Why do I need a mailing list?

I’m always surprised when a client informs me that they don’t need a mailing list to keep in contact with their customers. Many say they’ll just use their email program. Others say they’re too small and don’t need anything. Some think the software is very complicated and expensive.

Let’s debunk those misconceptions.

First, here in the States as one example, there are protections for consumers regarding commercial email communications, commonly known as the CAN-SPAM Rule. In short this rule requires these communications make it easy for someone to opt-out (and stay opted-out) and provide clear contact information in the form of both an active email address and postal-mailing address. 

So can you just use your email program? You could. Just make sure to include all the contact information and clearly explain how to opt-out (“reply with the word REMOVE in the subject line”). Don’t forget to maintain a list of up-to-date email addresses, making sure that those who have requested being removed are. Be aware, however, that many ISPs and email hosts limit the number of emails sent in a particular time span, and that limit can either be the number of messages sent or the number of people email is sent to (500 emails to one person or one email to 500 different email addresses). You could break your list up and then remember to send the emails staggered throughout the time frame, but don’t you have more important things to attend to for your business?

As for the too small question, we all start somewhere. I’m not suggesting purchasing a mansion when a two-bedroom apartment will serve your needs for a long time, but there are solutions to fit your business today and help it grow into a larger one tomorrow. Also by having some of the mailing list structure basics in place if you find yourself in unexpected growth, you don’t have to take the time away from growing your business to manage and maintain your mailing list. It’s there and is ready and waiting for you.

Is the software complicated and expensive? No. There are many free and low cost options. Two of the most popular  solutions today are Tiny Letter and MailChimp. Other prominent players in the marketplace are Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, and Emma

If you use word processing software, then you can set up a newsletter. These services use WYSIWYG editors to help you with the formatting, no knowledge of HTML required! 

Benefits to using mailing list software include that they manage the sending (without throttling an email server), allow your customers to manage their subscriptions so you don’t have to worry if you have the most up-to-date email address, provide extensive reporting to help you figure out the effectiveness of your campaigns, and tie into social media to make it easier for your content to be shared and new names added to your lists.

Are there disadvantages? I’m hard pressed to find them. I’m not one to say sign up for software just because it exists, yet this type of service is invaluable for my businesses. Yes, I could manage all of this on my own email servers and be in compliance with CAN-SPAM more easily than most, but I have other things I’d much rather focus on for my business! 


A prior version of this post appeared on the Patterned Blog.