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Constructing a database

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Contacting existing customers to generate sales is an excellent way of helping to build your business. However, it's often hindered by the lack of a database or, in other words, a decent, up-to-date, usable list of your customers. You don't need anything complex or expensive. An Excel spreadsheet is sufficient, although products like Act! or Salesforce will help you do even more.

When you're creating your database make sure that every field is accessible and can be used. So, if you're using Excel make sure that every part of the name and address is in a separate cell. That means separating the title, first name, initial, surname and every line of the address.

Why? Because when you do a mail merge you'll want to use different parts of the data. The first line of the address in the window envelope may be Mr J Roberts, but in the salutation you'll want to say Dear Jack. However, you can only do that if each element is in a separate cell or field.

If it's not, you'll have to separate everything out which makes the job complex and time-consuming. You'll then get frustrated with direct marketing thinking it's too much effort, which means you'll be missing out on an important sales opportunity.

Dealing with multiple records
You may have several contact details for one person, e.g. a mobile number, plus the switchboard, a direct dial number and their home phone. Have a separate cell for each of these. So if it's an Excel spreadsheet, have a separate column for each of these contact details. Similarly, if you use Act! or Salesforce, create a separate field.

Give each contact point in a company a separate row or database entry. Then you can communicate with the different contacts in a company separately, if you need to.

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