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SME’s chat:Build mailing list, stay connected to customers

Phillip Chichoni

“There is no greatness without a passion to be great, whether it’s the aspiration of an athlete or an artist, a scientist, a parent, or a businessperson.” — Anthony Robbins, speaker and author

Since the beginning of this year, nearly 2 000 people have joined my mailing list. I aim to grow this to 10 000 by the end of December this year. Why do you and I need mailing lists?
A fundamental change has taken place in the business environment since 2009. Before market liberalisation, shortages were the norm. Sellers were kings. Customer care and responsiveness were non-existent. If you wanted a certain product someone was selling, there were no pleasantries; you had to buy the product before someone else scooped it. Your money was the only thing that had a voice.
all that has changed. Consumers now have plenty of choice. They are kings again and they are well-informed, thanks to the internet.
Before making a decision to buy, a new customer will search for information about your business on Google and find out what others are saying about your products on Facebook.
With so much choice and access to information, your existing customers can easily be enticed by new and more exciting suppliers. To stay relevant to your customers, you need to stay engaged and keep them informed about your offerings. This is where a mailing list comes into play.
For example, I send out a weekly newsletter with free business advice. I also included information on upcoming training workshops, business seminars and the business books, CDs and DVDs we sell.
Every week, thousands of people hear from me, and some send me feedback and enquiries, while others buy my books and CDs.
This continuous engagement keeps our relationship alive. The same will work for you. A mailing list is a valuable asset; it keeps you on top of your customers’ minds and they will think of you first when they are ready to buy.



How to set up a mailing list
First, you need to collect customers’ email addresses. A simple way is to provide space for this information on your invoices or quotations. You need to clearly state that you will be sending those emails or newsletters, and give them room to say no. Otherwise unsolicited email is spam and a nuisance to some customers.
You can create a mailing list group in your contacts and simply add new addresses as you collect them; or you can save them on a word document and just copy and paste them into your email programme.
If you are using Gmail, it only allows 500 addresses at a time, so you may need to split your recipients into groups.



How to use the mailing system effectively
Using the mailing list purely as a selling platform will not work. Customers don’t like being sold to; they want information that will help them make buying decisions. Give them free advice and that will benefit them.
For example, a successful confectionary supplies maker I know, sends out exciting recipes and baking tips to customers. Happy customers will look for you when they are ready to buy.
If you are into market gardening, you can use the mailing system to inform customers about vegetables and fruits which are just coming into season.
You may also offer special discounts, competitions or free gifts to people on your list. Keeping it exciting will make people want to open your email and even tell others about it.
Remember to respect people’s privacy. Never disclose email addresses to third parties without permission.
When emailing to many people, put the addresses in the blind copy line (Bc).
As your mailing list grows, it will be a simple and inexpensive way of disseminating information to customers and asking for their feedback.
A mailing list is one way you can use the internet to connect and engage with customers. It’s easy, effective and inexpensive. Use it cleverly and in conjunction with other online and offline marketing methods and you will stay ahead in your market.
The Inbound and Social Media Marketing half-day seminar on August 23 will provide entrepreneurs with insights and know-how to effectively use internet tools to get more customers and accelerate business growth.
Visit my website http://smebusinesslink.com for more information. And don’t miss the breakfast meeting on August 24 with Sebastian Zuze, Quality Assurance director at the Standards Association of Zimbabwe, talking about “How Standards Achieve Sustainable SME Development”.



  •  Phillip Chichoni is a business planning and financial management consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses. You may contact him on chichonip@smebusinesslink.com

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