Non-Spammy Newsletters – Building Your List

Lately, I’ve been doing quite a bit of marketing and several questions keep coming up: Where do you get a list of email addresses to send to? What should I put in my newsletter? How often should I send it out? What is a good open rate?

There are more, of course, but these almost always come up in the first conversation about an email newsletter so I’m going to post a series here to help anyone who is thinking about starting a newsletter.

Your List

Most of my clients didn’t have “a list” when we started working together and one of the first questions is always“Who will I send this newsletter to?”

Start with your customers. Every time you sell something, mention your newsletter and ask if they would like to receive it. Take a look at your email contacts. Chances are, if you have done repeated business with someone you already have their email address. If you are a brick and mortar, put a sign up sheet on the counter. Believe it or not people will sign up!

Friends and family are great and at least some of them should probably be getting your newsletter, but they are not really your target market, are they? Email marketing is for existing customers, or people who have shown a clear indication they might become customers, or people who have specifically asked to hear from you.

I do not endorse the idea of sending newsletters to people who have not requested them. In fact, I strongly discourage it. It’s spam, and it violates the Golden Rule. If you feel that you must start off with a big list of what I call “unknowns” and a few of them open it, send out an autoresponder allowing them to subscribe. It should say something along the lines of:

If you would like to continue getting news and awesome offers from us in your inbox, please click the link below. We will never share your email address and want to make sure you really do want to hear from us before we send you anything else!

Your list my drop by half, but that’s okay. At least you are not spamming anyone anymore and you can rest assured that the folks who get your newsletter really do want it.

Once you feel more comfortable sending out your newsletter, you can add a sign up box on your web site and your Facebook Page, you can offer incentives for sharing your newsletter with friends and you can offer incentives to people when they sign up.  Your list will grow, and after a while the growth will be effortless. Most of my clients have about 5-10 new subscribers each month without doing anything.

A common misconception for small business owners is that you need a few hundred email addresses to get started. Really, it doesn’t matter how many you start with. No one knows but you, anyway. You aren’t going tell your customers, “There are only 12 subscribers to this newsletter.”

A small, organically grown list is the best kind. You are more likely to get referrals from a small, core group of people who really love your product or service. You can offer really great deals to your subscribers when you know there aren’t that many of them. It also helps you figure out what to say because you are more likely to be relaxed and conversational when you think you are only talking to a few people.

Check back for the next post in the series: What Do I Write About?

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