Remember when communication and correspondence was so slow that the term “snail mail” fit perfectly? That was a time when waiting for at least a week for correspondence to arrive was considered quite reasonable – quick, even. As a communication method, it was, by standards of that time, considered to be fast.

And then e-mail came.

Along with the rise of internet, the usage of e-mail also became pronounced. It has proven to be a much faster (you’re sending and receiving messages in real time!) and significantly more efficient mode of communication. Soon, email communication is no longer limited to the exchange of personal messages, as business correspondence also found its way to using email.

Why and How to Collect Email Addresses

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This guide dives into 1) the role of email, 2) advantages of email in business, 3) reasons for collecting emails, and 4) ways to collect emails effecively.

THE ROLE OF EMAIL

Email, or electronic mail, has certainly changed the way we communicate, and we would all like to think that it’s for the better. The biggest argument against postal services and the traditional way of sending correspondence was the speed and the logistics that also impact costs and efficiencies. Most, if not of all of these problems, have been done away by email communication.

Records show that email was first introduced at MIT in 1965, but it wasn’t until 1971 when the first network email was successfully written and sent by Ray Tomlinson. It didn’t take long before the United States Postal Service started to sit up and acknowledge the threat that email technology posed on the volume of conventional mail being sent out. It was only in 1982 when the word “email” obtained official recognition and, since then, the concept has grown as the most notable players in the internet industry started making use of it. Some of these players include huge names such as IBM, CompuServe, and Microsoft.

The subsequent developments and innovations in email technology enabled it to have features and functionalities that make it an ideal tool in both personal and commercial settings. As the market for devices became more advanced, so did email capabilities.

Today, email is no longer seen as a simple mode or method of communication. In industrial and business circles, email plays a much larger role. Let us take a look at the major roles that email plays.

  • A mode of personal communication. This is seen as the original function of email, and that has not changed even today. Whether it is between friends or family members on opposite sides of the globe, email is seen as one of the fastest and most efficient ways to communicate.
  • A mode of communication for business. In business, time is money, and every second lost can even be quantified into the currency that the business uses. In recent years, email has also become an integral form of communication in most businesses since the exchange of information is fast and efficient. Often, emails have also become avenues for discussion of various business decisions, not just between two parties, but multiple parties. There was a time when the only documents that would be deemed “official” were those in hard, printed copies. That is no longer the case as emails are now also recognized as official and legal documents and accepted in many official transactions.
  • A tool for sharing and storage. In business, multitudes of documents are being shared on a daily basis, and email has proven to be a useful tool for that purpose. Email has been equipped with capabilities that allow centralized storage management of emails, thereby aiding when it comes to organization of files and information. Searching is also easier when compared to looking through file cabinets.
  • A marketing tool. The concept of email marketing has gained a lot of ground, especially in recent years, as marketers recognized its usefulness in delivering a commercial message directly to the target audience through the use of email. Seeing as most businesses are now using email, marketers have identified this channel to be an excellent way to reach a larger audience. It has also been noticed that the response rate in email marketing is considerably higher than just using standard email for business.

ADVANTAGES OF EMAIL IN BUSINESS

Before going further, we have to understand why email has become very important in business, and the best way to do that is to go over the benefits or advantages that email offers.

It is inexpensive. Granted, it still involves some spending of money on your part, but compared to other marketing channels, email is still the cheapest option. Just take a look at the numbers: the average annual spending of US companies on email is only around $1.5 billion. Now take a look at how much they spend using other media: TV advertising costs them around $64 billion while $34 billion is spent on print media. Internet advertising, on the other hand, will cost them almost $40 billion per year.

If you are a company that wants to increase your profits, you’d find ways to reduce your costs without compromising on results, and so you will most likely turn to email. It is no wonder that email marketing is seen as one of the most efficient ways of getting customers. It is also cost-effective, as evidenced by an average ROI of 4,300% as reported by the Direct Marketing Association.

Email offers measurability. Tracking the results of your marketing efforts is easier when email is used. You can get ready and reliable data on how many of your emails have been received and opened, and how many clicks resulted from these opened emails. It’s a different story if you simply relied on TV and print media for your advertising.

