Find Leads You Never Knew You Had

An important first step to automating your marketing is to centralize and organize your contact database. Doing so will likely result in you discovering leads you never knew you had.

In this flight plan you will learn:

  • The cost of a scattered database
  • How to centralize and organize your contacts
  • Segmenting out your high value (or low value) contacts

The cost of a scattered database

Over the years, you’ve made thousands of contacts and generated leads from advertising and online marketing, sales calls and visits, events, and more. The problem is...they now lie dormant in spreadsheets, buried in emails, scattered through your CRM, or piled in stacks of business cards. Sound familiar? A disorganized contact database costs you money in (at least) two ways:

1. Not capitalizing on your initial investment. You’ve spent serious time and money building new contacts and acquiring sales leads. If they are sitting stagnant on your hard drive somewhere, then the money you have already spent could be going to waste. As an example, let’s say your average cost to acquire a lead is $50. Assuming you have 1,000 leads scattered across spreadsheets, napkins, or an existing email provider, that’s a total of $50,000 of wasted spend acquiring those leads.


What if instead, you were able to re-engage 25% of these leads automatically, and 5% went on to purchase at $1,000 a pop? That’s a 25% ROI, in the current year alone.

2. Not having a pulse on your business contacts. Most likely there are gems just waiting to be found in your contact list - repeat purchasers, influencers eager to give word of mouth recommendations, and people who are ready to buy now.

Just these few critical groups show the immense business value of segmenting your contact database. For example, marketing communications with first-time purchasers is worlds different than with VIPs who’ve been buying from you for years. Or consider geography-based lists, what opportunities are at your fingertips with your cluster of contacts in New York City?

In summary, not centralizing your contact database can be expensive, both in lost direct ROI, and in missed opportunities not engaging (or avoiding) key people in your database.

How to centralize your contacts

The following section will step you through centralizing and organizing your database.

Step 1. Gather your scattered contacts

To centralize your contacts in marketing software, track them down from:

  • Email lists in your email software or MailChimp account
  • Leads, opportunities or account data in your CRM
  • Sales contacts spreadsheets on your computer or used by your team
  • Scattered business cards or order requests from recent events
  • Buried as contacts in previous email threads

Step 2. Choose your approach for organizing your contacts

There are at least two viable options to storing and growing your contact database:

  • Manage in marketing automation software, without using a CRM
  • Manage in marketing automation software, in conjunction with a CRM

A. Marketing automation without CRM

The simplest and least expensive approach to growing your customer base is using marketing automation software, without setting up or connecting to customer relationship management (CRM) software. Organizing your contacts within marketing automation will enable you to visualize all your contacts in one central location.

To get started, you will need to compile all of your contacts into a spreadsheet, organized by column headings such as name, company, product, geography, contact type, or any other info that matters for your business. This is a good time to “scrub” or “de-dup” your contact data, given that you’ll likely have contacts who have accrued multiple emails or addresses, or you will have picked up bad data along the way. We suggest doing this before uploading the list into your marketing automation software, so that you start fresh with a clean, safe database of opt-in emails that won’t report you as a spammer.

Scrubbing and sorting your contacts

Scrubbing your data can be achieved using automated services like Data Validation that grade your email addresses and recommend which emails to include or disclude from your marketing. You will still need to massage the data in Excel or Google Spreadsheets- using vlookups or data sorting to find multiple replicates and consolidating multiple rows into a single contact. But once you have gone through this, you will feel better connected to your valuable contacts and customers. Many find this scrubbing process to be an eye-opening experience, much like browsing through old family photo albums.

Once you have scrubbed and imported your contacts list, you will be able to sort your contacts into important segments, such as VIPs, paying customers, trialists, or competitors. You will also be able to append each customer record with valuable information acquired from many online (or offline) sources, including product usage, website or content engagement, or social profile data. Then, you can take action by creating multi-channel touchpoints (e.g. emails, text messages, calls, letters) to engage each group in a personalized manner, either in a one-off or ongoing basis.

For small companies or teams, or businesses that lack direct sales, marketing automation alone can be sufficient to organize and grow your base. But if you have sales people who need leads and lists to call, and a system to track customer interactions, you may need to implement CRM software.

B. Using marketing automation in conjunction with CRM

According to Salesforce, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is software to “store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location.” CRM software allows you to manage the sales process, record your customer engagements, manage pipeline and forecasts, and measure sales results.

CRM systems worth checking out include:

  • Salesforce: The most well-known and widely used cloud-based CRM, which has a deep, pre-built integration with Autopilot. Salesforce is highly customizable, which makes it a viable solution for small to mid-sized businesses and enterprises alike. Also Salesforce has a large ecosystem of partner apps and services - the AppExchange - that offers an online shopping mall for add-ons and tools to better equip your sales efforts. The main downsides to Salesforce are its relatively high cost and upfront complexity to install and configure.
  • Pipedrive: Great for small teams. Pipedrive’s key differentiator is their visual sales pipeline showing what stage all of your deals are in. Autopilot can be integrated with Pipedrive via the Zapier data exchange platform.
  • Insightly: Built for small businesses and companies getting off the ground. Offers integrated project management features and a forever-free plan if you just need the basics.

