Photo by Mike Tok
Building an email list is a great way to stay in front of business contacts over time.
Let’s face it, not everyone’s ready to buy from you right now. Some contacts need to be nurtured, which is marketing-speak for “gently, but persistently reminded that you’re brilliant.”
The idea is that, sooner or later, at least some of these people are going to need what you sell, or they’re going to meet someone who needs what you sell, and when that day comes, you’ll be splattered all over their brains.
Uh, that’s a good thing.
Right, so how do you start?
What NOT to do.
Do NOT export Outlook and call it a day.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been working in the same Outlook data file since the Clinton administration. There are people in there that – well, I have no idea why they’re in there.
Why, here’s the property manager from that house I rented three houses ago! And here’s that former client that finally stopped emailing me asking for favors. And the rat catcher. And my ex-husband. Hmm.
You get the idea.
In short, our Outlook databases are not well-manicured.
If you import your entire contact database into any of the big opt-in email sites – say MailChimp, for example – two things will happen:
1. A significant percentage of the email addresses will bounce, meaning they will be undeliverable. People change their email addresses, sometimes because they’ve changed jobs, but mostly because they’re trying to avoid getting crap they don’t want from people like you.
2. Of the people who actually receive your message, a significant percentage will unsubscribe from your email. Some might even complain to MailChimp. Then they’ll stomp their feet a few times and change their email addresses to something that ends in 2k11.
As a consequence, this will happen:
You will be blocked from sending mail through MailChimp until you explain yourself to the monkey’s satisfaction.
You don’t want to go there.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Yeah, I know you want to have the biggest mailing list imaginable. It’s quite the ego trip, starting off with 3,500 or 5,000 or 10,000 email addresses.
Don’t. Do. It.
It’s the quality of the email addresses, not the quantity, that counts. Really.
You’re not running for class president. No one knows how many names you have on your list. But sending to the wrong people can seriously hurt your brand.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re talking about your trusted, internal mailing list. The Opt-In list. These are the people who really do want to hear from you most of the time.
There are situations where it’s appropriate to send unsolicited business email to people you don’t know, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. And it’s certainly not something you want to try to do with an opt-in service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
So What To Do?
This part is painful, and you’re going to hate me for it.
- Take the Outlook list and highlight the people you are currently doing business with. Clients, vendors, and partners count.
- Highlight everyone else you’ve had a real business-related conversation with in the past 12 months. I’m not talking about saying “excuse me” when you reached for the cream at that networking event. People you really know. 12 months is generous. Use your best judgment. Be ruthless.
This is your list.
Fifty names? I’m wasting my time!
If you came up with 50 names (or fewer), you are NOT wasting your time. You are saving the time of all those people who don’t give a crap about you.
And you are allowing the possibility that those people may one day become part of your mailing list.
You are being respectful, and you are protecting your brand.
The monkey is pleased.