One of my favorite exercises at our free marketing training events is to get everyone in the room to stand up, find someone they’ve not yet spoken to, and ask that person to join their email list. This exercise is compulsory, and I make sure that people really do it.

Mean, huh? I can feel your inner cringe from here!

Actually, it’s not that mean, because I tell everyone exactly how to ask before I make them do it. It’s a simple technique that anyone can use, and here’s how it works:

Ask nicely! Don’t just ask, “Can I add you to my mailing list?” That’s not interesting to anyone.

Tell people what’s in it for them. Explain why they might be interested in receiving your emails. Are they full of tips or offers? How might they find your emails useful?

Let them know how often they can expect to hear from you. Always set expectations about how frequently they will hear from you. Simply say, “We send out our regular emails every month” (or week or day.)

Assure them that they can easily unsubscribe at any time. It’s important they know they have control over whether they keep hearing from you or not. Tell them that there are clear unsubscribe links in EVERY EMAIL (if you use Constant Contact, that’s already taken care of.)

Make it easy for them to sign up. It’s no good asking them if they want to join your list if you don’t give them a way to sign up. Take their business card, use one of our clever mobile apps, email sign-up tools, or an old fashioned (but very effective) sign-up form.

Feel okay about getting a “no.” If someone says that they don’t want to receive your emails, the likelihood is that they are not a potential customer for you and you don’t particularly want them on your list anyway. Just be ready to say something nice in return when they graciously decline your invitation — don’t stand there with your mouth open!

After the exercise, I always ask for feedback. How did it feel? Did anyone get a “no thank you?” How did that feel?

Usually, the vast majority of people get their partner for the exercise to join their mailing list. A few will have people say “no” to them. Pretty unanimously, all feel better about asking for the sign up, and just fine about the possibility that they might say “no.”

Why is this important?

Well, it’s because 57% of consumers will fill out a card to receive email alerts when asked by an assistant at a local small business. However, most of us are TERRIFIED of asking people to join our email lists, and we’re leaving those subscribers for the next business to pick up.

How about you? What are some of the ways you overcome the fear of asking people to join your email list? Tell us about it below.

Join us as we celebrate Small Business Week 2013 with a special live webcast on June 14, 2013 designed to help you find your next great customer. Want to attend a live event? Find one in your area.