Let’s say you’re about to make your very first email list (although even if you already have a plump one, keep reading because you could also unwittingly commit an email list faux pas!).
You may have…
- Tons of contacts in your Gmail account
- Piles of paper with people’s names and emails who signed when you held a conference in 2012
- A shoe box that previously housed work pumps, now stuffed with business cards from the 947 networking events you’ve attended in the last 5 years
So you’re thinkin’ …
“Eureka! I’ll put all these contacts into my list on MailChimp and start my email marketing with dozens or hundreds of subscribers before I even send out my first newzletter — BAM!”
STOP. RIGHT. THERE. Sister.
I beg ya. Don’t commit that email list faux pas.
Since I see this question a lot from all types of small business owners, let’s tackle it like it’s a hot bicyclist.
Apologies for tornado-ing on your parade, but here’s why adding all your contacts to your list is problematic (and will land you into bigger trouble than when you were caught shoplifting mint nail polish at age 12) and what to do instead.
Avoid a deadly email list faux pas by choosing one of the following alternatives:
- Set up an opt-in on your website and let your list fill itself (without adding your existing contacts to it yourself). Just set up an opt-in and drive traffic to your website by promoting your smarts in networking groups, social media, telling your mom to call everyone in her leather bound phone book, etc.
- Email the people you think would be interested — those people whose business cards you forgot you had, the ones who scribbled their name on your “Sign up to stay updated!” sheet at your last workshop, the ones you sat with at a nonprofit fundraiser last spring that had ’90s hairdos. Tell them what you do and how your services or products can help them (or describe your ideal client to them). And, of course, include the link to your opt-in (on your website or perhaps a pre-website “Coming Soon” page). That way, you’re letting them sign up themselves.
So why the hassle?
WHY ARE YOU KILLING MY DREAM OF HAVING 300 SUBSCRIBERS BEFORE I EVEN START MARKETING MYSELF, NAT? You know it pumps me up so hard I wanna make gnocchi from scratch (now that’s a freakin’ hassle)!
I’ll explain: Letting people sign up to your list themselves rather than you doing it for them (most likely without their permission) will help protect you from having miffed subscribers mark your emails as spam, which eventually puts you on MailChimp’s (or Aweber’s or Ontraport’s etc.) blacklist because you’d be violating national or international anti-spam laws.
And speaking of anti-spam laws, violating them can mean many thousands of dollars in penalties (try $16,000!).
So let’s just not go there. Let’s go hiking in the woods and eat banana-coconut pancakes instead. Can I get a, “hellz yeah!”? (Hellz yeah!)
Hey, I’ve been working on a DIY MailChimp course…
…that includes not just important tips like the ones in this post, but also hours of easy peasy step-by-step tutorials so you can set up your email marketing system and be done like Dan in one afternoon. Boom.