It all starts with the list. Traffic to the website or the blog is nice and essential. Followers and friends on social media are terrific. But a high-quality email is gold. List management is one of the most critical and under-appreciated skills in social media and email marketing.
I read and write a lot about social media and email marketing and how they help maintain contact with a network of customers and prospects, how they can help build a reputation of expertise, and how they can help generate leads. The one basic element that consistently gets short shrift in the thousands of blog posts written each week on social media marketing is: the list.
Many businesses use Outlook as their email program, and each employee maintains a list of the prospects, customers, and vendors they work with. The problem is that a master list doesn’t always exist, and if it does, it isn’t complete.
The first task for any retention and network building program is getting together the list. The list may go into a contact management system, like the Contact Manager edition of Salesforce.com or a list function of a third-party email vendor like Vertical Response or Constant Contact. But the list must exist, must be complete, and must be maintained.
So the first thing I advise to a business new to email marketing is to build as complete an email list as possible. This list becomes the basis of initial LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends. It becomes the basis of regular emails sent to keep the business top of mind through interesting and educational content. It becomes the basis of public relations and media communications.
Home-grown lists are the best. Start with everyone you email for any reason and build from there. Include vendors, people you meet at networking events, customers, friends and family, current customers, and even past customers. You never know who will need your services or know someone who does.
Your email list is like a relationship: it needs to be constantly tended to. Remember, too, that a list should contain more than an email address or a name and an email address. A list without physical addresses is an incomplete list. You don’t know your customers completely if you don’t know where they’re located physically.