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How To Build Subscriber Lists for Email Newsletters


We no longer look at our email basket the same way we look at our snail mail box.

Unsolicited junk mail is a pain. Unsolicited junk email is a pain, too, but I can also, quite literally, be a crime.

Now, we aren’t lawyers (really. We ARE NOT lawyers, so don’t take this as legal advice) but last time we looked, the federal CAN-SPAM Act provides for fines of up to $16,000 for each violation. That means that if you send out 500 illegal emails, you have put yourself at risk of receiving $5.5 million in fines.

But, if you’re recklessly sending out commercial email, giant government fines may be the least of your worries. More on that later.

First …


The Federal CAN-SPAM Act regulates  commercial email messages. Complying with the law isn’t difficult. For each email, all you need do is:

Make sure the Sender name on your email is accurate

Use accurate, not deceptive, Subject lines

Clearly identify your email as an advertisement, if that’s what it is 

Include your physical street address or postal box 

Include an easy, free-of-cost way to opt-out of receiving email from you 

Quickly honor every opt-out request

Make sure any email service you use complies with these rules

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission maintains a website with clear information about complying with the CAN-SPAM Act. Here’s a link to a concise guide to the Act:

So, what could possibly be worse than a multi-million-dollar government fine?


Following the FTC’s guidelines will help you avoid prosecution, but there are other dangers to reckless email marketing, such as getting your organization blacklisted as a spammer.

That can happen as easily as someone not recognizing your email newsletter,  then absent-mindedly clicking on the “report as spam” button in their email basket.

In the worst cases, that can wind up shutting down your ability to send any email, not just your newsletter, if your domain name is identified as a spammer. ISPs and company mail servers may begin refusing to accept your email.

Once your organizational domain name (that’s the name after the “@” in your email address) is blacklisted, it can be very difficult to get un-blacklisted.

The best way to avoid problems, is to follow this simple rule:

Only send your email newsletter to those who  have expressly asked for it.

That’s it.  Notice we didn’t say AND to members of your college fraternity, local Chamber of Commerce, your Facebook buddies and all of your contacts in Outlook.

If someone didn’t expressly ask for it or give you permission to send it, don’t send them your email newsletter.

So how do build recipient lists for your email newsletters? First, do the obvious basics:

Place an opt-in link on your website. Something like “click here to get our newsletter.”

Make sure every invoice, online sale, price quote and proposal has a invitation to subscribe to your newsletter.

Ask people if they would like to subscribe, and if they say ‘yes,’ email them an invitation asking them to reply back in order to subscribe. Then, save that email as your proof that they really did opt-in for your newsletter.

The best way to have an excellent email newsletter list is to feed it often and frequently prune it. Make sure your email broadcaster automatically handles “unsubscribe” requests.

Occasionally, check in with your recipients, asking them for feedback on your newsletter—including directly asking them if they want to continue receiving it.

But the very best way to have excellent subscriber lists is to produce an excellent newsletter, one that is frequently cited and passed on to friends and associates.

An effective newsletter can become the only promotion and lead generation you need.

It’s worth the work!

In that light, you should consider each and every email newsletter you send as being as important as a personal letter.  You want each one to be as thoughtful as possible. That not only means you should ensure it has quality content, it also means you should personalize it wherever you can.

Voicent’s BroadcastByEmail software makes it easy to personalize your email newsletter. Take advantage of that!

Think about your subscribers’ needs, then carefully segment your lists for content, frequency and format.

If your business has several major elements, and a particular subscriber is really only interested in one, send him a version of your newsletter that focuses only on his area of interest.

When subscribers tell you that they are receiving too much from you, and want to hear from you less frequently, put them on a Reduced Frequency list.

Regularly ask your subscribers which email newsletter format they prefer—plain text or html. Then, make sure you send them the format they prefer.

NEXT: How to Design Your Email Newsletter (coming soon)

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