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How SMBs Can Grow Their Contact Databases

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Businesses use marketing automation and CRM software to manage and communicate with their sales contacts. You can build landing pages and broadcast automatic emails/triggers to people based on some action they've taken in the more elaborate installs. Assume a hair salon uses marketing automation software. The customer uses the tool to book an appointment online and pay for it. Then, the system automatically sends the customer a reminder, discount code and link to a book again 30-45 days after their initial appointment. Once the customer signs up for a booking they are in your system and can enjoy the special offers and information you send them. That is marketing automation at its best.

However, that doesn't solve the main problem affecting the hair salon and every other hair salon. How do I get that new customer to my site to book?

Or, the problem affecting most SMBs, how do I get those sign-ups or new customers? Ask the next CRM sales rep that calls your office that and you'll know what uncomfortable rambling sounds like.

That is the one thing all marketing automation and CRM software companies don't tell you. You can use their software to manage potential business opportunities, but not generate business opportunities. They are great tools if you have thousands of people signing up events you run, reservations at your hotel, appointment bookings etc, but if your business has no standard contact database to begin with you'll need to build that before utilizing any CRM. Unlike large organizations, most SMBs don't get thousands of website visits per month or have a marketing team to build up a contact list to market to. Unconvinced? Check out the pricing model for their services (Infusionsoft, Marketo, Vocus) -- they all assume a minimum amount of contacts or "leads" to be managed. At their best these are great middle-of-the-funnel tools, but not the top-of-the-funnel support that most SMBs need.

Computan supports hundreds of small business owners a year. A question we ask is 'What is the main problem with your business?' Nobody answers 'we have too many leads to manage' as an issue. However, 'We need more business' or 'we need sales' is constant.

So how can SMBs build a contact database before adding marketing automation?

- Trade - Offer people a discount or gift in exchange for their email address. If you're a restaurant then offer a free appetizer to guests that give you their email address. Advertise this at your establishment if your website, Facebook page etc doesn't have traffic.

- Referral - Your customers are your best source of leads. Ask your customers for the contact details of a friend that would love your product or service. Offer a gift to entice them. Email your customers if you have their details and follow up with a call.

- Promote - Promote your offer as much as possible. Advertise it on Google, in magazines, on site or anywhere else. Make sure people interested in your product or service know they get a gift in exchange for their email address. This makes it easier on them to give you their email address and try your product/service.

You need to make contacts before worrying about managing them. Once marketing automation and CRM companies realize that they'll see a huge boost in business and their tools will be far more useful.

About the Author

Sajeel Qureshi is the VP of Operations at Computan, a digital marketing and software company. Computan serves as the digital department for numerous businesses throughout the globe ranging from start-ups to multinationals.

He has a degree in Business Administration from St. Bonaventure University and MBA from Eastern Illinois University. Sajeel plays tennis well enough to convince the untrained eye that he knows what he is doing and poor enough that the trained eye submits him to a drug test.