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Building Your Marketing Lists Online

Written by Eileen Parzek, © 2004

I have written frequently about how to design marketing collateral, but we have never talked about where to send it when you are done. Traditionally, direct mail can be sent to prospects culled from your own research, purchased from organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, or a list broker who researches and sells a licensed list according to your criteria. A company named W3Data has two products, Prospect411 and BatchAppend411 which allow you to create an account, develop a set of criteria, build, and purchase a list of addresses and phone numbers via the web.

In order to market, you need people and businesses to market to - and Prospect411 is an online service you can use to get marketing lists and sales leads quickly, easily and relatively cheap. Unlike buying a list from a broker, when you purchase a list on Prospect411, you can use it as you wish - there are no limits on how many times you can do a mailing. It is convenient because you can build a list yourself, 24 hours a day. And it is economical, at only 12 cents per name without a phone number and 15 cents per, with a phone number (attention to those among us who prefer cold calling!). For example, I built a list of certain types of businesses here in my area code, got 157 names returned - and without phone numbers, this was around $18.84. I compared the costs with traditional lists and found that the average cost is 20 cents per name. One of the nice things about Prospect411 is that the minimum order is $5, so you can build lists as you need them, and expand your sphere of marketing as your small business finances allow.

Once you create an account, which only takes a few minutes, you can immediately build lists, and store them until later in case you need to run it again. You are allowed to build lists that are residential or commercial, and criteria include street address, radius, city, state, zip code, area code, business name, or SIC code. The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code is a numbering system established by the US government that identifies companies by industry. Criticized often by marketers as inadequate (web design, for example, still does not have an SIC code!), it is the only standard criteria for identifying an industry.

BatchAppend411 is an interesting self service tool if you have a list with missing information. For example, if you have a list of phone numbers it can do a reverse look up and find names and addresses to append to the file. If you have a list of business names and addresses, and need phone numbers, it will search and return the list with phone numbers. You can use real time (updated nightly) data for 20 cents each, or near time data (90-180 days old), at 10 cents each.

The resulting file for both products can be easily imported into all the common customer relationship management applications, including Microsoft® Outlook, Microsoft® Access, ACT!, Goldmine® and Maximizer. You can create your own mailing labels, provide the list to a mailing house - or if you're going to use my other recommended vendor, AmazingMail.com, simply upload your new list and send out those postcards!

I did find a few things to be aware of when using this service. It does not provide email addresses - but you weren't planning to send out bulk unsolicited email anyway, right? Also, only US data is available at this time, and lists with phone numbers are NOT "scrubbed" against the National Do Not Call Registry. This is not uncommon - it only means that if you purchase a phone list, you would have to comply with the FTC requirements to assure you don't call someone on the registry. As far as usability of the site, the only thing I didn't like was that after building a list, you can not view example records or even partial records (business name, for example) of the resulting list prior to purchasing it. However, if you purchased a list and it was way off track, they've assured me they would refund an account and help you get the data you needed. In fact, I've found that in the course of writing this review, the folks at W3Data have been extremely responsive and helpful. I would encourage anyone who is building a mailing or prospecting list to give these products a test drive. There is no obligation - you can sign up and explore it without needing to purchase anything. You will find that it is a fast, economical, and easy way to gather the information you need to move your sales and marketing efforts forwards.


Eileen Parzek is an award winning graphic and web designer providing digital and print graphic design and web design services. Always found at the intersection of information, creativity and technology, her business, Business Design Studio (www.businessdesignstudio.com) helps small businesses make a big impression.

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