Small Business

The Game of the Names


By Karen E. Klein Q: I am trying to acquire names of companies that have applied or registered for corporate status. In Illinois, what department(s) do you recommend I contact? -- R.R., Forest Park, Ill.

A: The information you're looking for is part of the public record. Companies are often required to file legal DBA (doing business as) notices in their local newspaper, stating the name, those of the outfit's principals, and contact information. You might make a habit of culling through these notices -- which are usually published for three consecutive weeks in smaller newspapers that specialize in carrying them. It's a time-consuming and cumbersome method, but the price is right.

The state agency that handles business incorporations transactions is also compelled to make the information accessible to the public -- but it is not in the business of compiling raw data for marketing purposes. You can check with your state's business regulatory agencies about how to access that data, but you may find that it is issued in a format that is time-consuming and difficult to decipher. Start by searching the Web site of the Illinois Business Service Center.

The easiest way -- and also the most costly -- to get this information is through one of the companies selling sales leads and mailing lists. At InfoUSA.com, for instance, you can purchase new-business mailing lists that are narrowed down by state, Zip Code, county, estimated income, and age.

DON'T GIVE UP. Once you have the information you're seeking, what do you do with it? Assuming that you want to market your products or services to new business owners who are eager to establish relationship with vendors, your top priority should be consistency, says Marc Slutsky, vice president of Columbus, Ohio-based Streetfighter Marketing. "The biggest marketing mistake businesses make is that people try something once and then they stop," says Slutsky. "You must put your message in front of a potential client multiple times before they make a decision to buy."

He recommends that you identify a group of new companies that would be

potential clients and then set a goal for how many of them you would like to snag. "Put together a marketing calendar and get something to them every four weeks to six weeks, whether it's a newsletter, an e-mail message, a telephone call, or a postcard," he advises, "Get organized and put yourself on a schedule, or else other things will intervene and you'll wind up sending something every four months to six months, which is not effective."

Slutsky tells clients to set two dates on their calendars for each marketing piece. The first is a planning date, which you should pencil in about a week before your contact date. "When you see the reminder on your calendar, you know it's time to think about what you're sending, what your message will be, and how you'll organize it. A week later, you'll be all ready to implement the plan," he says.

Have a question about your business? Ask our small-business experts. Send us an e-mail at smartanswers@businessweek.com, or write to Smart Answers, BW Online, 45th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Please include your real name and phone number in case we need more information; only your initials and city will be printed. Because of the volume of mail, we won't be able to respond to all questions personally. Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in covering covered entrepreneurship and small-business issues.


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