Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Remember when your mom told you how important it was for you to always say please and thank you? Who knew that she was really giving you marketing advice on one of the principal tenants of building your email contact list: asking and then being grateful.
Email is personal. Like your cell phone, it’s an area that is still considered to be private even though the cell phone never stops ringing and emails seem to pile in by the dozens each day.
Still, the personal nature of email carries with it the implied expectation that only messages the recipient wants to get are welcome. This means asking permission on the front end, saying thank you on the back end, and then only sending relevant information.
Make It the Business of Your Business to Ask
As simple as it may seem, a major contributor to growing your list is just remembering to ask.
It’s not that hard, and no doubt you already have processes in place, such as offering a service agreement with the sale, suggesting a dessert after the meal, or offering a complimentary evaluation, to deepen your relationships.
To grow your list, add to those processes the habit of asking your customers to sign up for your email and you will be amazed at how many people will say yes.
Make Email a Standard Part of the Sales Process
A related technique is to make email a standard piece of information you ask for when completing a sales order. Just add a field for the email address next to things like name, address, phone, and credit card.
Most customers will not give offering their email a second thought. Even so, remain respectful of their permission and make giving you their email optional if you can.
Make Signing up a ‘Right Now’ Option
As the saying goes, “There’s no time like the present,” and so it is with adding contacts to your email list. Getting a signup now is not that hard if you make it convenient, almost instant, or if you tie an incentive to it.
To make signing up easy, many email marketing vendors offer integrated, or add-on apps that allow signups through texting, using a smartphone or tablet device.
“Right now” can also be encouraged by creating an offer or incentive that is available exclusively by surrendering an email, or an offer that will expire soon.
Use an Existing List
Sometimes growing a list is simply a function of moving a list from somewhere else — your accounting system or CRM, for instance — over to your email marketing system.
If you are like many companies, you already have some contacts sitting idly, in places like accounting records, customer databases, or Outlook contacts. These can sometimes number in the thousands and can add a significant boost to your list growth.
To move the lists, you must first export the contacts from the source into an Excel or CSV file, and then upload them into your email marketing system. If you are lucky enough to have an app that creates a dynamic link between these contacts and your email marketing system, all the better.
Bear in mind, contacts that exist in accounting records may have no real relationship with you other than an occasional transaction. These contacts may not feel any connection to you and, therefore, may consider whatever you send them to be spam, especially since they have not asked you to communicate with them by email explicitly.
Address this by sending a preemptive email inviting them to unsubscribe if they do not want to receive future messages. Even if they do not unsubscribe, you have shown yourself to be a responsible email marketer and, from that point on, you’re OK.
Place an Email Signup Option at All of the ‘Sticky Points’
By “sticky points,” we mean anywhere someone is likely to stick around for even a few minutes. This would include social media, your website, tradeshow display, seminar, or webinar.
There are numerous apps that you can download to place signup forms on Facebook, your website, smartphone, or tablet. Most are free and drop the contact directly into your email lists.
Conduct an audit of all of the possible locations and then dig around to find available apps, to capture emails. Even if you have to create a separate form and then manually enter addresses, you are still making progress towards growing your list.
Say Something People Care About
Of course, the number one way to build your email list is to be real, respectful, and relevant. If what you say, do, or offer is of genuine value, growing your list will never be a problem. People will naturally want to hear what you have to say.