By Debbie Hanlon

Every now and then I get what I like to call the urge to purge. When that feeling comes upon me I go through my closets and pick out all the stuff I no longer wear, that is no longer in fashion or that, for some strange reason, has shrunk and no longer fits me. This all gets piled into bags and taken to my local Goodwill store so that someone else can enjoy them for a while.

I carry out a similar annual purging of another space in my life that tends to get crowded through neglect – my database. Now, I told you some time ago about the importance of building and maintaining your database, about adding a preset number of contacts a day and rewarding yourself for reaching those goals. Real estate is, after all, a contact sport and the more contacts you have, the better your chance of winning in today’s highly competitive market.



If you’ve been following my advice – and why wouldn’t you – there’s one more step you need to learn to make your database as profitable as possible: purging.

Just like a closet or shoe rack, your database is going to collect contacts you’ll use time and time again as well as those that are simply no longer useable after a while. Let’s face it, people move, they change emails with new jobs or they simply migrate to the newest email server. Remember the exodus from hotmail when gmail came along? For those and a host of other reasons you need to clean out your contact list on a regular basis. Otherwise, it will end up being little more than a pile of names covered in digital cobwebs.

Like sit-ups or skipping dessert, this used to be easy to do. You’d simply send out a bulk email telling people you were updating your email list and asking them if this was still the correct address to receive correspondence from you. Thanks to the new anti-spam laws, however, that easy, all-inclusive way of cleaning up the clutter is no longer possible. Now it has to be done on an individual basis. This may seem daunting at first, but if you assign time in your calendar to spend 10 minutes a day at it, you’ll be finished before you know it and, trust me, the reward is well worth the effort.

Recently I finished purging my own contact list, which as a result of my daily dedication to adding names, had grown to more than 15,000 contacts. Now, to open up my contact list and scroll through that seemingly endless list could easily have turned me off from even considering carrying out a purge. It’s not unlike swinging open the closet doors and looking at the mass of colours and fabrics that await behind them. That could easily have been overwhelming and I could have put it off or simply not done it at all without feeling too bad about it, but I employed my cheesecake strategy to get it done.

Whenever I’m faced with a huge undertaking, I always think of the task ahead as a giant cheesecake. How do you eat cheesecake? That’s right, one bite at a time. So I broke it into bite-sized pieces and penciled in a small amount of time each day for a couple of weeks to get it done.

Once again, as with everything I do, I also included a reward program for myself. After I reached a certain number of contacts that had been tested and completed, momma got a new pair of shoes. I have an assistant who helps me, but if you don’t have one, do not use that as an excuse not to do this. For years I did it on my own and as a result I can now afford an assistant to help me and so will you if you make purging a regular practice in your professional career. Plus there are a host of programs out there that can make this undertaking a whole lot easier.

In my next column I’ll tell you about the best way to use those programs to make your database the money maker it should be. Until then, commit yourself to adding one contact a day. Think of it as a surge before the purge.

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Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.

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