Why Use A Mailing List Service?

I wrote a piece for a musicians’ mailing list about why one should use a commercial mailing list service provider. While a few sentences talk about this issue in relation to musicians, the text applies equally to any small business.

Using a Commercial Mailing List Service

There are a number of reasons to use a mailing list service. When not writing songs and playing music, I am spending my time running a hosting/email/consulting firm that caters to small and mid-sized businesses and some municipalities. We strongly encourage our clients to use a mailing list service vendor. There are several out there that can be considered for musicians, such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and for musicians, the FanReach function of ReverbNation and similar services.

Why encourage the use of a mailing list service? There are several reasons:

  1. Compliance with law: When you send out email to a bunch of people, you do fall under the requirements of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, which is US Law. That law covers all email that is “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.b Note that profit and size of business are NOT mentioned. Promoting your gigs is covered by this. Commercial services provide for a reliable method for list members to opt out. Some of them also offer “double opt-in” meaning the user subscribes then has to confirm by responding to an email message as well. This is a good practice. The Federal Trade Commission has an excellent page explaining the CAN-SPAM Act.
  2. Reliability of delivery: A mailing service will more reliably get your mail delivered. To combat spam, there are many block lists that block sections of hosting providersb networks, most residential users’ IP addresses and any mail services deemed to be allowing spamming. Many of these block lists are dynamically and automatically managed by software watching for spam trends. The commercial companies that are known to do a good job policing their customers and responding to complaints typically are whitelisted (kept off the block lists).
  3. Metrics: Your mailing list is about 3,000 people. Want to know how many open the email? How many click a link? Those are things you can learn with some of the commercial services.
  4. Flexibility: Did you know it matters what time of day you send out an email to your list? It can. Think about your own use of email. First thing in the morning, therebs a big pile of new stuff. You skip the ones you think, “I can look at this later,” and read the important stuff. Do you get back to the others? An email arriving later in the morning may get more attention. Trying different times to see what connects with your fan base might be useful.
  5. Crossover to social media: When you post your newsletter, do you also post it to Twitter? Facebook? Some of the services automate that.
  6. Privacy: It is important that you not reveal the addresses on your mailing list to the rest of your list. Some folks try to use their regular email service (desktop or webmail) and simply put everyone in the Bcc field. Aside from much of what I raised above relating to legal requirements, it’s far too easy to accidentally put your list in the To: field. It only has to happen once. I’ve seen this happen far too often, and so this is part of why I discourage this practice.