How many times today did you check voice mail? Once or twice?

And how many times today did you go to your e-mail in-box?

Admit it, you were probably at the computer with your first cup of coffee to see what was waiting.

If you're like most people in business, you will receive dozens, maybe even hundreds, of e-mail messages today. E-mail is now the preferred way to communicate. It's direct, it efficiently allocates time, and if what it contains is important, that can be quickly and easily stored somewhere for retrieval.

OK, so are you collecting e-mail addresses from the contacts and prospects you engage in stores, at shows and events, and while canvassing?

E-mail From Scratch

You can get started by including a line for that information on your lead slip and training your demonstrators to make sure they ask for it. Don't expect all customers to give it to you. Generally, the warmer the lead, the more inclined they will be to yield an e-mail address; conversely, the more nebulous the lead, the greater the resistance. If I knock on someone's front door or track somebody down at a Sam's Club, getting an e-mail address can be difficult. They may very well already feel bombarded with questions. So, if they claim not to have an e-mail address, I ask for their work e-mail. No luck? I ask for the e-mail address of their spouse.

Actually, your chance of getting an e-mail address is probably better at the confirmation stage. And here this vital principle comes into play: Offer them something in exchange. When your confirmer calls, have him or her ask for the e-mail address so that the company can forward information about the sales representative, including a photo, or so that the company can send a coupon.

More Gold From That Mine

Say you're a company that's been around 10 or 15 years, maybe longer. You have lots of names and addresses in your database, and you're likely to use these from time to time in direct-mail campaigns. In the best-case scenario, those previous customers could be providing your company with 20% of its business, not even counting the referrals they provide, just the work they have your company do for them. What's the best way to stay in touch with them? Probably e-mail. But you don't have their e-mail addresses.

Here's a seven-step method that will enable you or your marketing or admin people to get those e-mail addresses:
1) Develop a list of all the prior customers for whom you don't have an e-mail address.
2) Call them. Script the conversation to describe how you've recently conducted an internal audit of all customer files.
3) Explain that you're missing a properly completed warranty card for many past customers.
4) Make it clear that failure to have this card on file could possibly nullify the product warranties for those consumers.
5) Offer to e-mail them all relevant warranty information to ensure that they know everything they need to about warranties on the product they purchased from your company.
6) Follow up by e-mailing a newly created card with name, address, contact information, and the date or dates the products were installed. Let the customer know they should contact you in the event of a warranty claim.
7) Record and store the e-mail addresses in your customer files.

News You Can Use

Even if you're starting from zero e-mail addresses, you'll soon have at least several hundred from both new contacts and old customers. As these continue to accumulate, you can market to them in several ways. One of the best is with a monthly e-newsletter. Monthly has been found to be the most effective frequency. Less often and they may forget who you are.

Many companies specialize in distributing online newsletters. Some have very sophisticated tracking abilities. That is, they do the blast and then they measure the response.

When selecting a topic for your newsletter, consider subjects that appeal to homeowners. Offer tips on household maintenance and repair, especially as they relate to products you sell. Be certain to embed links that will drive traffic to your company website. Include updates on new product lines, company news, and special promotions. Say your company is scheduled to appear at a local show or event: put that front and center. Why shouldn't consumers know about it?

Reports you can generate will tell you which readers went to which links. That way you can follow up with a phone call to thank them for taking the time to read your newsletter and inquire if there is any further information you can provide.

Of course there are other ways you can use an e-mail list in your marketing. In addition to a newsletter, you may want to send out an e-mail blast from time to time to let past and future customers know about current promotions. Again, make sure to embed links in the body of the e-mail. That link could take your prospects to a landing page with, for instance, a video of you talking about a product or price promotion. But employ e-mail blasts judiciously. Send them too often and you'll end up in the spam filter.

?Sales and marketing consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company salesperson and owner. Visit his website at or call him at 888.447.3969.