If you want to get more customers from your local business area, here’s a source of leads you might not have considered. For instance, restaurants, professional practices, boutiques, salons, printing companies, and other retail businesses typically pull customers from a small geographic area.

Although they use many ways to find local customers, this one is often overlooked. Whether you’re a new or established business, it’s a low-cost way to jump start leads and sales.

A Free Source of Local Marketing Information

The caretaker of this marketing intelligence is the local residential property tax appraiser’s office. Most have searchable online databases available to the public.

In them you’ll find the property owner’s name and address, assessed value, taxes paid, and other relevant tax info.

There are two things that make this info useful to us:

1) We get the name and address of current owners of local residential properties.

2) We can use search options to refine the demographics and create a list of only those people we want as customers.

Before we go deeper, let me say that you can buy mailing lists like this from list brokers, magazines, and other outlets. If you need to do large mailings, then it’s better to purchase a list. Purchased lists also have more options available such as phone numbers, job titles, and more.

For our purposes, our goal is to create small mailing lists of local prospects fast, compiling anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand or so. Here’s how…

Where to Find the Local Database

Start with a Google search such as “[your county] property tax appraiser” to find your local appraiser’s website. Or you can use an online directory such as publicrecords.netronline.com. It has a directory of all known counties and parishes in the US that have websites. Where no website exists, it gives you a phone number.

Once you find the site, dig around to find the database. They’re almost always there…somewhere. The appraiser’s job is to make the info available and stay within budget, so you won’t always find a state-of-the-art consumer-style website.

How to Use It

To use this information correctly, you must first understand your ideal client. It’s all about the “who”.

(You can read related articles about why and how to define your ideal client in more detail here in these two Small Business Rainmaker Blog articles, The Most Important Marketing Question for Your Business, and Is This Marketing Question Really That Tough?.)

When you know who your client is, then it’s much easier to find out where they live so you can mail them your offer. This is where local search options come into play.

screenshot-tax-appraiser-search-375.jpgSearch options vary from county to county but most have several ways to search such as address, subdivision, block, or map. The screenshot here shows one search screen with 19 options, including helpful Market Value and Sale Price fields. Yet those sites with only 4-6 search options are still robust enough to be helpful in building our list.

Here’s a quick restaurant marketing example to show you how your data search might work.

Let’s say your restaurant wants to do a mailing promotion for an upscale Valentine’s Day dinner. You’ve defined your ideal customer as a 50 to 65-year-old professional or retiree couple. You know there are two affluent adult-living developments with a few miles of your restaurant. When you search, look for those developments or subdivisions by name. If there is no such option, then get the street names or the block names where those developments are located and use them in your search.

You may have to do some homework to get what you need. Some sites have simple map searches that make it quite easy. Others might require that you download a map of the areas with block numbers and then use those block numbers in your search. Once you know how your site works, searching is easy. You can always call the appraisers’ office for help. You can even try your local librarian to see if they can assist.

After you get the search results, you’ll have to copy and paste the info into your own database or spreadsheet. This is a great project for a student, an intern, or an employee during slow times.

Search results aren’t foolproof but that’s ok. Neither are purchased mailing lists. The owner might not live there or a corporation might own a rental property. At this point we’re using the list to generate leads.

After you’ve put it all in your database or spreadsheet, do your mailing or take it to your printer. If you’re a complete do-it-yourselfer, you can use Word and Excel to print out labels from an address spreadsheet. You can even hand-address your mailing to get a better open and response rate.

Important—when your new client comes into your place of business, don’t forget to note two things in your database:

1) The fact that they are now a customer and

2) The promotion to which they responded. This way you can track the effectiveness of your mailings.

A Related Mailing List Alternative

The Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program from the USPS is a step up from the do-it-yourself method above. You can target leads by selecting mail routes and then narrowing it down by selecting various demographics.
The EDDM search tool is free to use and you get a discount on mailing. You can do an EDDM mailing yourself, but you must comply with specific requirements.

An easier way to handle it is to use an approved printing company who works with the USPS. Some are listed on their site but do your local printer a favor and ask them first! If they offer mailing services, they can handle your EDDM.

More Ideas to Jump Start Your Sales Effort and Get More Clients

For even more ideas on how to use direct mail to jump start your sales effort, get a copy of Ultimate Secrets of Direct Marketing Success. Learn how to craft direct response promotions that bring in more of your best customers. And do it for less money than your competitors.

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Andre Palko Owner
Andre Palko is founder of the Small Business Rainmaker™ and its free weekly e-newsletter. He is dedicated to delivering award-winning marketing and content that helps business owners thrive in any economy.