Prospect database | AccountingWEB

Prospect database

I'm interested in the format others use to maintain their database of prospects. 

Do you keep them completely separate from your existing client database?

Do you have a managed way of communicating with prospects, or just on an ad-hoc basis, ie a different strategy for each one?

Do you have another (third!) database to manage sending newsletter e-shots to, with clients AND prospects on it?

The real issue driving this question is I feel I could build a longer term relationship with people who don't immediately sign up for my services.

In the past I think I have been guilty of treating a new enquiry as an all or nothing thing, where if the client doesnt sign up immediatley I have not really bothered following them up again.

Recently I have tried a more slow-burn approach, so I have an increasing list of people I have a continuing dialogue with, but no client relationship yet.


jpointon's picture

Contact database

jpointon | | Permalink

 We employ a simple method of recording contacts in the database. There are 4 columns Supplier, Client, Potclient, HMRC. A simple tick in the appropriate box indicates which category the contact falls into. We prepare a monthly newsletter for clients and a bi-monthly one for potential clients. Our maling progra distinguishes between the categories and prints newsletters (for posting)  or sends them out by email in pdf format as appropriate.

Make sure your newsletter emphasises those aspects of your expertise which set you apart from the rest of the herd. Everybody offers end of year accounts, self assessent returns, book-keeeping,VAT return preparaton, PAYE/CIS etc... What do you bring to the party that makes you special?

Quality Impact Marketing's picture

You could be loosing so many clients....

Quality Impact ... | | Permalink

Have you looked into using a CRM system? A good CRM will enable you to keep all your data categorised; Clients, prospects, warm prospects. You can use it to easily track what type of contact has been made with each prospect or client e.g. phone call, letter, email, and the status of that contact; no reply, not in, asked to be called back on etc etc. and then actually schedule your next action on to the system and it will remind you as and when you have set it to.

My advice would be to have a multi pronged approach, so use various marketing techniques and see which works out the best for you. Different approaches in different locations work better for different people. Also remember that whatever you do, always follow up with a phone call. If you write to someone don't leave it to them to contact you. If you haven't heard back from them within 3 - 5 days, then call them whilst your letter is still fresh in their mind. If for some reason they haven't read the letter then the call becomes the first contact opportunity." That's a shame that you didn't receive my letter. Let me take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about what we do...."If they have read the letter then 99 times out of 100 they will be impressed with your proactiveness (is that even a word!?), and you can then look to book a meeting with them to discuss further.

Never let a lead go cold! So many of our clients pick up clients that they met with months, sometimes years ago. If you have a newsletter put anyone you meet on your mailing list (with the opportunity to unsubscribe of course). Follow them on twitter (if you have an account) so they are constantly reminded of your presence. Give them a call once every 6 months “ hi John it’s Bill here from ABC accountants, we met a while back and I was just giving a call to see how things are going…”  Not only will it keep your name in their head but it will also show that you are interested in their business and proactive. If you are proactive in marketing your business then there’s a very good chance that you are proactive at looking after your clients. No is never really no … it’s not now or not enough knowledge. Either there is a genuine reason that now is not the right time, or they don’t know enough about the excellent service your business provides.

I have a few company names I could pass on if you are interested in a CRM System. A good one will completely manage all your marketing activities and they are not expensive if you go down the cloud solution rather than actually buy the siftware. Also, make sure you have a good data provider (if you buy the data in) as this can be critical to your efforts. I can help with that as well if you like. We use a small data provider who blows the socks off of any other firm I have used and I have used all the major ones. I am happy to pass you his details.

I hope this helps.       


David Ellis

Managing Director

T: 01604 211221

E: [email protected]


zarathustra's picture

Thanks for your replies

zarathustra | | Permalink

Isn't a CRM system basically just a database? I'm familiar with ACT, but we just used Access. We can add fields for "last contact" or "notes" etc if we wish, this was one reason for choosing Access.

But are  you basically saying we should use one system but create additiona radio diall options to select for "client". "prospect", "introducer" etc.

I'm not currently buying data in, just generating prospects by networking etc.

David Winch's picture

Use The Power Of Access

David Winch | | Permalink

@zarathustra You say "We can add fields for 'last contact' or 'notes'"

Can I suggest instead that you add tables for 'contacts' and for 'notes' and link these via an identifier (such as 'Customer ID') to the customer table I presume you already have from your description above.  In this way you can record a practically infinite number of contacts and notes for each customer and not just the last in each case.  You could even add a 'next action' table with a 'to be completed by date' field in a similar manner.

This is the way relational databases such as Access are best used, not just in the 'flat file' way I am imagining from your statement.

I would also ask whether you are using an e-mail broadcasting service, in which case their database function could manage your lists using flags as described by John.

Well done for creating your own CRM system though.

David Winch

Make Sales Without Selling and Get Paid What You're Worth

bookmarklee's picture

Good advice above

bookmarklee | | Permalink

EXCEPT for this line from David Ellis which is incomeplete:

"Follow them on twitter (if you have an account) so they are constantly reminded of your presence." This will only be the case if you post Tweets that mention their name and they monitor their @mentions on twitter. 

Otherwise if you follow someone on twitter YOU get to see THEIR tweets. They will only see all of your tweets if THEY choose to follow you back AND they monitor their twitter stream sufficiently often AND they don't follow so many people that your tweets get lost in the fast flowing river.  Also, you can only send private Direct Messages (DMs) to someone on twitter if THEY choose to follow you. 


