Q: How can I make the most of e-mail?
A: With the Web getting so much attention these days, it's easy to overlook the great power of e-mail: It's universal, there are no stamps to lick, and with a little care, it can become one of your most effective marketing and communications tools.
But don't start "spamming" the Internet with junk e-mail. That's a waste of everybody's time. Consider this: By adding an e-mail hot link or fill-in-the-blank message form to your business's Web page, you can maintain contact and build relationships with many potential customers. "People spend so much time and effort to get surfers to visit their Web sites, and then they never see them again," says Larry Chase, a New York City Web marketing consultant (http://www.larrychase.com) and author of Essential Business Tactics for the Net (John Wiley & Sons).
Once you've collected some names, consider starting an e-mail newsletter, Chase says. Short but sweet is fine, perhaps simply reminding readers of your products or services. It will be easy for them to pass the newsletter along to others. In fact, pass-alongs have allowed Chase's own marketing newsletter to reach about 33,000 people, who now generate 60 percent of his business. Buying bulk e-mail address lists is not worth the money, he figures; people generally toss unsolicited e-mail without reading it.
Try one of the better e-mail software products, and you'll never go back to the simplistic one your Internet company is likely to have provided. These professional products can sort incoming messages in sophisticated ways and smoothly handle attached files. Netscape Communications and Microsoft each give away fairly sturdy e-mail packages with their Web browsers. Or you can pay $30 to $40 for Eudora Pro 4.0 or Claris E-mailer 2.0, among others.
Finally, make the most of your e-mail signature--those few lines of text that can be attached to the bottom of every outgoing message. Besides your address and phone number, you may want to add a promotional offer or holiday greeting.
Larry Chase, http://www.chaseonline.com