Autopilot's integration with Salesforce makes it easy to import and sync leads, contacts, or accounts between your CRM and marketing automation. You can also add new leads into Salesforce, manage workflow or tasks, or update field values via customer journeys created in Autopilot, which allows you to define your ideal customer engagement approach.

Important: If you connect Autopilot to Salesforce, then data will be synchronized bi-directionally between Autopilot and Salesforce, which means that sales people or users of Salesforce can modify or even delete data from your marketing contact database. The advantages here are that the data captured by your sales team in CRM tasks will be updated in your marketing. But it also means your sales teams can modify scrubbed marketing data. If this is of concern, you may: map only some of your Autopilot contact fields into Salesforce (via field mapping in Autopilot), or define permissions in Salesforce that limit who can modify what records. Browse frequently asked questions about the Autopilot and Salesforce connector.

Step 3. Import your contacts into your software

Once you’ve gathered all of your contacts and selected which marketing tools, as well as CRM, you plan to use, then it’s time to import your contacts. The process will look different depending on which software you choose, but each vendor has detailed step-by-step articles explaining how to import contacts.

Most platforms have pre-defined standard fields, and custom fields. For example, in Autopilot marketing automation, you can map spreadsheet headings with Contact fields (e.g. First Name, Last Name, Company, Phone, Email, Industry) and you can also define custom fields for your business (e.g. Product Name, Location, VIP Status, Preference, etc.).

Congratulations! Once you have scrubbed, uploaded, and organized your contacts, then get ready to become more effective in your marketing. Of course, once you’ve gotten organized, ensure you stay organized.

Step 4. Keep your contact records updated

Keeping your contact database organized is a part art, part science affair, but like jogging in the morning, is something that you just need to do. Having a clean, up-to-date contact database will allow you to personalize your messaging and marketing to your users specifically, using up-to-date demographic, marketing engagement, CRM, or app usage data.

Make contact management an ongoing initiative by:

  • Reviewing the status of your contact database each month - How many contacts do you have? What was the month over month change? How many unsubscribes?
  • Plan ahead by creating a template spreadsheet for contact details you want to capture from any marketing event or campaign
  • Defining processes for logging every sales interaction, lead status change, and new sale in your CRM. Which fields are required? Consider including activity logging in your sales team’s compensation plans.
  • Connect other marketing apps into your contact database that will grow and extend your contact record. For example, Zapier and Segment can help pull data from over 400 different tools into Autopilot’s marketing automation software, including from within your own product

This knowledge is the foundation for your sales and marketing teams to connect with contacts at the right time on the right channel.

Engage your most valuable segments personally

Your contact database is a living, breathing record of the people who engage your brand, and once you’ve compiled them all into your marketing automation software, it’s time for the fun stuff. That is, grouping your contacts into the critical segments who you need to target (or avoid) to make the most of your business.

To give you a jumpstart, here are some common segments that apply to a wide variety of businesses:

  • VIP customers: Repeat buyers who bring in the most revenue.
  • Paying customers: Anyone who has ever bought from you.
  • Hot prospects: People soon to make a purchase.
  • Product: Contacts who are passionate about product A, B, or C. Example: Pinot Noir lovers.
  • Influencers: Bloggers, journalists, or companies who have a large following and can affect other people’s habits.
  • Past customers: Bought from you a while back.
  • At-risk/recently inactive: Not logging in to your cloud product, or not engaging your emails or blog anymore.
  • Power users: Uses your product more frequently or intensively than 95% of your customers, and/or goes bonkers for your emails or blogs.
  • Geography-based: Contacts grouped by city, state, country, or region.
  • Business type:  B2B, B2C, B2B/B2C, value added reseller (VAR).
  • Industry: Software, retail, financial services, education, government, consulting and services, etc.
  • Channel: Contacts who prefer only specific forms of communication, like text messages, calls, emails or social media.
  • Company size: Very small business (1-9 employees), small business (10-249), mid-sized business (250-10,000), enterprise (>10,000)
  • Partners: People and companies you have formal partnerships or integrations with.
  • Competitors: Are your competitors snooping on your business and operations? Create suppression lists based on the email domain name to exclude the spies.

Your segments will look different depending on your particular business. For example, consider a retailer of fine wines who sells directly to its customers, as well as online through it’s e-commerce website. Their segments could include VIP customers, red wine lovers, sommeliers, partners, and wine bloggers. Each group cares about different things, and as a result, marketing to each group may take a different shape and form. But once you establish a discussion thread with each, then you can start to make the most of your networks.

Wrapping it all up

In this Flight Plan, we have reviewed the costs of not organizing your valuable contacts. We have covered the how and why of centralizing and organizing your contacts and the pros and cons of using CRM software with marketing automation. Last, we’ve reviewed the basics of segmenting your contacts to maximize the value of your network.

Now that you’ve organized your contacts and laid the general framework for who’s who in your business, it is time to get to know your audience better →

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