There are well over 100,000 email newsletters and discussion lists on just about every topic you can think of - and if we had to pick just one we would have to say that email marketing tops our list of favorite Internet marketing strategies. From establishing your presence as an expert in your industry, to networking with other marketers, promoting products and services, and building relationships - you can do it all with email.
Email marketing is so powerful that you can literally build your entire business around advertising this way - we know people who do - and we'll get to that a little later. Right now the goal is to just jump in and get your feet wet by joining and participating in the popular email communities that exist within your online marketplace.
While they are often called by many different names, there are basically just two kinds of email mailing lists that you'll encounter - discussion and announcement lists.
An email discussion list is just what it sounds - an email mailing list that anyone can join to discuss topics that interest them. A good example would be the LinkExchange Digest which is a popular discussion list about online marketing. Once you subscribe to such a list you'll start receiving messages that are posted to it, and you can read what others are talking about and respond or post your own messages.
A good example of an announcement list is our e-zine, Internet Marketing Chronicles. Often referred to as E-Zines or email newsletters, people subscribe to announcement lists because they are interested in the content. Unlike discussion lists these are a one-way communication vehicle between the publisher and subscribers - and content normally consists of helpful articles, reviews, resources, updates and the like.
No one knows exactly how many lists are in existence - and new lists are popping up every single day - but there are several great web sites where you can search for ones that are of interest to you.
The best place to start is Liszt (http://www.liszt.com), the mailing list directory. At this site you can search over 90,000 lists by keyword, and you'll have a hard time not finding a few dozen related to your industry. Email Discussion Groups (http://www.webcom.com/impulse/list.html) is another good site for researching and subscribing to various lists.
These two sites alone will keep you busy for quite awhile - and we encourage you to go and subscribe to as many applicable lists as you can right now. At the very least, out of all the lists you come across that are related to your industry pick the ten that have the most subscribers and join those. We suggest you set up a separate email address to be used just for subscribing to lists, and then set up a filter in your email program to filter any mailing list messages into a separate inbox.
Participating In Email Discussion Lists
Whenever you first join a new discussion list you'll want to "lurk" for awhile rather than jumping right in and possibly shooting yourself in the foot. Every list is different, and before you can begin participating you'll need to get a feel for the list and its rules. You'll want to just lay low for a while and see what the other subscribers are doing.
Some lists allow product announcements and even blatant advertisements, but most don't - so the first thing to do is read the list FAQ and any information that is sent to you upon subscribing. Most will send you a confirmation as soon as you subscribe which contains important information and outlines the list's rules and regulations.
Posting an advertisement to a list that has nothing to do with your product or service, or one that prohibits blatant advertising, is considered spamming and doing so will get you nowhere in a real hurry. Your reputation will go down the drain and that list will be useless to you in the future. These days there aren't many quality mailing lists that accept blatant ads anyway - and you're looking for discussion lists at this point.
The beauty of discussion lists is that subscribers look forward to receiving and reading them. And while most don't allow blatant ads, you can always use a signature when you post to a list. What this means is that if the list has 50,000 subscribers, every time you post a message to the list there is the chance that 50,000 people will read your message and see your signature - and a percentage of them will act on it.
Once you get the feel for a list and you know what is acceptable and what's not, you'll be ready to participate. In the beginning of your marketing campaign you'll want to post as much as you possibly can - without going overboard. What we mean by this is that if you can't contribute something meaningful to a discussion, you shouldn't comment on it. You can't just reply to someone's question or post and say "I agree" or "I don't know" followed by your 5-7 line signature. That won't impress anyone at all.
Instead, what you want to do is look for questions or discussions that will allow you to show off your knowledge and expert insights - and since you're joining lists that relate to your interests and your industry this shouldn't really be a problem. If someone asks a question you can answer, go ahead and do it. If there's an ongoing discussion that you can contribute to, go for it. The whole idea is to become an active participant and show people that you know what you're talking about.
Rest assured, when people read your helpful and intelligent posts they will be highly inclined to act on your signature if they are interested in what you offer. Whether you use your signature to provide a simple link to your web site, a free report available by autoresponder, or anything else - you can generate lots of traffic and leads if you do this right. If you participate in just 10 mailing lists with 10,000 subscribers each and post 2 or 3 times a week on each, that's quite a bit of free exposure.
It's crucial that you test various signatures - don't just use one all the time. By using different URLs or autoresponder addresses in your different signatures you'll be able to track the response and see which are working and which are not. Be sure to read the articles on how to key advertisements and also how to track accesses to your site.
It does take some time to actively participate in discussion lists, but at this stage in the game it is a good use of your time. You can easily generate 100 hits per day to your web site by doing so, and along with the other strategies that we discuss next you'll be getting more than enough traffic to tweak your web site and move on to the next phase. Remember, the main goal right now is just to generate some initial traffic to your web site. Once you get going you may or may not want to continue actively participating in these lists, depending on the results of your other marketing efforts.
Aside from generating leads and traffic, participating in discussion lists will also help you to begin networking with other marketers and make contacts. Whenever you see an opportunity to communicate privately with another list member, do it. Likewise, you will find that people will email you directly as well. These are all people that you may be able to arrange reciprocal links or do business with in the near future.
Using Announcement Lists For Research And Exposure
While announcement lists are generally a one-way communication vehicle between the publisher and the subscribers, there are still a few ways that you can use them to your advantage. Aside from staying up to date on the latest issues, trends, and topics in your industry, they are a great way to keep tabs on what other marketers are doing.
You'll want to get on the mailing lists of all of your direct competitors, and any others that are related to your business. Often times a company will announce new products or updates to their mailing list before posting it on their web site or anywhere else, so email mailing lists can be a great competitive intelligence resource.
You can also use e-zines or email newsletters to promote your products and services, both directly and indirectly. Many of them accept paid advertising and a little later we'll be discussing that, but there's another way - and it's just as good or even better. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get thousands of dollars worth of free advertising!
Most e-zine or email newsletter publishers, like those of a regular newspaper in the real world, are always looking for content for their publications. And you can give it to them by submitting articles you've written. In fact, the first thing you should do when joining a new e-zine or newsletter is find out if they accept guest article submissions. And if they do, make a note of any policies or guidelines for doing so.
Right about now you may be saying to yourself that we must be crazy, and that you're not a writer. But the truth is that you don't have to be a professional writer to submit articles and get published. Anyone can write a 1-3 page informative article on a topic related to their business. If you can't, you're probably in the wrong business. If your writing skills aren't the best, just get someone to proof-read your articles that's all.
You really should give it a try - it's possible to get as many as 10,000 hits or more to your web site within 48 hours of having an article published in an e-zine or newsletter with a large subscriber base. We know because we've done it. It won't happen every time, and sometimes your articles won't even be published, but overall it works well.
The trick is to make a list of at least 10 lists with large subscriber bases, and submit articles to them all on a regular basis. Maybe you can write an article per week. Keep in mind, any articles that you submit for publication can also be posted on your site or published in your own newsletter - so it's like killing 2 or 3 birds with one stone. And normally you can submit the same article to as many publications as you want, so as you discover new lists you can immediately submit your articles.
It's a win-win situation - the publisher gets hassle-free content for their publication that they would have otherwise had to write themselves, and you get free exposure by way of your signature or "resource box" that you include at the end of every article that you submit. And what's great is that response to your articles that are published is even better than you'll normally get from a paid classified ad or sponsorship because the subscribers will usually read your article word for word. If they like it, there's a good chance they will act on the offer that you make in your signature or resource box.
Originally published in IMC's Internet Marketing Chronicles.
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