How often are you at an event and join a mailing list? How often are you on the other side of that table trying to get people to join you mailing list?

Every year for the past three I have been convincing of freshers to join a mailing list. I help run the paintball society at the University of Kent and each year we run a stall at the freshers faire to get new members and promote what we do. The interest has always been good we generally collect a few hundred names and emails, the problem comes when we try to process that information. In the past we had to manually type all that data up to prepare a mailing list, which becomes even more frustrating when you have to decipher someones handwriting. This process would normally take a day or so, however by this time most of the enthusiasm they had for the society had died away. This year we decided on a different approach to the problem, we always have a laptop on the stand to display videos and event pictures to capture people’s interest, why not just get them to enter their information into that? I picked up C# while working at Morgan Stanley and have always been impressed how quickly a developer can produce a decent interface for Windows. So in preparation for the freshers fair I wrote a short application that would sit at the top of the laptop screen allowing interested students to enter their name and email. This application would build two files the first a line by line listing of names and email address and the second a comma separated list of emails, a ready made mailing list!

During the four hours we were able to generate an amazing amount of interest in the society, we collected over 400 names and email addresses most of the people we spoke to commented on how easy the process was compared to other societies. Within an hour of the faire ending we were able to write our introductory email and sent it out to all these addresses. We are having our best ever year for converting mailing list sign-ups to full membership.

Recently I’ve been attending a lot of large recruitment events where companies are trying to do the exact same thing we were and they are falling into the same trap, a paper based system. Someone somewhere will have to type that data up, not too much of a task for a hundred or so emails but once you start to scale that up it rapidly becomes a daunting feat of endurance.

In the hope that this software can be of use to someone I’ve packaged it up and am releasing it here. If you use it please drop me a email and let me know how you got on. I’ve included the source code so if you wish to modify it with company logo’s etc you are welcome to.

Download the rar file  here.