LISTSERV at Work L-Soft
Issue 2, 2009

   Email List Guru: Where Less Meets More

Q. How can I do more with less and still be effective when it comes to email list communication?

Thank you for posing this current yet timeless question. During a recent rumination, I learned that many of our readers use email list technology for a specific purpose – often a single purpose – such as a customer discussion forum or a member newsletter. This was an "aha" moment for me as herein lies the juncture where email enlightenment meets the hard realities of our times. So how do these seemingly opposite concepts work together to address the question at hand? Let us take a look ...

Email List Guru

With limitations on resources and demands for results, organizations of all types are seeking to more effectively engage subscribers. This gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on how we can use existing email list technology in new complementary ways, bringing additional benefits to our subscribers and organization.

Now this might sound like a very practical question, yet my intuition is that it does not get considered with the spaciousness of mind that it deserves. So I offer you some words on which to contemplate – and yes, by all means, pull out the meditation cushions and gather with colleagues to do so – as you explore with collective wisdom how to infuse new energy into your email lists and create a more profound connection with your subscribers.


Imagine, for a moment, communication that is seamless and full of energy. Every layer carries its own individual resonance yet converges into a whole. Each message complements the other, strengthening your connection to the people who matter the most: your customers and subscribers who are the very sustenance of your organization.

If this sounds like nirvana, it's time to wake up to a phenomenal reality: the power of comprehensive and virtually flawless communication rests in your hands (well, to diverge into the literal realm, under your fingertips and in a server room).

With email list technology, your communication can take various shapes because the medium itself is highly flexible, offering you the ability to create, refine and completely reinvent your organization's communication as needed. And the forms that email list technology takes in the world are many and varied as well, including email marketing, discussion groups, email newsletters, announcement lists and email communities. Why limit your efforts to just one of these? Let go of the inertia that keeps us doing the same thing. Expanded thinking leads to expanded possibilities, resulting in expanded outcomes.


Now, let us be mindful that thinking big doesn't mean doing everything and being unwise. Now that your vision of email list communication is becoming more open, it is important to look to your subscribers for guidance on new ways you can use email to communicate. Let your subscribers talk and listen to them as they help you interpret any gaps that need to be filled. Combing existing data and blending it with targeted surveys and customer interviews can open up possibilities that include new list offerings or valuable additions or modifications to existing email list resources.

Customer and subscriber data, preferences and feedback are pivotal in helping organizations determine the priority areas for new communications. Yet all too often, information that is key to the evolution of your outreach can be overlooked in haste or because the information doesn't fit with current efforts. With broadened horizons and using hard numbers and established data points, you have the soundest approach to ensure that your new effort meets a specific need among your subscriber base and that your initiatives continue to evolve and thrive.

Yet remain receptive to more subtle information as well. For example, if you run an in-house employee list, are there certain topics that keep coming up at your organization's meetings? If you are an IT provider, are there trends in your customers' calls to tech support? By using and interpreting information with a holistic view of email list communication in all its forms, you will bring all-around benefit – to your subscribers, to your organization and to the ever-present bottom line.


Continuing along the path of more integrated and dynamic email list communication, we come to the stage of intertwining our efforts. Frequently, this is a natural, even an organic process. Yet keep the wisdom eye attuned to opportunities that you may not see at first glance.

Picking up on the examples mentioned earlier, the organization running an in-house list can consider a new email community as a forum for exchange and teamwork on the topic of importance. The IT company can explore adding a technical-level support column to its existing largely non-technical email newsletter to address common questions (an obvious resource savings). Organizations of all types can add interactivity for subscribers and glean information to guide their efforts in the form of polls, questions of the day (or week or month) and surveys.

For example, if you publish a quarterly newsletter, consider adding a new announcement list to keep subscribers up-to-date in between – and using the newsletter to promote and enable readers to opt in to the new list.

As always, obtaining prior explicit and verifiable permission for each list via double opt-in subscription is paramount. Once given permission, the opportunity and responsibility is yours, to provide wanted, relevant and interesting messages to each subscriber.

These are but a few ideas. Keep a creative and imaginative posture, trust your subscribers and the data that they and your other customers provide, and interconnect your lists as naturally and closely as possible. This way, your email list communication platform becomes one unified effort, using the technology to a fuller extent, while retaining the integrity of its component lists. And your subscribers and your organization will surely benefit as you do more with less yet elevate your relationships and results.

Ask the Email List Guru is a column in LISTSERV at Work, designed to bring vision and wisdom (with the power of the crystal ball) to everyday challenges of email list communication and email marketing. Post your questions and the guru will respond to the most intriguing topics in each issue.


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