Earlier this summer, I was planning a canoe trip for my son and me. I called an outfitter in Minnesota and spoke to the owner about options. As the call concluded, I said, “Can you email a brochure or any additional information that covers the things we discussed?”

His reply: “Our website is pretty good. You can find the information there.” Our conversation ended. He had neither my name nor my contact information.

He could have answered my question by saying: “I’d be happy to send you an email. Also, can I add your email address to our mailing list? We send monthly emails with news, photos, tips, fishing reports, and discount offers.” I would have said, “Yes,” and he would have established a long-lasting, valuable relationship with me.

We chose not to go to Minnesota this summer, but I’d like to go there eventually. In a few years, when I’m again ready to plan a Minnesota excursion, I might remember this outfitter, but I might not.

If I were on the outfitter’s email list, I would have a collection of emails from him that report where the walleye are biting, share tips about the best camping equipment and offer discounts on canoe rentals. He would be the outfitter I know and trust. I would book a reservation with him.

The outfitter receives dozens of calls each month. Some callers want to book a trip immediately. Others are like me, researching the options but not ready to act. If the outfitter asks, he would add dozens of prospects to his list each month, hundreds each year. How many of those people will eventually book a trip with the outfitter? That’s difficult to predict. But there’s no doubt he’ll get business from people who might otherwise forget the outfitter if not for the emails. He’ll get more referral business too.

My son and I chose to schedule a trip to Yellowstone National Park rather than go to Minnesota. One reason: I received an email from a Yellowstone-area fishing shop that told me where the fish are biting (all over) and gave some great advice about which flies to use in various rivers. Soon after booking my flight, I called the fishing shop and booked a guide.

What about you? Are you like the Minnesota outfitter, letting valuable prospects disappear without establishing relationships with them? Or are you like the Yellowstone fishing shop, establishing and nurturing long-lasting, lucrative relationships?

I joined the fishing shop’s mailing list because I was asked. When you ask and they say yes, you have established a relationship that you can nurture and expand – a relationship that will lead to more sales.

This article originally appeared in St. Louis Small Business Monthly  for which MarketVolt’s Tom Ruwitch writes a monthly column. 

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