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Mailing List Management Mechanics

Obviously, having an Internet presence is important for doing business online. But it doesn't mean simply being a mere silent billboard in cyberspace. In addition to online (and offline) promotional activities, one has to maintain a consistent contact with web site visitors who, in most part, are potential customers. And one must interact with them as well.

Simply put, it is more important that your Internet presence "communicates" with your visitors where you build a long term relationship with them. With scams rampant online, people are understandably cautious. Thus, maintaining an "opt-in" mailing list not only helps to build trust but at the same time persuades those who need to see your message more than once.

Once you've set up a web site, optimized it, and submitted it to search engines, one of the next steps is to start building your own in-house mailing list. You should invariably offer visitors the ability to subscribe themselves to it and they must be able to do so at least on the front page of your site. More important, they should be made aware of your mailing list if not have the ability to subscribe to it on the front page's top section or "above the fold."

"Above the fold" is the top portion of your front page that people see in their browsers when they first hit your site, without any scrolling. It's really the most important part of your site. Like a newspaper for instance, the most read part is not only the front page but also the headlines and stories that appear above the newspaper's front page fold. Your mailing list should therefore be mentioned if not made available to potential subscribers at the very top.

Mailing List Management
Next, in order to properly maintain your list you will need a system that will help you to compile and properly manage subscriptions. If you're using a simple email program or address book, they can become bulky and cumbersome after a certain period of time.

Of course, there are also Perl (or CGI) and Microsoft NT (or ASP) mailing list management scripts available for the more technically inclined. These scripts offer webmasters the ability to maintain their own mailing lists directly onsite. For example, some can be found at:

   http://www.cgi-resources.com/
   http://webmaster-resources.com/
   http://www.thescripts.com/
   http://cgi.elitehost.com/
   http://freescripts.com/
   http://www.aspin.com/
   http://www.aspemail.com/

However, most Internet marketers are business owners and, if they're anything like me, they more than likely do not have the time to implement and manage their lists themselves. If this applies to you, a tool you will therefore need is what is called a mailing list server.

There are many server-based or web-based list servers (also known as email list managers) available on the Internet. With these programs, you can simply mail your message once and it will be distributed to an entire list (even a segment of your list in some cases) in just one easy step. List servers are useful for discussions and particularly ezines.

Newsletter Management
If you publish an ezine on a regular basis or if you plan to make announcements about updates to your site (which you definitely should), a list server will definitely become handy if not necessary. Some web hosting companies offer list servers as part of their hosting packages while other sites provide the necessary scripts to configure your own list server.

For starters, there are several elements that you must take into account when asking for your visitor's email address, especially on your web site. They include:

1) A privacy policy onsite or in the very least a mention that the subscriber's personal information will remain confidential (this will start the process of building trust with them);

2) A form where visitors can enter their email address instead of a mere link, unless the link leads to another page with a form (forms have higher response rates over "mailto:" links);

3) An action word or phrase, especially on or near the submit button, such as "subscribe," "enter," "join list," and so on (in other words, tell the visitor exactly what to do);

4) And simple, clear removal instructions (onsite, in your welcome message, and in every communication you make) so recipients can easily unsubscribe from your list at any time.

Mailing lists are not limited to email addresses that you've personally captured. They can certainly be leased or bought from a reputable, responsible, and ethical list broker. Keep in mind that bulk email (or "spam") is not the same thing as bulk (or "junk") mail. Unsolicited email uses a lot more resources and can be construed as an invasion of one's privacy.

Furthermore, the cost of spam is conferred onto the recipient, which may cause more damage to the business in the end and especially to the trust-building process. While unsolicited bulk emailing may produce good results, they will be short-lived and cause more harm than good. But on the other hand, if the broker offers mailing lists to which people have voluntarily subscribed (and especially if they are targeted), you can achieve far better results.

However, there is no better way to bulk email safely and ethically than to do so to your own list of subscribers who have joined your list of their own volition. So start building one now if you haven't already. Even if your list is simply used to make special announcements or to inform your visitors of site updates, having an Internet presence is not as important as maintaining one in front of your prospects and prospect referral-sources.

List Management Programs
While you should start building your own list with the use of the following list management sites, many of them also list other mailing lists to which you can subscribe and submit your ads or articles, depending on their guidelines. When doing so, you should somehow invite people to subscribe to your list as well, such as with your email signature or article byline.

These sites include, among others:

   eGroups: http://www.egroups.com
   ListBot: http://www.Listbot.com
   OneList: http://www.onelist.com
   Topica: http://www.topica.com
   Greenspun: http://www.greenspun.com/spam
   MakeList: http://www.makelist.com
   SparkList: http://www.sparklist.com
   Mailing List Manager: http://www.interlyn.com/mlm
   ListTool: http://www.listtool.com
   Lyris: http://lists.lyris.net
   Liszt: http://www.liszt.com
   Listerv: http://www.listserv.net
   Majordomo: http://www.greatcircle.com/majordomo
   EuroFreebies: http://www.eurofreebies.com/maillis
   CoolList: http://www.coollist.com
   Online Magazine: http://www.online-magazine.com/listsvr.htm
   Mail-List: http://www.mail-list.com
   World Merge: http://www.coloradosoft.com/worldmrg
   Esosoft: http://www.iList.net
   WebValence: http://www.webvalence.com
   List Host: http://listhost.net
   List Resources: http://list-resources.com
   ICQ: http://www.icq.com/icqlist
   And Bravenet: http://www.bravenet.com

Nevertheless, one of the most powerful marketing tools for online businesses (and even offline ones) are "opt-in" mailing lists. Use a list server or list management program to start publishing a newsletter, to interact with your subscribers through a discussion list, or at least to announce important updates in order to keep in touch with your prospects.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is an author, speaker and Internet marketing consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Visit SuccessDoctor.com. He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 100,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.




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