Database Management

The most powerful marketing you can do is in dealing with people you have already met or have some sort of contact with. There are some very useful tools available to help you manage these contacts.

Keep all your contact details in one place
Speak to your contact database without spamming them
Track the responses

Keep all your contact details in one place

The very first step in setting up a contact database is to combine all the contact lists that you already have and put them into one secure place. You probably already have the following contact lists, all of which will vary from eachother: 

  • Phone: numbers and addresses stored on your phone(s) and on the SIM card
  • Email: Email addresses and contact information stored within individual emails or in an email contact package
  • Address book on your computer: some email packages have a built-in address book while others, such as on the Mac, have a separate contact list
  • Physical address book
  • Documents, such as Word or Excel, containing lists of contacts for specific purposes
  • Online networks such as LinkedIn or Facebook

If you can extract these contacts and combine them into one database, you will be amazed at how big your list is. All of these are people you have presumably already had some sort of contact with and therefore would be open to receiving information from you.

One simple option would be to export them, wherever possible, and combine into on Excel document, which you would then store online through Google Documents. That's a very good first step, in fact.

Read more about using Google Documents for content creation and storage

Ideally, though, you want to only enter somebody's contact details once, and then give them the freedom to change their details or remove themselves from your list. You also want to keep this list secure and private. There are a number of online database systems which are specifically created for this purpose. Many of these are free or - more often - they are free initially and once you reach a certain number of contacts, or you send a certain number of newsletters to those contacts, you will have to pay a nominal fee to upgrade.

One such is iContact, which has a free edition if you have up to 500 contacts.

iContact list creation tool

Figure 1: A contact management and newsletter system such as iContact enables you to easily import all of your contacts into one database and then to mail marketing material or communication about your work to that database or to 'lists' or portions of that database.

This is just one example amongst many other competitors, but it does illustrate some of the key functionality that you should be looking for:

  • Ease of adding contacts. Here, for example, you can add them one at a time, through copy and paste, as well as easily importing from other software, such as Microsoft Excel and CSV files (the file format quite probably used by your computer's address book or email contact program)
  • The ability to create separate 'lists' or categories of contacts, eg friends, potential clients, existing clients, etc. This way you can target specific groups with information and newsletters that you send out, ensuring that you are not spamming people or sending irrelevant material.
  • Automated subscription management: your contacts should be able to automatically subscribe or unsubscribe from their list with no interaction with you.


Other functionality that is really useful, would be:

  • Sign-up forms: the ability to create a form that you could put on your website that would convert visitors to your website into email list subscribers
  • Contact reports, which would enable you to look up the details of your contact and track their every action over their history as your list subscriber (eg which mails they read, which links they clicked on, etc.)
  • Bounce-back handling: subscribers are automatically removed after a certain number of bounced messages
  • Custom fields, in which you are able to add a seemingly-personal touch to your communications, such as automatically including their name in the body of the newsletter

Speak to your contact database without spamming them

Electronic newsletters are a vital marketing tool of the modern professional, and the sofware that is available makes it very easy for you to create marketing that does not cost a single penny and yet is as professional and impressive as that sent by the biggest corporations out there.

Read more about newsletters in our marketing course

In a system such as iContact, you have free access to a range of existing templates which enable you to tailor them to your needs by adding text and uploading photographs. You can create different newsletters and save the templates for different lists or to suit individual clients that you might have.


iContact newsletter example

Figure 2:This newsletter was easily created by a photographer and writer on behalf of their client, a tourism association. Notice the 'from' address of the email: it is sent out in the name of the client, Livingstone Tourism Association. Each of the blue words of text is a hyperlink, just like on a website. In this case, however, the number of clicks to those links will be tracked. You, as the database manager, would be able to find out which of the contacts clicked on which link.

Very importantly, on a newsletter like this, as opposed to so many other bulk emails: 

  • The recipient does not see a list of other recipients. The system ensures that this is sent as an individual email and complies with anti-spamming measures.
  • The recipient is able to remove themselves from the list at any time, without contacting you.


iContact list management

Figure 3: Notice that the footer of the newsletter includes the sender's contact details, including physical address, as well as the functionality that allows the recipient to update or change their contact information (including unsubscribe) themselves.

Track the responses

Gone are the days when you sent mailers out and had no idea whether anybody had read them or not. Now you can find out who read your mail, when, and how often. You can even see if they clicked on any of the links in that mail.


iContact results

Figure 4: The summary view of the results tracking you should expect to receive after sending an electronic newsletter.

Once you have sent your newsletter, the analysis begins. First, you want to assess how many people took the time to read it, how many actuall clicked on links, and how many forwarded to others. There are many theories of what constitutes success, but you will surely be wanting to improve on your results every time by tweaking the subject line, the timing, the photographs, etc, etc.

The next step is to look at who read the newsletter, and what links they clicked on.


iContact resutls

Figure 5: The response results that your software provides you with should inform your next step. Now that you know that these respondents have shown interest in the links, you can follow up with individual emails in which you give them further information about that specific subject matter, or by sending them photographs or story ideas most pertinent to the interest they have shown.