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Mailing List Marketing Tips

mailing-list-marketingYour inbox is always full. You’re having to use tools like Boomerang to schedule even reading many emails, let alone replying. And social media is what everyone is talking about. What place could mailing list marketing with email possibly have in such a crowded attention space? Well you might be surprised to learn that the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has found that there is a $40 return on every $1 spent on email marketing. Read that again! Now that’s what you call an ROI.

But people are busy, and it is harder and harder to get people to be interested in reading emails not directly related to their bank accounts (which is NOT a subject line suggestion).

And while we’re on the subject of spam, don’t do it. Anytime you buy a list from someone, you are spamming whoever you email on that list. Doesn’t matter how “targeted” that list is. If they didn’t specifically say, “Yes, I want to get emails from you,” whether by checking a box on a form, submitting a form on an opt-in page, or double-opting in through a button in a confirmation email, then emailing them about your business is spamming them. Period.

And in any case, the ROI I noted above relates to emailing a list of subscribers, not marks. I recently saw this absurd pyramid scheme related to mailing list building. What good does anyone expect to actually come out of such a list? You don’t just want a large number of people on your list. You want people who are actually interested in READING what you have written. The power of email marketing comes in the relationship.

It costs far more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Email is one of the best ways to maintain a relationship with someone who you aren’t seeing in person each day. Far better than social media, as it turns out.

Over 67% of people surveyed by DMA said that they had made a purchase as a result of an email they received. I know I have, even as recently as this week. How about you? When was the last time an email led you to a webinar, or a holiday sale page, or a coupon redemption that ultimately had you pulling out your credit card? When was the last time you did the same from a tweet you saw? I never have myself, and I’m sure that even if you have, it is has been far less often than to emails. Clearly the days for mailing list marketing are far from over. So the question becomes, how do you do it effectively?


1. Never buy a mailing list


Don’t spam people.


2. Build a targeted mailing list


Offer them something they want in exchange for signing up, and then segment them by which offer they responded to.  You don’t have to give away the store. Just provide value or the promise of value. There are some topics people are just always hungry for, so all you have to do is offer to email them about that regularly. In other cases you are pitching to a  more saturated market, so need to offer an immediate return that is more than what they will get in ongoing emails. Maybe it’s a coupon for a discount on your services. Maybe it’s an ebook or tipsheet. Just make sure it is something that establishes the value of your expertise, and then send them more of the same.

Don’t abuse your list. Just because they sign up for a guitar playing course doesn’t mean they want you to email them about blogging tips.  I learned that the hard way with a list I generated from people who downloaded an app my company Aspiratech created. We got so many complaints about a video training course promo we sent out that our account was frozen by the email service provider. And the app and training course were even for the same CRM system! But the app had nothing to do with training, and it turns out that people who were interested in the app to extend the functionality of the product were not at all interested in purchasing training on the product.

Segment your lists by interest area and write to people only about the subjects they have said they are interested in hearing from you about. A lot of this can be done with auto-responders, so don’t feel like this is going to be overwhelming.

Personally, I love Sniply, because it allows you to build a list without even having a website! You do need some sort of mailing list service, but if your list is just starting out, you are going to have so few subscribers you can probably get MailChimp for free (you just won’t have auto-responders unless you pay at least $10/month).

Let’s say you tweet an idea on Twitter that relates to the mailing list you are trying to build. If you have a blog, you are probably tweeting a blog article. If not, maybe it is a link to an article or page on someone else’s website. If you have connected Sniply with your email marketing service, and installed the browser button for ease of use, you will be prompted to post the URL as the Sniply version, which will have a “Subscribe” banner along the bottom of the page. You read that right. Even if you post a link to Mashable, the Mashable page will show with a banner to sign up for YOUR mailing list at the bottom of the page! Again, just make sure that you explain in the banner what sorts of emails the person is going to get going forward, and probably use a double-optin setting on your mailing list.


3. Build a relationship with your list


Send them valuable information on a regular basis.  Those of you who have subscribed to the mailing list here on IndigoOcean.org probably are saying, “Hey, I never hear from you.” It’s true. The cobbler has no shoes. The most I can usually manage is a monthly digest of this blog’s articles… but I promise reform.

If you really want to get the most of your mailing list marketing, you simply have to write to people. Not every day, unless it’s some sort of “Daily Tips” email list. Not even every few days unless, again, that’s the deal you’ve made in advance with the subscribers. But at minimum a couple times a month is necessary for them to really remember you and feel like they are getting to know you.

