Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

Dear Danielle: What List Management System Do You Recommend

Dear Danielle:

I have enjoyed learning about becoming a better administrative support business owner through your newsletter and forms. My question now is I have a client that wants me to manage his membership database and newsletter formatting and sending. Is there a system that you have used or recommend for this? His database contains over 800 email addresses and names and is done as an excel spreadsheet. His newsletter content is coming from another source and it is expected that I manage that. Any Hints? Recommendations? Thanks –BD

I’d need a bit more information about the context of his membership database to share any thoughts there (e.g., who is added and how and when, and what are his objectives for collecting and using the information?), but as far as ezines, I always encourage clients to go with a list management, autoresponder and distribution tool such as Aweber.

Managing ezine subscribers via an excel spreadsheet is so inefficient and archaic.

Tools like Aweber not only automate the function of opting in subscribers, it provides the tools to create ezine templates, schedule them ahead of time for publication, utilize autoresponder capabilities, allow subscribers to manage their own subscriptions and the client to leverage and maximize their networking and marketing to a greater, more consistent degree.

With Aweber you can use one of the many basic ezine templates they provide for free, modify one of their templates or upload your own ezine format in HTML. It’s super flexible and easy to use.

You can also upload as many issues ahead of time as you wish and set each of them to publish automatically according to whatever dates you have indicated.

The broadcast messaging allows you schedule ezines or any other kind of one-off communications you wish to go out to your lists. And you can have as many lists as you wish: one for your ezine subscribers, one for your members, one for teleseminar registrations, etc.

The autoresponders are another great tool you get with Aweber. With autoresponders, you can set up a series of follow-up communications to go out automatically in sequential time intervals rather than specific dates.

For example, some people use autoresponders to offer e-courses. Subscribers who are interested will opt-in to the list and the autoresponders will issue the first lesson, then the second lesson 7 days after that (or however many days interval you indicate), and so on.

Aweber’s tracking, reporting and analysis tools are incredible, and it’s got the highest whitelist ratings and best delivery rates of all the other services.

So you see, simply storing names and contact info in a spreadsheet really doesn’t do much for you. With an autoresponder/list management service such as Aweber, not only are you streamlining all the work and processes that go into list building, but also automating and making dynamic use of the information and actually putting it into action. I would definitely encourage your client in that direction.

Aweber will allow him to import an existing list, but it must be washed clean first of any obsolete email addresses and the subscribers will have to confirm their desire to opt-in again.

Moving to any new system like that he can expect to lose some of the people on his current list (some experts say the rule of thumb is about 50%) so it’s not entirely painless.

However, you want to help him understand that communicating or trying to maintain a relationship with folks who aren’t interested in the first place isn’t effort that is well-placed.

Aweber will help him build his list back up and what’s better is that he’ll be gaining people who really do have an interest and want to hear from him (as opposed to continuing to send out messages to people he’s merely collected business cards from who may not have any interest in his business or hearing from him).

Creating a Communication Plan

Excellent communication (not good or okay, but GREAT) is vitally important in your business relationships, even more so when your mode of doing business is entirely virtual.

How well you communicate with prospects and clients directly impacts the trust and confidence you instill in them.

One aspect of beyond-excellent communication is consistently following through in your responses to emails and voicemails.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the occasional message or response that falls through the cracks; that happens to the best of us.

What I’m talking about is establishing consciously-devised standards and policies for handling communication your business.

This includes being in the habit of making sure those who correspond with you by email know that their message was received.

There is nothing more frustrating than sending someone a message and hearing nothing but crickets in response.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end, you know what I’m talking about.

You’re left wondering whether the recipient is taking whatever action might have been required, or if they even got the message at all.

This kind of poor communication is not only an instant trust-killer, it creates extra work for the folks trying to correspond and work with you.

It doesn’t put you in a good light and definitely doesn’t engender any confidence in your professional abilities.

Don’t do that to your clients and customers — or yourself, for that matter.

Here’s a quick checklist to improve your customer communications (and earn greater trust from your clients) today:

  1. Establish a timeliness standard in your business. Be disciplined about sticking with it. If you have a 24-48 hour turnaround policy, make sure you demonstrate a pattern of consistently responding to all messages within that timeframe.
  2. Inform clients and customers upfront. Include your communication policies in your new client welcome kits. Talk about it in your new client orientation meetings. If you are closed on weekends or holidays or any other particular days of the week, let clients and site visitors know that. Let them know exactly how communication is handled in your business, during what hours, and what the response turnaround policy is. When clients know how things work and what to expect ahead of time, they don’t worry and wonder so much in the meantime. It helps them relax and manages expectations.
  3. Create a management plan. Devise a system for keeping track of messages and following-up efficiently. Email programs and plugin these days have an extensive array of customizable tools and settings for organizing and prioritizing your inbox. Make good use of them.
  4. Respond to every message. Even if you can’t do anything right away, you should still acknowledge receipt of the message. A simple “Got it!” or “Thank you. I’ll let you know as soon as I take care of that” makes all the difference in the world to the person at the other end.

© Copyright by Danielle Keister for the Administrative Consultants Association. You are granted permission to republish this article only if used without alteration in its entirety with this copyright notice, title, article content, resource, and links left intact.

Ixnay on the Spam Filters, eh!

Yes, spam is a problem. If you use email, you know what I’m talking about.

I don’t have any new solutions, but I do want to say that I think we shoot ourselves in the foot with some of the spam-fighting tools out there.

Take spam filters, for instance. You know, the ones that require those who email you to fill out a form for their email to be “approved.”

These are incredibly offputting.

I can’t imagine doing this to clients, and especially not prospects!

This puts your spam burden onto those who want to correspond with you (you know, like those pesky clients and prospects).

Why on earth would you want to make it more difficult for them to do business with you? How many will simply move on to contact someone else where communication isn’t such a chore?

On top of this, I have found that many folks using these spam filters lose incredible amounts of legitimate email even after you have confirmed and been approved by them to send email through.

I can’t tell you how much ill will it creates to get really spotty, unreliable responses, or to send message after message, get no response, and then find out later that they were never received in the first place.

I think we have to continue to fight spam and do everything we can sort legitimate email from the spam (such as making use of rules, reporting spoofs and phishers, and adding spam emails to our blocked senders lists).

But to my thinking, spam filters are not the answer, and putting your spam problems onto the shoulders of clients and prospects is definitely not the solution.