Acquiring contact data for a direct marketing campaign

Acquiring contact data for a direct marketing campaign.

By Neil Cavanagh

Direct marketing can be a great way of targeting new prospects or to tell customers about new features to the services or products that your company provides, but to begin you need to build a list of those prospects that you wish to target.

There are a number of ways you could go about doing this:

1) Using registration data

If your website has a facility for customers to register, you may already have customers’ details that you could use for a direct marketing campaign. It’s always worth checking the terms and conditions of your registration process to make sure that they permit you to contact the people that sign up.

I haven’t got a place for people to register, shall I create one?

Don’t expect the visitors to your site to register in droves; you need to give them a reason to sign-up. Perhaps reward the registration with compelling content, special offers or interesting news.


2) Buying your data

Directories like Thompson and Experian can provide you with lists of data which you can search for on their websites, usually by a number of categories including:

• Location

• Sector

• Classification (e.g. Manufacturing or Print)

• Turnover

These companies provide “list builder” services that will take you through categories to help you select the data you need.

Take care before you buy!

Whilst organisations such as Experian pride themselves on the quality of their data, you don’t usually get to see the list before your buy.

Duplicate and admin email addresses

A number of list builder websites have the option to select “unique addresses emails only”, this is where you need to be really careful; many people have aliases created of their email addresses so:

Whilst these are unique email addresses, it’s very likely that these addresses will all end up at the same mailbox. Not only may this be bad for the prospect to get three copies of the same email, you will also be paying for the same person’s details three times.

Furthermore, whilst you make select “contact email addresses only”, on occasion admin@ and info@ email addresses can appear in your contact list. Email sent to these addresses is likely to end up in a generic mailbox which may not be regularly monitored and thus not reach your intended target

It’s well worth calling up to ensure that addresses are not duplicated before you buy!


3) Harvesting Data from websites

It’s possible to harvest email addresses from websites using programs such as target email collector (TEC), but many of the email addresses displayed on websites are usually generic ones that are likely to get lots of spam.


4) Calling companies directly

By using Google or Yellow pages you can search for businesses which you’d like to target. By calling the company directly you may be able to get details of the prospect that you wish to contact. This is a very time consuming approach, but it can often lead to the best results.

Beginning to Target your contacts – Print vs Email.

Once you’ve built up a list of contacts you’ll need to decide how to write to them about your offering.

Emails is a cost-effective and quick way, but remember many other businesses will also be emailing the same contacts so it’s like they may get many messages about a ranges of products and offers from a variety of businesses.

Be sure to consider services like dotMailer and MailChimp for sending large volumes of email as there is a very significant possibility that you could end up getting your own day to day messages classed as junk by spam filters.

Printing leaflets and introductory letters can often be seen as more expensive and slower process than email, but you really need to find out what works best for you and which route your prospects may be more likely to respond to.


Spam Laws and email marketing

Before sending out mass emails it’s always worth checking out the laws relating to marketing emails in the Country where you live. For the UK, this is The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, for Canada this is dealt with under the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam bill (C-28) and in the USA you need to be aware of the CAN-SPAM act.

Whilst these acts vary in what they enforce, it’s always worth sticking to a common set of principles for your email marketing campaigns:

• Always provide an option for an individual to opt out (unsubscribe) from marketing messages sent from your organisation

• Make sure that the subject of the email accurately represents the body of your text

• Include a legitimate contact address of your business and state your company name

• Try to avoid using harvested email addresses

One of the key points of both the UK and Canadian legislation is that it is unlawful to send someone direct marketing who has not specifically granted permission (via an opt-in agreement) unless there is a previous relationship between the parties.

Email marketing companies such as dotMailer and MailChimp can help advise on the legal aspects of your marketing messages, but do check out their policies on the usage of data from bought contacts lists.


Following up your direct marketing campaigns

If you buy contact lists, it’s always worth check that phone numbers are included so you can follow up any emails you’ve sent or letters that have been posted. An indication if the company is not on the telephone preference service list (TPS) is always helpful so you know that there will be no legal issues when calling your prospect.



Starting a direct marketing campaign can take time and it’s always worth starting small so you can gauge the success of your campaigns. Always try to get leaflets and emails professionally designed so your intended message effectively comes across. Test new campaigns on existing customers wherever possible and always get someone else to help proof read any new leaflets or messages that you create.

Neil Cavanagh

is CEO of Xpress Data Systems. He has over 15 years’ experience as Chief Technical Officer in large organisations in both the public and private sector.

Having recently launched CamisOnline, an online Business Administration and Management tool, Neil is actively contributing advice to help businesses thrive on the web.

Published by Spring Digital Media, All Rights Reserved.