The Messenger

Build your customer base with an electronic newsletter

list. Most e-mail lists are pretty simple. The average company newsletter probably isn’t going to attract more than 1,500 to 2,000 subscribers a week-unless you’ve got a highly trafficked site or are having a contest.

If you don’t have the technical ability in house, it’s a no-brainer to outsource your e-mail newsletter. Businesses with smaller mailing lists should check out such free services as eGroups.com and Topica.com. Note: eGroups will maintain your list for free if you are willing to put up with advertisements on every posting. If you nix the ads, you will have to pay $5 a month per list (billed annually in advance). If you have a longer list, look into service bureaus such as SparkLIST.com and L-Soft’s ListPlex.com, which has a nice little feature that lets you gather demographic data. ListPlex costs you $500 a year plus a setup fee and per message charges, while SparkLIST requires $50 a month minimum ($1 per 1,000 e-mails).

ENLIST SUBSCRIBERS WITHOUT SPAM
You can send an opt-in newsletter to those who have taken positive action to subscribe: checked a box on your Website, checked a box on your order form, filled out a card at your store, or signed and returned a promotional mail piece. Prechecking a box on your Website for the customer and asking him to uncheck it if he doesn’t want to receive the newsletter is unacceptable.

People may not remember signing up for your newsletter until they’ve read a couple of lines, and their wrist-jerk response may be to delete your mail, call you a spammer and take their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, they’ve seen too much spam that began by stating it’s “opt-in,” and provided an “opt-out” e-mail address that does nothing but bounce mail. They may have heard that clicking a URL to “unsubscribe” to spam will actually confirm the existence of a live body at their account address, and get them added to more lists.

To combat the taint of spam on legitimate organizational e-mail, your first paragraph should be a statement such as: Crotch Rocket Digest is a monthly newsletter providing news and useful information to Kowabunga Motorcycle enthusiasts who have requested it. If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, send a blank e-mail message with “remove” as the subject to rocket@crocketd.com.

Better yet, you can use the customization features of mailing list software to address recipients by name and tell them exactly where, when and how they subscribed. Rich Santalesa, head of the New York City-based consulting firm Sm@rtedge.com and editor of RichNet, “NYC’s Thinking E-Zine” (www.richnet.org), says it’s important to include the subscriber’s address as it appeared when he subscribed. Otherwise, he may try to unsubscribe from another e-mail account, fail and become irate at your company’s “phony” opt-out method.

SAY WHAT
It’s not just the recruiting method that sets e-mail newsletters apart from spam-it’s their content. You’re wasting time and money unless you have valuable, concise, professionally written content that speaks to subscribers in an appropriate way. A gentle touch and a

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