So, You Want to Send an Email Newsletter to All the Contacts You’ve Collected for the last 10 Years?

Can I send a newsletter to everyone in my address book?, to everyone that gave me their card at a tradeshow?, to all the contacts I’ve collected since 1994?, to a list that I purchased?

These are questions that are being asked by a great number of people that use email marketing. While the internet is loaded with tips, good and bad, the consensus among “white hat” internet marketers has become pretty clear.

As one more “white hat” marketer, Wavemaker can only recommend these methods to build a healthy email contact list, and perhaps more importantly, keep them from wanting to unsubscribe. If you’re interested in “black hat” marketing, you can Google it, but our honest professional opinion is that it is mean-spirited and a waste of time, especially considering the dangers involved.

We’ve narrowed down the sources of info on this topic to a couple of good ones. We pay attention to the MailPoet developers as they are at the newsletter creation and sending end of the process. We use Constant Contact for more complex mailing requirements. Sendgrid,  is the service Wavemaker uses for sending out our clients emails directly from their websites.  Constant Contact and Sendgrid are both pro outgoing email servers that monitor successful and unsuccessful emails blasts. They know what works best as they are both at the IT end of the process. Wavemaker is obligated to make sure that all of our clients honor policies set by Constant Contact and Sendgrid.

Rather than starting with the dont’s, let’s look at the right things to do:

Provide Quality Content

Folks visit your site for the content. What other content can be added to the site that would be valuable to visitors? This is where I want to recommend a blog, but I do understand the amount of upkeep time they require. Its good to mention that blogs are very popular and not only provide value as far as information to the visitor, it also is a great on-going search engine optimization tool. Want to rank higher for a particular topic? Write a post on it!

Add comments. WordPress is capable of allowing visitors to post comments, reviews, testimonials. This requires a bit of overseeing as you have to approve any comment that you want to appear on the site, but it keeps folks engaged in the site, and gets them to work to promote you.

Folks signup for your e-newsletter because they perceive value in getting it. Implementing other ways to entice people; coupons, giveaways, raffles, T-shirt, etc, will increase the perceived value. Maybe subscribers can have a special area of the site that only they can log into to see even more valuable content.

Provide Multiple Places to Sign-up

The question is; where? Getting folks to signup is important, but so is not interfering with their shopping experience. Signup widgets can be put almost everywhere, but make sure to avoid places where shoppers may be en-route to the checkout page, you don’t want to distract them at this sensitive time.

Adding “Pre-Checked” Sign-up Checkboxes to Your Main Contact Forms

Its good to point out that automatically signing someone up who thought they were just making an enquiry would be an anti-sell. Let people decide when they want to sign-up. Don’t trick them. Suggestion- When the contact form is submitted, it can be forwarded to a page that has message that says; “Thank you for your  Enquiry” and then invites them to sign-up. Put the sign-up form right on the Thank You page.

Lightbox Style Message

A message can appear in a layer over the page telling the visitor to sign-up. It can appear after a little while so as to not be too annoying, but its good to consider that this too may be an anti-sell.

In-Person Sign-ups

Don’t bother harvesting emails from business cards. If the customer doesn’t sign themselves up, they probably won’t confirm the invitation you send them. Use an actual sign-up form at the event for them to sign themselves up. Use a pad or smartphone.

Provide an Email Preferences Center to the Subscriber

This would be valuable if you have multiple types of mailings to go out. Subscribers can sign in and click the boxes to manage which lists they’re on.

Regularly Remove Inactive Subscribers from Your Lists

Much of this is being done automatically by the MailPoet app, but its good to delete bounces as they accumulate. Leave the Unsubscribe list alone so that those contacts are not mistakenly re-subscribed by anyone. Constant Contact also provides list management tools and instruction.

Send Excellent Invitation & Welcome Emails

And the challenge is to make them with text only, if possible. This helps to get past spam filters that look at images suspiciously.

Full Disclosure

A confidence building privacy policy is essential. And provide your full credentials so they fully know who they are subscribing to.

Use a reliable Email Service Provider

Sendgrid or Constant Contact are top notch.

Good ol’ US Mail

While sending to email addresses has some risk to it, sending to physical addresses is still risk-free. Yes- there is a cost for printing and mailing. Wavemaker can recommend affordable options. Sending a physical invitation is very effective in its presentation, and it won’t get blocked by spam filters or other internet pitfalls. A good statistic to keep in mind is that even with opt-in emails that people themselves sign up for, about 20% never even make it to the in-box (signups, confirmations, etc). Such is the nature of email on the internet.

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OK- now for the don’ts. If you do the above, you won’t need to do any of these things:

• Don’t mail to purchased lists.
• Don’t mail to old lists.
• Don’t mail to anyone that didn’t agree to sign-up, and opted in themselves.
• Don’t mail to anyone that doesn’t fully know what they are signing up for.
• Don’t mail newsletters that the subscriber didn’t sign-up for.
• Don’t use transactional emails to sign-up subscribers.
• Don’t underestimate spam filters. The content in your newsletters may look like spam. For MailPoet, use Mail Tester.

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More information:

Email Deliverability Guide

How to Grow Your Email Marketing List

The Expert’s Guide to Email Marketing

How to Grow Your Email Marketing List

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy an Email List

Constant Contact’s Email Permission Policy

Collection Methods That Result in Quality Email Addresses

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This article is to be continued. We will attempt to keep it updated with best practices as they evolve. – Wavemaker