What are the best practices around adding business contacts to your e-mail program that you have acquired from trade shows or other normal business activity?

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Trade shows, networking events and casual interactions with business prospects are great ways to grow your e-mail program. However, you shouldn’t haphazardly add people you meet at these various functions to your e-mail list. To best ensure that you are “on-boarding” recipients who actually want to receive e-mail communications, try one of these two approaches.

First there is the opt-out approach. This is the approach that most marketers take today. E-mail addresses from newly collected business cards are simply added to the e-mail list. The mind-set here is that you have talked with the individual so you have some sort of “pre-existing business relationship,” which is perceived as an expressed interest in receiving e-mail. That is not always an accurate assumption.

The other option is to proceed with an opt-in approach: You only add subscribers to your e-mail program that have actually asked to receive it. Your goal should be quality not just quantity. Your first communication following the trade show or event should be an actual invitation to join your e-mail program.

Regardless of your choice, here are a few things to note:

• Be proactive. At the point you or your sales team collect the card or contact detail, tell the individual to expect an e-mail from your organization.

• Be timely. Don’t wait more than a week following the event to reach out.

• Be transparent. remind the recipient of the encounter or where you met.

• Be detailed. Include information regarding the frequency and types of message(s) they will receive.

• Be obvious. Include the welcome message in the actual e-mail communication they will be receiving. This gives the recipient a specific example of the type of messaging they can expect. If that isn’t possible, include a link to the message sample.

• Be flexible. Not everyone is going to want to receive your e-mail. Allow easy access to unsubscribe links—or, in the case of opt-in requests; be clear that no further action is required to NOT receive e-mail.

Regardless of the option you chose to use, be conscious of the assumptions you are making and the impact it may have on your list quality.

Kara Trivunovic is the founder and principal of e-mail consultancy the Email Advisor (

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