Email List Building Tip

Use Google Docs to create a form that can capture data.

One of the responsibilities I have as the guy in charge of IT, marketing and communications for two small companies is the creation and distribution of email newsletters. Part of that process involves an area known as list management…which is essentially the creation and maintenance of the email lists.

It’s my belief that all small businesses or people managing their personal brands should have some sort of email program in place. Even if it’s just once a month or quarterly, email is a cheap and easy way to keep in front of your target audience with news and special offers. 

Among other things, list management includes maintaining a clean list (e.g. good email addresses) segmenting the list into customer or audience “groups” (for targeted email campaigns) and of course building the list.

Scrubbing and segmentation are some advanced techniques that require a bit of technical knowledge, but list building is a basic skill anyone can and should acquire.

List building can be as simple as having a fishbowl next to a cash register to collect business cards or placing comment cards on a table. I recall somewhere hearing that a business owner had a place for an email address on a credit card signature receipt (what a great idea).

For people with websites, list building is usually done by placing a form on a webpage, asking a person to provide a name and email address, and capturing that data when they hit the “Submit” button.

There are probably a million different variations on how to do this, from writing proprietary code to using a third-party software solution. Whatever the method, the idea is to get the information from the website into your email database.

Just recently I found a great way to accomplish this that is (1) Easy and (2) FREE.

Use Google Docs to create a form that can capture data and automatically store it in a spreadsheet.

What you get with Google Docs is the ability to create a fully editable and customizable web form. You can select from text and paragraph boxes, radio buttons, check boxes, drop down areas, and more. Perhaps the best part about creating forms in Google Docs is that when you create a form, the program automatically creates a supporting spreadsheet to receive the information. Believe me, this is awesome.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Get a Gmail account
  2. Create a Google Docs account
  3. Go to Google Docs and find the button that says “Create New” and select “Form”
  4. Create your form using the form editor and options
  5. Save

Once you save the form, then you have to decide how to publish it. Google gives you two options: (1) you can email the form to your contact list (great for simple polling) or (2) you can embed the form into your website.

The embed option produces a little bit of code that you simply copy and paste into your site and publish. Now you have a form on your site. When people complete the form and hit submit; the data is automatically saved into a spreadsheet in your Google Docs account.

I can’t tell you how great this is because once the data is in a spreadsheet you are one step away from importing it into a database. And once you have customer data in the database, let the marketing begin!

There are also a ton of other cool features like sharing and email notifications that you can explore for yourself.

Regardless, if you do any sort of data collection on customers, clients, or anything else, you might want to try creating a form via Google Docs.

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