On the same note, including a photo of yourself as the primary graphic is a good idea, as well as of course personalizing the email by addressing it to them directly (not “Dear subscriber) and asking them a question they can reply to in order to make it a two-way conversation. What do you do when you’re trying to strengthen your relationship with a good friend who is now living in a different country? Well consider doing something similar with your list.


4. Give more than you ask for


Don’t make every email a sales promo. In fact, don’t even make every other email a sales promo. People get tired of all that noise. They get tired of even being asked to make decisions. Send them something they will value for free at least 4 times as often as you send them an invitation to buy something you hope they’ll value enough to spend money on.

Expect to spend as much as a year cultivating a relationship with a mailing list subscriber before they may be interested in buying anything from you. For a lot of people it will be much less time than that, but a year isn’t abnormal. So long as they are actually opening your emails, they are engaged. Build the relationship through generosity, and simultaneously demonstrate your credibility as an expert who can help them.


5. Routinely clean out the junk


Is your open rate 33% or above? If not, you need to clean out your lists. A lot of people will tell you that the industry stats are more like 15% open rates on average, but that’s because a lot of people are doing a crappy job at mailing list marketing. In my book, numbers don’t matter. A receptive, engaged audience of any size does.

Why are you paying for a high volume mailing list marketing account at Mail Chimp, aweber, iContact or whoever you are using for mailing list service, then only getting 15% of those people to even open the email? No opens in the last 10 emails? Delete them! Now. They are doing you no good, and in fact increasing the chance that eventually they are going to mark you as spam, because they are too lazy to unsubscribe themselves, but don’t like seeing your messages in their inbox, and when they finally get annoyed enough, they finally open one of the emails and go straight to reporting abuse. Yes people are that $^@^* sometimes. So toss them if they clearly aren’t interested.


The bottom line on Mailing List Marketing


Mailing list marketing is an extremely effective way of reaching the people who are interested in what you’re selling and presenting it to them in a way they are likely to be receptive. You just have to do it the right way. If you follow the guidelines in this article, success is just a matter of time. The turtle wins again.




Indigo Ocean

Writer & Social Innovator at The Winning Start
Indigo is the author of "Being Bliss" and "Micro Habits for Major Happiness." She has been a prolific entrepreneur and innovator who has founded several companies and service projects. Indigo currently focuses on her writing and her service project at TheWinningStart.com
Indigo Ocean

Indigo Ocean

Indigo is the author of "Being Bliss" and "Micro Habits for Major Happiness." She has been a prolific entrepreneur and innovator who has founded several companies and service projects. Indigo currently focuses on her writing and her service project at TheWinningStart.com

9 thoughts on “Mailing List Marketing Tips”

  1. Hey Indigo
    I really liked this post and you gave some excellent tips. Right now, my subscriber list just receives updates of when my latest post is published, and I was just thinking the other day about this. I would eventually like to start sending out some sort of newsletter or what have you. The tips about building relationships and giving more than you are asking for particularly stuck out. They are in my mind the two most important things you could do, but are often the most overlooked! Sure, our bottom line is to make an income. That is all fine and good, but when that is always top of mind, it is easy to fall into tactics that alienate the very people whom you are hoping will buy your products and services. When we purify our intentions and work on just helping people, that abundance flows in more easily.

  2. I haven’t been the most on top of regularly writing my subscribers either, but it’s largely because I’m still clarifying what types and tone of information they will be most interested in receiving beyond the monthly digest of articles from this blog. You are giving me the idea now that this may be a common question, so I should just ask them.

  3. I can definitely see why it’s harder to maintain a relationship via social media. With posting its all about timing. I actually follow people I never see posts from, wondering if there still active simply because we’re not on at the same time.

    It’s like you post something now but only 10 out of 50 people see it so your reach isn’t as broad. With email it’s just sitting in their inbox for their convenience, there’s no way you can miss them then.


  4. hi Indigo, I’m a big believer is giving first and building massive value for my community so I love how your article emphasises these points. It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to spam as it won’t be a genuine relationship which would create an unfulfilling business in my mind. I love being an entrepreneur for the high quality relationships we can build. Thanks for sharing x

  5. I used to only send new post updates to my list until I realized that was a mistake. I was mostly wasting my subscribers’ time and not offering enough value for them to remain subscribed. I since then changed my tactic and now I offer free tips 3 times per week and also post updates on new posts. My list has steadily started growing and fewer people are unsubscribing.

  6. Building a relationship with your list is very important. I am remain subscribed to many lists because those people make an effort in helping me with free tips about what I am interested in. If I see that someone is genuinely interested in helping me then I want to be on their list because I have a lot to gain from this. I recently unsubscribed from some lists that were just spamming my inbox with affiliate products and offered no real value.

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