MarkAOrr's picture

A proper CRM is way better than Access

MarkAOrr | | Permalink

I agree with David Ellis, you should be looking at proper CRM.  Yes, CRM in its simplest form is a database. However, it is also much more than that.  You can automate your next actions and integrate it fully with all communications.  The clue is in the name.  CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and is therefore all about building and managing relationships with people rather than just looking at them as a 'number' or a category.

It is so much more useful to know about the people you want to do business with rather than just their name and who they work for.  For example, do they play golf or follow a certain football team?  Where exactly did you meet them?  What are their personal and professional interests?  I am sure you can think of several other useful bits of information.  A good CRM will then allow you to search by various multi functions which will help you deliver a very precise and engaging message.

As David says you can get a whole variety of CRM's either on your own server or in the 'cloud' which is just a buzz word for on the web.  The advantages with the latter are that you can access and update the information from anywhere, including via your smart phone.  You also have the benefit of knowing that the data is safely backed up so if anything should happen to your local computers you haven't lost anything.  Lastly, all the software updates are just done for you.  The disadvantage is that if you use large files it can be slower than locally held information.

When we looked at CRM the biggest problem was implementation and adoption.  The web solution I tried first had its own email client that we had to use rather than Outlook.  My colleague hated it and for that and other reasons we decided not to proceed.  You do really need to make sue that whatever you use it can work the way you want to work rather than adopting something which makes you change your systems.

I am in the process of looking at CRM again at the moment.  There is one called Zoho which is very impressive when you consider three people can use it together free.  However, to get good functionality you do need to upgrade to the paid for version.  At $25 per month per user that is still very cheap and it will also integrate well with Google Apps, can be used with Outlook or its own email client and is growing in power and diversity all the time.  I do know of a group of outsourced finance directors who use it all the time.

The other one I have liked is called Gold Vision which is based around all the microsoft products and uses Exchange Server.  For that reason, if you already have Microsoft and like using Outlook it will be very easy to adopt this system.  It also inludes its own bulk email marketing system complete with full tracking of what people have done with the emails and a proper 'unsubscribe' function.

I have also been told that Microsoft Dynamics is now much more affordable and usable so that may be a good option again but I haven't looked at it yet.

If anybody out there has some other recommendations on CRM I would love to hear them.


David Winch's picture

I Was Only Saying

David Winch | | Permalink

My earlier post was made on the basis that @zarathustra was giving me the impression he was building his own database (application rather than information in this context) in Access.

If you have the skill, time and justification then you can build your own CRM/Database system with all the functionality Mark Orr and others describe.

If you haven't then an off the shelf system is the likely answer, but you still need to configure it well.  This is little different to taking a copy of an Accounting package and configuring it for  particular business.  Again, if you haven't the skill or time you need outside help.  In both cases the software should be your slave, not your master.

David Winch

Make Sales Without Selling and Get Paid What You're Worth

Quality Impact Marketing's picture

I rabbit on too much as it is!!!

Quality Impact ... | | Permalink

@bookmarklee .... you're absolutely right Mark. I thought a Twitter tutorial may have been a bit over kill as my post was getting long enough as it was!! :-) 

I think I might write a blog on our site for Accountants who want to get started on Twitter as it's a question I get asked a lot ... "where do I start!?" ... do you think this would be useful?    



MarkAOrr's picture

I think that would be Twitterific

MarkAOrr | | Permalink

I would love to know more.  I really don't understand twitter well enough and I also think some people use it more than they understand it and therefore don't se the results they were hoping for. 

Moonbeam's picture


Moonbeam | | Permalink

I have a database in Access, which was designed for me by Bridget, a developer of Access systems for large companies and very very small people like myself. About 20 years ago she set up the database from listening to my many complicated requirements for half an hour, based on what she had done for lots of other people. About 4 years ago I went to see her again and she updated it all.

I now need another update and when I have the time, I will sit down and work out my requirements and email my database and list to her. Because she is very fast and can use other setups as a template, she can save you all the hassle of understanding how to program Access yourself. I don't see why it wouldn't be possible to have it set up very much like a CRM system, but customised to you.

My own database has enabled me to target suitable prospects by letter, and to keep a log of when they were mailshot and whether to "dead" them off so that I don't write to them ever again if I buy in more names. For 24 years worth of happy mailshots, what I've paid Bridget seems unreasonably low compared to the help her work has given me in tracking mailings.

If you would like to get in touch with Bridget, please pm me for her contact details.

David Winch's picture


David Winch | | Permalink

Well done @Moonbeam

Would Bridget like my help with getting paid what she's worth?!!

David Winch

Make Sales Without Selling and Get Paid What You're Worth

CRM Outlook integrated software products

peter brigham | | Permalink

We are looking at options for a good value network contact management system. It must be well integrated with Outlook, as we do not want to duplicate client, potential client and referal source details that are already included in the Outlook contact folders. Idealy it will also be syncronised with BlackBerry phones. The marketing part of the software must enable us to bulk email various mailings groups which must be easy to manage. I have read about Microsoft Dynamics. We do not want to work on the cloud. I also see Prophet and Gold Vision have these features. Does anyone have practical experience of these or other products for a SME (say 25/30 staff, but only 5/6 users who would use the marketing features of a crm product)?

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