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Outsourcing Your Contact List

Colleen Moffitt, Cofounder, Communique‚ Public Relations

When Jennifer Gehrt and I started Communique Public Relations, a Seattle-based boutique firm that provides strategic counsel and tactical execution to help companies achieve their business objectives, in February 2004, like most startups we faced the challenge of staying focused on our core business while reaching out to various audiences, providing them with valuable and timely information, and building awareness about our company. At the time we decided that an electronic newsletter would help us do this, there were only five people on our staff. Outsourcing to an e-mail marketing company was an obvious choice. We started using Constant Contact in August 2005 on the advice of our Web site development company. Since then, our distribution list has grown from 150 to more than 600 subscribers.

In retrospect, the only thing I might have done differently is started doing it sooner. Not only does our newsletter have an average open rate of 47 percent-compared to the two percent direct mail industry average-but we've achieved this without large amounts of time or money spent on any phase of the process.

The three service features of contact list management we enjoy with Constant Contact-and which we recommend that any entrepreneur look for in choosing an e-newsletter vendor-fall into three categories: Operational Ease and Flexibility, List Management Integrity, and Reporting Quality.

Operational Ease and Flexibility  

Conveying our brand's look and feel is a top priority in all our communications. Constant Contact's HTML e-mail templates come in a variety of formats, which we easily customize with our own logo and colors. We send out a newsletter approximately every six to eight weeks but are not committed to sending any and are not charged if we don't send one.

Once we finalize stories anyone in our firm, regardless of technical expertise, can import the copy into the template. We can also send a test message that enables us to see what the newsletter will look like in e-mail format.

Adding and removing contacts is also easy. When we have an opportunity to add names, such as when we want to incorporate a new staff member's contacts into our list, we simply import the new contacts into Excel and from there into Constant Contact. Removing names is easy too. If we discover, for example, a contact to whom we don't want to send a newsletter has inadvertently been added to the distribution list, we can remove their name quickly and easily. This is critical to ensuring that our messages only reach people who will perceive value-as opposed to annoyance-from the information we're providing.

List Management Integrity

As an entrepreneur, our database of contacts is arguably some of the most important data we own. Included are not only our customers but prospects, vendors, and media contacts. Because we want to keep and grow those relationships, it's extremely important that any vendor to whom we entrust this information guards it with utmost integrity.

We want to know the names will remain confidential, they will not be exposed to spam or other abuse, nor will they be used for any purpose without our permission. In other words, we own each and every contact.

Reporting Quality 

After Constant Contact send our e-newsletter to our distribution list via e-mail, we receive summary reports outlining who opened it, who clicked on what links, who forwarded it to whom, who opted out, and who added their name to the list. This data gives us an early peek at who might be calling us about new business. For those who opt out, it tells us know who might not perceive value in the information we're providing, which can help us better manage that relationship or adjust future content.

People online today quickly decide whether an e-newsletter or e-mail correspondence has value or whether it's junk. Report data makes it possible to compare e-newsletters and better determine what content resonates with our audiences.

Communiqué PR is experiencing an excellent growth rate. We saw a 45 percent increase in the firm's revenue in 2005 and 50 percent in 2006. Significant credit for this, I believe, goes to our e-mail marketing effort, made seamless and affordable by outsourcing contact list management to Constant Contact.

© 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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