21 ways to build a great mailing list
What is a Mailing list?
A mailing list is a group of individuals who receive communications by e-mail.
Two kinds of mailing lists are common online:
Discussion lists: These are lists of people interested in a particular topic. People subscribe to the list and have messages on the topic delivered by e-mail. Each message sent to the list goes to everyone in the group. Each person can reply either to the original sender or to everyone in the group, too. The resulting series of messages on a topic is called a thread.
Announcement lists: These lists provide only one-way communication. Recipients get a single message from the list administrator, such as an attached e-mail newsletter of the sort that I describe earlier in this chapter. Discussion lists are often more specific in topic than newsgroups. These lists vary from very small lists to lists that include thousands of people. An example of a discussion list is ROOTS-L, which is a mailing list for individuals who are researching family history. People on this list exchange inquiries about ancestors that they’re seeking and announce family tree information they’ve posted online.
By making contributions to a mailing list, you establish a presence, so when members are looking to purchase the kind of goods or services you offer, they’re likely to come to you rather than to a stranger. By participating in the lists that are right for you, you also find out invaluable information about your customers’ needs and desires. Use this information to fine-tune your business so that it better meets those needs and desires.
Marketing through lists and newsgroups require a low-key approach. Participating by answering questions or contributing your opinion to ongoing discussion topics is far more effective than blatant self-promotion. Always read the welcome message and list guidelines that you receive upon joining a mailing list. Figure out the rules before you post. Lurk in the background for a few weeks to get a feel for the topics and participants before you contribute. Let your four- to six-line signature file establish your identity without selling your wares directly. Also, don’t forget to spell check and proofread your messages before you send them.