While philosophers debate the metaphysical and the physics of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound when no one is around to hear it, small-business owners are more concerned about the realities of email-marketing programs.

If no one's reading the email campaign, no matter how great it is, it's not going to make any noise for your brand or your sales.

The start of a great email list is one that is filled with customers and prospects who have said yes to receiving information from you and who will be moved to action if the time or offer is right.

But the list needs to grow if you want your business to grow. Asking for an email address at the end of a phone call is a good place to begin, and there are several other ways to add to your list.

Follow these 10 tips, and soon you'll have an email list that helps win business—and is the envy of your competition.

1. Ask for email addresses at the point of sale. If customers purchase from you once, and you do a good job, there's a high likelihood they'll purchase from you again. Tell them they will be notified about discounts on selected items and exclusive email-only specials, and given first notice of sales by signing up for your mailing list, either online or in person.

2. Promote (or start) a loyalty program. A loyalty program makes customers feel special with the promise of exclusive members-only benefits. You can encourage customers to sign up for yours (and give you their email address) with an on-the-spot discount or a special offer, such as a free gift.

3. Offer free information. You may not realize that by sharing a little bit of your business expertise for free, you can entice customers and prospects to give you their email information.

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Wendy Lowe is director of product marketing for email marketing solution Campaigner (www.campaigner.com), which is provided by Protus (www.protus.com). Wendy can be reached at wlowe@protus.com.