-in to your offers and continue to welcome communication from you.  This means making sure that you send plenty of non-sales information that is aimed at helping your prospects do their jobs better, and less of the sales-pitch variety.
  2. Educate your prospects so that they know you are the branded authority in your area of expertise.  This way you will be the obvious choice when prospects need to buy what you offer.
  3. Make it as easy to opt-out as you do to opt-in.  There is no good reason to make people go through hoops to opt-out of your contact list.
  4. Find your right contact tempo.  For some types of communications, emailing once a week or even more often is acceptable. For others, once a month is adequate.  The idea is to contact prospects often enough to keep your name top of mind, but not so often as to annoy or chase them away.
  5. Put real effort into your database marketing efforts.  Don’t treat this as an afterthought.

If you follow best practices in database marketing, you will be rewarded over time with a rich source of future leads and revenue. Your cost per lead and new customer acquisition will fall and your close rates will increase.  Many think of database marketing as yesterday’s tactic, but you can start using it to immediate advantage today.

Christopher Ryan
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