For one thing, you cannot be entirely sure how many people viewed your TV ads, and how many reacted favorably after seeing these ads. Similarly, you have no way of knowing how many people will read your adverts on print. This measurability allows you to make more informed decisions based on how your marketing strategy is working.

Email is more direct and personalized. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer. Between reading words printed on a flyer or brochure and a message directly sent to your inbox, which would feel more personalized? Customers tend to respond to stimulus that are more personal to them, or connect with them on a more basic level. Email does that. It also empowers the recipients to take action immediately. They are more likely to do their own research and learn more about the content of the email message.

REASONS FOR COLLECTING EMAIL ADDRESSES

The most important thing about collecting email addresses is that you will be getting customer contact information, or the ability to contact your customer through the address that you just obtained. It is the first step towards the creation of a relationship between you and your customers. It’s important to note here that consent should never be overlooked.

Don’t be tempted to use unorthodox methods of getting email addresses. The only proven method is by convincing the potential buyers to give their email addresses to you.

But why should you, as a business, bother to collect the email addresses of your customers and keep a master email list? Marketers will be quick to answer: for faster business lead generation. But how, exactly?

Here are the reasons why:

To increase opportunities for customers to buy your product or service

If you have email marketing strategies in place, the first thing that you will need are the email addresses of your target customers. You have the promotional materials well-written and formatted on emails, and you have great value to offer. However, without those email addresses, those brilliant promotional ideas and offers will not be as successful.

To put it simply, with every email sent, you are increasing the chances of making a sale.

To increase and maintain customer awareness of your company and your brand

Out of sight, out of mind. This is the reason why companies and brands make it a point to always run ads on print and other media even if they do not have a new product or a new campaign. The same principle holds true with email, since you can send emails in order to keep your business and your brand at the forefront of your customers’ minds.

You don’t even have to sell something to your customers in the email. You can simply use that email to stay in touch or stay connected with them. One strategy that even the big brands use is to send regular newsletters via email, containing helpful content such as tips and suggestions that add value to the recipients’ lives.

To cultivate and strengthen relationships with customers

At one point in your life, you must have come across a brand or a product that you have never heard of before through an email. Your curiosity piqued by that introduction, you start to learn more about the product and there begins a relationship between you and the company or brand that makes or sells that product. After a while, you develop a loyalty to that brand, further strengthened by continuous updates coming into your inbox.

Now try to switch places. If you are the business owner or the marketer marketing a product or a brand, you will no doubt realize the potential of using email to make that first contact with a customer that you want to start a relationship with and, from there, also through email, you can further tighten the bonds that connect you.

To serve as a form of security

Even if you don’t have a fully operational email marketing program in place, it still would not hurt to collect email addresses. In fact, you are actually highly encouraged to do so.

For one, it will serve as a database for whatever customer- or market-related information you may need in the future. But, most importantly, should you decide to fully launch into email marketing, you’ve already had half of the work done by having an audience waiting to be tapped.

WAYS TO COLLECT EMAIL ADDRESSES

Collecting customer emails can be done through various ways, using various tools. If you are new to this concept, and you are the type to have high respect for boundaries, you may feel some apprehensions. Won’t it be an invasion of privacy or some other basic human right? After all, you are gathering information about them, and they may feel that sharing such information leaves them vulnerable and exposed.

Well, that fear is not completely unfounded, considering how there are some who employ unscrupulous tactics to get information. But there are also many non-invasive and, most importantly, legal or lawful ways to go about collecting emails.

Using signup sheets in your physical stores

Businesses that also have brick-and-mortar stores may also collect email addresses from their customers in the stores. For example, customers who go to your shop may be given a signup form once they pay for their purchases at the counter. You have to make it clear, however, what the form is for in order to let them know clearly what they are signing up for. More often than not, customers who patronize the products in a physical store will be interested in getting updates online, so they are likely to provide their email addresses without hesitation when filling up these signup sheets.

