Beware the rented list

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You wouldn't cross the street without looking both ways, so why throw your company into oncoming traffic with rented e-mail lists? Rented lists never will be as effective as your house list, and they can lead to deliverability issues and brand damage.

The best list is one you create yourself. It takes time, but it pays off big in the long run. Here are a few tips:

Make them want to join. People like things that are easy, free and beneficial to them. Entice potential subscribers by offering a free report or stating clearly how they would benefit by joining this subscription. Ensure the sign-up process is smooth and easy. Test it often and keep it simple.

Make the opt-in visible. The first step is to ensure an opt-in to your company's online newsletter or other online communication is in a highly visible place on your Web site, such as your home page.

If you are introducing an online newsletter or updating an old one, create a pop-up that invites visitors on your site to subscribe. Consider adding an encouragement to opt-in on every page of your site. Remember, the more obvious the permission request, the more valuable the name and address will be.

Make content informational. Inboxes are inundated with e-mails. Ensure your subscribers look forward to receiving your messages.

Providing informational or industry-relevant content like tips and tricks will encourage subscribers to remain interested and might also lead a subscriber to share the message with others. And this leads to the next step.

Promote viral forwards. Promoting a reader's ability to forward the original message to a colleague can spur acquisition and drive response rates. Display the forward-to-a-friend option in a prominent area. Once the message is forwarded, give the new recipient the ability to subscribe.

Use lists from different divisions. The best lists always come from your customers. Just make sure to ask permission. In-house lists are also a good bet because your recipients already are interested in your product and know your company.

Partner with other businesses. Partnering with an affiliate lets e-mail users opt-in to your e-mail communications while subscribing to their other favorite industry sites. This includes industry publications to which you could submit an article. Remember to include a link in your article for potential subscribers.

If you haven't gotten the message yet: Do not use email name harvesters. There may be an initial payoff, but the long-term damage is expensive. Send e-mail to people who have given you permission or those with whom your company has a pre-existing business relationship.

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