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Your mailing list

Mailing lists and customer databasesYour mailing list is one of your most valuable marketing resources. It holds information on your customers and prospects that can be used to improve customer satisfaction and increase sales.

An up-to-date marketing database is a goldmine of useful information. It can help you run your business more effectively, providing a snapshot of your most profitable clients and highlighting sales trends.

Building a mailing list

Before you begin to create a database, you need to think about the information you want to hold on each contact. Basic customer details - address, email, telephone and fax numbers - are just a starting point. Details about buying habits will enable you to better understand your customers and meet their needs. You can also collect lifestyle information such as gender, age and income so you can target your marketing messages at specific demographic groups.

Your contact list can be compiled from a number of sources. Start with your existing customers and contacts. You can then find new prospects in your area by looking in the electoral register. For business prospects, you can refer to the membership lists of industry bodies or local Chambers of Commerce. You can also consult directories. Copying and mailing a whole list, however, is a breach of copyright.

Renting or buying a mailing list is a good way to reach a new customer base. List rental usually costs about £120 per 1,000 mailing names - but bear in mind lists of consumers tend to be cheaper than lists of business contacts. When you shop around for the best mailing list, you can ask for high spenders or other groups based on social type, location or job title.

Keeping your database clean

Keeping your mailing list clean is an important job. A good direct marketing contact list should have accurate, up-to-date and relevant data. It's vital to clean your list regularly by removing or amending incorrect data and getting rid of duplicate entries. You will quickly alienate your contacts if you send them mailings that are wrongly addressed or irrelevant to them.

The law gives individuals the right to stop their personal information being used for direct marketing. A request in writing must be honoured within 28 days. Individuals can also ask to see any personal information you hold about them to check if it is correct.

You can improve the accuracy of your marketing database by checking it against the Royal Mail's Postcode Address File (PAF). This service checks spelling postcodes and or addresses and corrects them in your mailing list.

Finally, make sure you do regular checks against the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) list, the Telephone Preference List and the Fax Preference Service (FPS). These services are for consumers who want to opt out of receiving unsolicited mail, calls or faxes.

Using your database to improve profitability

Your database can reveal your customers' buying behaviour, including the type and frequency of orders. It can highlight trend and patterns. It can even help you target your perfect customer.

This is valuable market intelligence.  By analysing your own data, you can make more informed decisions about everything from product development to pricing. Take that perfect customer profile, and you can find new prospects that match it and target them.

Your mailing list also enables you to improve customer service and build better relationships with customers. By understanding your customers better, you can give them what they want.

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