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Right vs Wrong: How to Build an Email List

Jun 25, 2008
Email newsletters (aka E-zines) can be regarded as one of the best business communication tools invented for a long time.

* They are low cost - even no cost in comparison to paying for paper, printing, envelopes, and postage.
* They are instantly deliverable directly to the desired recipient.
* They are created with ease and minimal fuss.
* They are environmentally friendly - no paper or transport to distant subscribers.
* They allow you to stay on the radar of qualified prospects and existing customers in a low-key, non-threatening way.
* They position you as an expert, authority, and credible resource in your industry.

Little wonder that so many businesses are jumping on the bandwagon with aggressive list-building tactics. The choice between right and wrong becomes paramount, and your ethics, credibility, and reputation all come in to play when you choose how to build your list.

The wrong ways, while not yet illegal, are currently under review and challenge by both the European Union and the United States of America. Some dodgy tactics include:

* Buying databases and mailing lists from vendors who sell them
* Adding every contact you meet at networking events
* Mining other databases like Chamber of Commerce member lists and the Yellow Pages
* Using 'Opt-out'

(Please note that I am NOT talking about occasional ad hoc emails, I am specifically referring to adding these names to your regular E-zine subscriber list)

Doing so will add thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of names to your list.

What is the point of a subscriber list of thousands who never asked to receive your information, probably will never even open your messages, and certainly will never do business with you? It's a case in point of quantity rather than quality.

How will unsolicited SPAM position you as credible? How will it draw prospects to doing business with you?

As an example, recently I received an email from a local Law Firm that I have never had any dealings with. Somehow I have landed on their subscriber list. (You'd think a law firm would lead by example!)

The email is addressed: 'Dear Client'. Ahem - I am not, never have been, and now certainly will never be. They have completely blown their own credibility in my eyes.

At the end, they have their 'Opt-Out' clause: 'This newsletter is sent in accordance with the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive. If you no longer wish to receive it please send an email to **** to unsubscribe'.

Why must I have the hassle of asking them to remove me from a subscription service that I never asked to be a part of in the first place? The next one I receive will be flagged as SPAM. They will learn the hard way when the ISPs blacklist their outbound emails. (NB: If you are having problems with sending outgoing emails, and have an email newsletter with subscribers who haven't subscribed themselves, you may want to check your 'blacklisting' status with your Internet Service Provider.)

Do you even trust Unsubscribe links anyway? How many times have you tried following one and then either being asked to log in (eh? With what details??) or received a 'successfully unsubscribed' message only to find you continue receiving the newsletters anyway?

The above tactics only serve to destroy your own credibility and reputation. Rather than being on the radar in a non-threatening way you may be pushing your prospects away.

Don't despair: There are better ways!

There are many reputable businesses and E-zine publishers who are getting the process right. In so doing they are growing their lists with warm, qualified subscribers who have a much higher likelihood of becoming paying clients in time. Look at what they are doing so you can emulate their techniques as well as their success.

Here are some of the ethical, honest, and best-practice methods that they (and we) use:

* Use verified opt-in services. It will take longer to grow a list this way, but each and every person on that list has chosen to be there. They have qualified themselves in, are expecting to hear from you, are most likely to open and read your messages, and have an even higher likelihood of doing business with you when ready. The best way to do this is to use one of the reputable list managers in the market. Get recommendations. We love Aweber (http://aweber.com/?298402).

* Have a clear privacy policy. Email addresses are like gold. Let your subscribers know that they can trust you to treat theirs as such. Make is clear that you will not rent, sell, or share their information with any third parties. Also make it clear what you will do with their subscriber info. For example read Zee2A's Privacy Policy at http://www.zee2a.com/privacy.html.

* Only send relevant information. Set expectations upfront about the kind of information you send your subscribers and then keep your promises. If you offer a Tax Consulting service your subscribers will expect information relating to that. They don't want emails from you marketing Time-Share in Spain. Here at Zee2A we help our clients grow their businesses, so our emails will always contain articles, hints, tips, and suggestions on doing just that. Not the latest Make-up and fashion trends!

* Make it easy to get in touch with you. The internet can be a vast, impersonal, black hole. Show your subscribers the real 'you' behind the website and the E-zine. We always include a photograph to make it more personal and so that you can put our names and faces together. We also include contact information (http://www.zee2a.com/contactus.html) so that you can write, email, or call us.

* Make it easy to unsubscribe. If your readers choose to no longer receive your newsletters they should not need to jump through hoops to have their wishes granted. There should be no shenanigans. Your privacy policy and use of a reputable list manager will ensure integrity in this matter.

Keep an eye out for my follow up article, coming soon, in it I will outline various tried and tested methods to grow your E-Zine list with quality subscribers who look forward to hearing from you.
About the Author
Vanessa Deakin, Operations Director at Zee2A, works with Professional Service Executives frustrated and disappointed with their current growth rates, marketing efforts and business profitability. She helps them to skyrocket their results and break their own best records. To learn more or sign up for her e-zine, please visit www.zee2A.com.
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