Email Lists: One Step at a Time

September 3rd, 2009 | Shonali Burke | 10 Comments

I took a completely unscientific Twtpoll a couple of days ago. The question was: you’ve met someone once, and like a good networker, exchanged business cards. Next thing you know, you’re on this person’s email list, which is clearly being used to market his/her small business. OK or no way?

Out of 28 votes, seven thought it was ok. The rest (75%) pretty much said no way (if it’s going in your spam filter, I take it as a sign that it’s unwanted) and the comments are pretty clear.

My Take

In my opinion, this is the quickest way to eliminate what could have been potentially a very good contact for you from not just your database, but your life. Or worse, fall afoul of CAN-SPAM.

You want to grow your business; I get that. But building a business is based in no small part on building relationships, as yesterday’s #soloPR Twitterchat made perfectly clear (and many of those participating were/are small business owners).

Building relationships, like everything else, takes time. So you met a few people you think could be potential customers or advocates down the line. Great. Don’t start bombarding them with “this is the dream of my life” emails when you have no idea if they even want them.

Get to know them first. Shoot a quick email saying you’d like to keep in touch. If they respond, kick it up a notch; maybe set up a phone conversation or, if they seem willing, a cup of coffee. Find out what they’re about, what they are interested in. Find out what you can do for them – that whole social karma thing.

If it goes well, ask if they’d be interested in hearing more about what you’re up to, and go from there. And once they’re on your marketing list, always, always make sure there’s a way for them to extricate themselves. In Seth Godin’s words, it’s permission marketing.

Or, as Chris Brogan put it, “I’m reaching out to shake your hand and you’re trying to put your tongue in my mouth.”

What do you think? What are your tips for small business owners trying to grow their base? Have you had great – or not-so-great – experiences you’d care to share? I’d love to know and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

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Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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8 comments
Angie Jeffrey
Angie Jeffrey

Shonali - great idea doing that survey. Not at all surprised by the results, but its nice to see in graph form. I plan to share with my colleagues!

frank
frank

That's not at all cool. It's the wrong way to do business. If someone doesn't opt-in you should not be sending them anything - except maybe a nice to meet you email. From there connect with them in other ways and help them somehow. Let the relationship build from there.

http://twitter.com/franswaa

Bryan Person
Bryan Person

Yes, I was being a bit of a funny guy, but it is tricky business knowing whether a connection was as meaningful for the other person as it was for you, and if that should give you permission to market your junk to them.

But, really, the best policy is just to ask!

Bryan Person
Bryan Person

Shonali: We once had dinner in Washington, D.C., so I'm assuming your cool with being on my e-mail list, right? :)

Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

I know you were being a funny guy. :) But the thing is, you've never marketed your "junk" to me. Rather, you've asked how you can help me (and you have, remember the Ragan conference?). And that's the key, as you say: just to ask.

Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

Heh! Yes, Bryan, that's totally cool. Besides, you're way more than someone I've just met once (though I have just met you once). I know you... no?

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  1. [...] Editor Shonali Burke, who also hates being put on unsolicited email lists [...]

  2. [...] Put them on an email list – because it’s easy to find their contact information – that relentlessly bombards them with badly-written press releases and email newsletters. What happened to the concept of asking permission? [...]

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