Santa Claus isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice this holiday season. Businesses and organizations hoping to build better relationships with their audiences should be making lists as well.

Email lists, that is.

For those getting started with email marketing, you’ll need to pick a platform. To find the platform that fits you best, do some searching, watch some videos, and sign up for trials so you can tour through different platforms.

I’m a fan of MailChimp because it’s clean, simple and free for businesses and organizations with less than 2,000 emails on their list.

Next, you’ll want to start collecting information from visitors to your business or organization. Collection can be active or passive, online and in-person.

To collect in-person, create a contact form requesting first name, last name, and email addresses of those filling out the form. Having individual forms for each sign-up as opposed to one large sign-up list with multiple names may help encourage folks to sign up.

Collect in a passive manner means setting sign-up forms at areas trafficked by visitors to your business or organization. Tables and counters where visitors have room to write are ideal.

Have a clearly marked receptacle or someone available to receive completed email sign up forms as well. This will help to ensure you receive the information for processing.

More active in-person collection will involve employees requesting sign-up forms from customers and clients while they perform other customer service tasks.

Online, you can collect in a passive manner by creating a sign-up form through the email marketing platform you’ve chosen. You’ll be able to place this form on your website and in your social media where integration is available, such as in the sidebar of your Facebook page.

More active online collection will involve running advertising campaigns that request your audience sign up for your email list. You may also alter your website so that visitors to your website are immediately prompted with an email sign up form when they visit.

The information you collect online will be processed into your email list automatically. You’ll process in-person sign up forms by hand.

Use a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel to create a CSV file. Ensure each piece of information — first name, last name and email address — receives its own column. This will allow your email marketing platform to accurately receive the information you’ve processed when you upload it.

Having chosen your email marketing platform and created your email marketing list, you’re now ready to create an email.

During the holiday season, there are plenty of reasons to contact the folks on the list you’ve created. Thank them for their patronage, welcome them back for something special or share a seasonal story that will develop a stronger bond between you and your audience.

Upload a few pieces of media to your email marketing program. This may include your logo, some images of your business or organization or maybe even a short video.

Taking into account the media that you want to share via email, select an email template that best fits the story you want to share. Most email marketing platforms have plenty of prebuilt email templates to choose from so that you don’t have to worry about building your own.

After you’ve selected your template you’re ready to write your email, place your media, add a catchy subject line, and send your email to your newly created list.

Happy Holidays, merry Christmas and a happy New Year everyone!