The power of an address book
If you already keep important contact information in a daily planner or other book, setting up an electronic address book on the Internet will be easy. Any good e-mail program has an address book where you can quickly record the e-mail addresses of people with whom you correspond. Every time someone sends you an inquiry, save that person’s address in your online address book. Before you know it, you’ll have a mailing list of customers who have contacted you. Programs such as Microsoft Outlook Express, Netscape Messenger, and Eudora all let you collect a bunch of e-mail addresses into a single mailing list.
You can then send an announcement or a newsletter to everyone on your list at one time. After you go through the effort of assembling a mailing list, you need to remember to back it up on a regular basis. Losing a list that contains hundreds or possibly thousands of names can be a significant setback in business terms.
Let’s say a mailing list is a discussion group that communicates by exchanging e-mail messages between members who share a common interest and who have subscribed to join the list. Each e-mail message sent to the list is distributed to all the list’s members. Any of those members can, in turn, respond by sending e-mail replies. The series of back-and-forth messages develops into discussions.
The nice thing about a mailing list is that it consists only of people who have subscribed to the list, which means that they really want to be involved and participate. An excellent mailing list to check out is the Small and Home-Based Business Discussion List (www.talkbiz.com/bizlist/index.html). This list is moderated, meaning that someone reads through all postings before they go online and filters out any comments that are inappropriate or off-topic.
Also, try searching the Topica directory of discussion groups (www.lists.topica.com). Click Small Business (under Choose from Thousands of Newsletters and Discussions) to view a page full of discussion groups and other resources for entrepreneurs. The number of groups you join and how often you participate in them is up to you. The important thing is to regard every one-to-one-personal contact as a seed that may sprout into a sale, a referral, an order, a contract, a bit of useful advice, or another profitable business blossom.