Leads have to come from somewhere. They're the foundation of business. One of the best lead generation systems is your own database. Here are 10 tips for keeping one.

  • Use simple, versatile software (for example, Microsoft Access or FileMaker Pro).
  • Set up separate fields for first and last names, address, street name, city, state, and ZIP code, so you can sort by field.
  • Learn to use the software to perform mail merges, print labels and reports, and schedule calls, mailings, and marketing events through a personal information manager like Microsoft Outlook.
  • Add more information to the database, like neighborhood, country club and church membership information, or chamber of commerce memberships. You can purchase lists with demographics for up to 50 cents per name from companies like Cole Information Systems (www.coleinformation.com).
  • Use data-mining techniques to cross-match and find common and attractive combinations for your market, as well as to make assumptions about net worth, earnings, or disposable income.
  • Keep it current and make one person responsible for updates.
  • Back up the database weekly.
  • Keep it clean. Go through your database often. If you talk to a prospect four times and their needs constantly vary, drop them. Every two years throw purchased lists away.
  • Use it for direct mail, newsletters and special offers, lead tracking, scheduling client/prospect follow up calls, and referral requests.

And whatever you do, don't share your list with competitors.

--Stephen Wilson is a partner with marketing/communications firm Biz-comm Inc., Reston, Va., [email protected].