Spin Email Messages into Gold

The Internet is one of the best devices your company has to target new customers and keep your existing clientele happy.

Laptop computer screen

But before you begin reaping the benefits of e-marketing, you have to collect and manage a database of email addresses. It might seem easy at first glance, but the task can be overwhelming if it's not handled correctly.

You start by collecting the email addresses of every customer, prospective buyer, referral source and anyone else you need to be able to contact electronically. But as you start entering the data, you're likely to discover that the list doesn't stay current for long. That's because people change their email addresses by switching from one service provider to another.

But you can't afford not to keep your list up-to-date. Your marketing, sales promotions and general success depends on your database. Here are nine pointers to steer you right as you build a list of email contacts:

  1. Centralize. Assign a specific person in your office to procure email addresses and maintain the database.
  2. Prioritize. Based on the number of current and potential customers, establish the number of addresses you'd like to obtain.
  3. Solicit Ideas. Send a memo to your staff seeking ways to build a list. Have your email manager get as many customer addresses as possible from your employees, culled from their own email programs, as well as business cards and letterheads.
  4. Expand the search. Send a letter to customers, prospects and referral sources telling them what you are doing and asking for their current email addresses. Ask them to email the address to you, but include a simple form they can fax or mail back. Be sure to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. And in all your mailings, brochures, newsletters and other means of communication, include a response card to request email addresses and any other pertinent information.
  5. Fill in the gaps. During slow periods, telephone contacts whose addresses are still missing or out-of-date. Follow a simple script and try to obtain many addresses from one company at a time. Remember, there's no additional cost for sending more emails. Get as much traction as possible by sending to as many people as possible.
  6. Turn to the pros. Consider hiring an outside company to gather addresses. One drawback, however, is these companies often have a minimum order of 5,000 names.
  7. Bolster procedures. Require staff members to routinely obtain email addresses from prospects and new customers.
  8. Add links to your site. If your company operates a website, include a collection system for gathering emails and sending newsletters and announcements.
  9. Head off trouble. Make sure you comply with all relevant email laws. Consider a piece of software that checks addresses before you send mass mailings. This is important since you don't want your ISP thinking you are sending spam when a lot of emails start bouncing.

These are just some ideas to get your company started. Happy hunting!

Businesses with no formal system to harvest names and keep them current are missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

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