Don't commit these mailing list mistakes

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mailboxOne of the best ways to begin a friendly and non-intrusive relationship with prospective customers is to build a mailing list of people who are interested in you or your business concept.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to offer a useful free report or piece of information, then follow up with a regularly published newsletter or “ezine.”

Your primary goal with a newsletter is to share useful information and tips that will help your target audience get to know and trust you and learn things that will help them solve problems.

But some people, eager to get on the mailing list bandwagon, make some of the following mistakes:

  1. Don’t ask permission for people to join your list, just add their names.  This is more than a case of poor etiquette, it can also land you in very hot water with the CAN-SPAM Act, resulting in everything from an $11,000 fine for each violation to shutting down your email server.  I find this most often occurs with people just starting a list who will roll their personal email list into a mailing list.  A better way is to send one message to your email list when you launch your newsletter explaining its purpose and benefits.  Provide the directions for signing up through your mailing list service.  If I get newsletters that I didn’t sign up for, I immediately unsubscribe, out of principle.
  2. Try to manage your list manually.  You will pull your hair out trying to keep up with subscriptions, cancellations and address changes.  There are many good mailing list services available for a reasonable price.  I use AWeber and am very happy with it.  Others have recommended Constant Contact or even an integrated shopping cart and mailing list program like The other benefit to these paid services is that they live and die by observing the CAN-SPAM Act, so your list should be protected.
  3. Provide no meaningful information, just sales drivel.  No one wants to join a mailing list only to receive sales announcements.  If you consistently provide useful information in your main article, it is perfectly fine to include a section of your newsletter where you promote your products or services.  But use discretion so that people don’t feel the hard to describe but easy to identify sensation of being “sales slimed” every time they read your newsletter.  Soon, they won’t bother reading it.
  4. Send more messages than you initially described in your sign-up.  I send my ezine out once a month, and as a general guideline, only send one additional message a month if there is something to announce that misses the monthly cycle.  This is for my large regular mailing list. You may follow up more frequently with people who have signed up for a particular program or class, since they may require more information.  Whatever timing and amount of messages you choose, state it right up front when people sign up so that they won’t be surprised by the amount of emails they receive from you.
  5. Take unsubscribes personally.  This can be a bit of a challenge, since all of us would like to think that we provide pithy, useful information that our readers are eager to find in their inbox.  But the reality is that your information may be useful to someone at a particular point in time, then become obsolete.  Or they may need to purge all of their mailing list subscriptions to get control of their inbox.  Or … they may not like what you have to say!  And this is ok too, because your objective is to fill your list with people who genuinely are connected with you and your message.  I think it is better to have 300 ardent supporters on your list rather than 3,000 near-disgruntled ones.As Zen as you can be about the “ebb and flow of the mailing list,” there will be times when people piss you off by reporting your message as spam (which is simply not true since they can ONLY sign up voluntarily by a double-opt-in subscription process if you set your list up correctly) or send an incredulous “This is useless nonsense and I have no idea why I received it” message to you. I have gotten more than a few of these, and always wonder if they either have a bitter spouse or teenager that maliciously signs them up for things they don’t want, or if they got hit in the head with a wooden beam since the day a few weeks before that they voluntarily signed up for my mailing list.  The appropriate response to these messages is not a scathing reply (which may further fan the flames of their desire to get you) but rather to stand in front of your computer screen and chant the following sophomoric song lyric right before you hit delete:

    “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, GOODBYE

Happy mailing!

7 Responses to “Don't commit these mailing list mistakes”

  1. Tetsou says:

    A great article Pam.

    List management is certainly something that shouldn’t be underestimated. I was unprepared by the amount of work that goes into managing a newsletter when my Tetsou site went live and my list started to grow rapidly.

    And here in the UK and the rest of Europe we now have similar laws to CAN-SPAM under various EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directives, so its important to have a system which keeps you strictly legal.

    I think I’m about to have a Zen moment…

    Tetsou (

  2. apu says:

    Excellent tips which should be commonsense but aren’t unfortunately. Not an entrepreneur myself – but often see my company do these sort of ghastly errors; Since the concept of ‘spam’ isn’t yet taken as seriously where I live, I just gnash my teeth – pointing it out doesn’t seem to affect anyone…

  3. Great Post!

    A lot of business owners underestimate the importance of effective mailing list management.

    Michael Valiant

  4. robert says:

    Hey! What’s with the singing? I dare you to end a podcast with your angelic rendition of “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, GOODBYE”

    QUESTION: Will Slim fall for the dare or gracefully circumvent the challenge…..?

    Tune in next week same time same channel at Voice of Probability FM zero zero nil!

  5. Great stuff Pam! Thanks for sharing. I’ve blogged this as well at

    Very good pointers especially the one about trying to self manage–that’s a doozy that is better offloaded in order to maintain sanity.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Don’t commit these mailing list mistakes

    This post on the Escape From Cubicle Nation lists some common mistakes related to mailing lists management.

  7. John Dodds says:

    My head hurts and as for women…..