sandy hubbard printmediacentrby Sandy Hubbard, Print Futurist

“I have all these email addresses; now what do I do?”

I hear this from people who are ready to start an email marketing program. They have a pile of business cards from trade shows, sign up sheets from old events, spreadsheets of indeterminate origin, and lists purchased from brokers.

Stop. Don’t.  

If the data is old and recipients have not specifically opted in to receive a newsletter from you, you need to take a deep breath and go at this another way.

Even if you have a business or personal relationship with the recipient, an email newsletter that is sent on a regular basis is a different kind of communication than a customer service email or a “Hi, how are you” email.

200px-Stop_hand.svgHere are 12 ways to get started:

1. Temporarily stash the email addresses from questionable sources. I have ways of getting opt-ins from those lists, but that comes later.

2. Focus on creating a successful experience with those who have deliberately chosen to receive your newsletter.

3. Make a point of asking everyone to subscribe to your newsletter. Put a P.S. in your email signature with a link to a sample newsletter. Include verbiage on your business card and in your marketing materials.

4. Be sure to mention how often they will receive the newsletter and what it’s generally about. If you’re not sure, you can say “a regular business newsletter,” which is honest without locking you into a schedule right off the bat.

5. Don’t apologize for asking. Just because you may not like getting email newsletters regularly doesn’t mean others dislike it. Your customers and prospects want to know more about you, and email newsletters are a perfect vehicle for that.

6. Create a newsletter that people want to share, either by forwarding or through social media. Superbly written, useful content is the best way to get people to open and share your content.

7. Have a place in each newsletter where people can click to complete a subscription form. If someone receives your newsletter from a trusted friend, they can sign up through a quick-loading form that is generated out of the email.

8. Display a “Subscribe to my Newsletter” button prominently on the homepage of your website. Don’t hide this important item on your Contact page or footer.

9. Send a respectful welcome email right away, especially if your next issue isn’t due to come out for awhile. This can be an automated reply, thanking readers for signing up. Allow them to set their preferences. Include language (with a link) reminding recipients that they can opt out at any time. Some of my clients worry that the opt out language will make users more likely to opt out. On the contrary, letting your readers know they have choices will build trust. It will also make them more comfortable recommending your newsletter to others if they know you are doing it the right way.

10. Following proper email protocol, laws and best practices. Use original and high quality content. Put nothing in your email that would be perceived as spam. Run your text through a spam program to be sure you are not inadvertently using words or phrases that will be flagged by incoming servers. Protect precious customer data.

11. Use a reputable, professional email program or service to send your email. This step will protect your personal email address from being affected by all kinds of unintended consequences, and it will signal incoming servers that your email is “safe.”

12. Keep your data pristine and add new (clean) data in a systematic way. If data in any fields are questionable, do not contaminate your good list and endanger your email privileges.

If you follow these recommendations, you will be well on your way to building an email list filled with people who look forward to hearing from you.

Sandy Hubbard helps companies improve their sales with professionally prepared email newsletters and original online content. She is Print Futurist for Print Media Centr and chief moderator of PMC’s  popular weekly #printchat on Twitter.

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