To give your customers more reason to sign up with their email addresses, you should consider throwing in some freebies in exchange for signing up. Some stores give away raffle tickets that will later be drawn and giving the winners some prizes, such as free products from the company. You may even give them a discount on their next purchase after they have signed up.

Businesses with a bigger budget also host their own events, inviting customers to attend and, during the event, ask them to sign up. Open house, product launches, or even casual tea or snack events are good opportunities to expand your email list.

Through online signup forms on your website

Almost all websites, even the non-commercial ones, have embedded sign-up forms on their pages. This is an effective way for websites to collect email addresses from visitors on their site. Aside from the email address, some other basic information may also be included in the form to be filled.

When putting up the links, make sure they are in a section or area of your website’s homepage that is visible and easily noticeable. Include text that has a call to action, adding a bit of urgency to it.“Sign up today!” or “Sign up now!” is more convincing than just “Please sign up” or “Subscribe”.

Through online contests or giveaways

Some websites conduct online contests or sweepstakes, where interested participants are encouraged to join in by signing up with the email addresses. This is not coercive, because you are still leaving the decision to the customers.

Say, for example, that a clothing company is offering giveaways to selected customers who will sign up using their email addresses, the customer will be the one to have the final say on whether to provide their email addresses or not.

Utilize your social media pages

Social media is very effective because it has the power to reach a wider market and thus give your brand or business more exposure. If your business maintains social media pages on, say, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn or Pinterest, to name a few, you should consider putting a sign-up link on these pages, which will lead your social media followers to a landing page where they can sign up with their email addresses.

The links and call to actions must always remain visible on your social media pages. Pin them if you have to, as long as they stay visible and not overwhelmed or flooded by recent posts or updates on your social media feeds. In addition, social media tends to favor more visually impacting or enticing calls to action. If you can also include infographics, that will be more likely to grab the attention of customers.

YouTube is another useful tool. Again, humans are highly visual, so their attention is more likely to be hooked faster and better by videos. Upload videos about your products or services on YouTube, and include links on the videos and in the descriptions. Make the links in the descriptions clickable so they can be directly brought to your sign-up page.

Create a newsletter

Customers appreciate content, specifically good content, and if you update them regularly through electronic newsletters (or e-newsletters), you can take the opportunity to grab their attention. In the body of the newsletter, include the sign-up link that they can click to be taken to your subscription form.

Do cross-promotion

In your personal emails, you should include the link to the signup form on your email signature. You may also do this on your personal social media account.

Don’t stop there. Put your connections to good use. You may ask your employees to also use their personal social media pages to “share” the link to your signup page. You may even request them to include the link on their email signatures, so the recipients of their emails will be directed to that page.

To further motivate your employees or other members of the organization to help in your efforts to collect email addresses, you may give them incentives, such as additional perks for the one who is able to bring in the highest number of sign-ups.

Collaborate with your current customers

Word-of-mouth is still one of the best forms of advertising, and you can take advantage of that, too. Take a look at your current or existing customers and encourage them to put the word about by encouraging their friends, family members and acquaintances to sign up with their email addresses. Give them incentives, such as discounts or freebies for every referral they are able to make.

Collaborate with other companies or brands

There is strength in numbers, so you may want to consider partnering up with other companies. In their emails or newsletters, they will include a sign-up link to your list, and vice versa, meaning you will also include their sign-up link in your newsletters or emails. Work out an arrangement that will be beneficial to both parties.

Network and… network

If there is a local chamber of commerce, make sure you join it. This way, you may email the member list about your products or services. In your email, don’t forget to include a sign-up link to your email list.

It wouldn’t hurt to physically go out there and interact with people. Look for networking events and opportunities in your area where you can come into contact with potential customers and partners, and politely ask them to sign up. Put those conversational and communication skills to good use. This will also be good PR for your brand.

These are only several of the many ways that you can collect email addresses. There is no need to be invasive or overly aggressive just to get it done. With the right approach and mindset, and the right tools and techniques, you’ll have no trouble building your email list for a successful email marketing campaign for your business.

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