March 13, 2012
Effective Mailing List Marketing
Regardless of whether the mailing list on which you’re participating is geared to lawyers or non-lawyers, following a few best practices will increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
First, be choosy about the mailing lists you join. If possible, before joining, poke around the archives to make sure that you’re genuinely interested in the topics discussed, and that you will have opportunities to add something of value to the discussion.
Second, set up rules (sometimes called filters) in your e-mail program to direct mailing list messages to a separate folder (or folders, if you subscribe to multiple lists) rather than your general inbox. Because the subject line of every message distributed by a mailing list generally contains the name of the list in brackets, this filtering should work flawlessly. Keeping mailing list messages out of your inbox will help you avoid the distraction that a constant stream of new e-mails might otherwise create.
Third, when you join a list, “lurk” for a little while—maybe a few days or weeks, long enough to get a good sense of the etiquette of the particular list—before you make your first post. Remember, first impressions count, and you want to make sure that all of your posts are consistent with the list’s character and (written or unwritten) etiquette.
Fourth, once you’ve taken the plunge and introduced yourself, participate in the discussion. Remember, simply joining a mailing list without actively participating does not constitute marketing.
Fifth, don’t be a taker. While it’s fine to ask questions, it’s important to add value to the list as well. In a related vein, avoid “me too” posts, which do nothing but waste bandwidth.
Sixth, even if a list doesn’t have a rule prohibiting commercial solicitation, don’t be too “sales-y.” You want people to come to like and trust you enough to go to your website (where you can get their permission to communicate with them directly) or call you. Sharing your knowledge is a wonderful way to get people to trust you, and showing your personality—through the tone, language and subject matter of your posts—is a great way to get them to like you.
Seventh, avoid flame wars. Remember the old adage: never wrestle with a pig: you’ll get dirty and the pig will enjoy it. Engaging in personal attacks on fellow list members (no matter how justified) reflects poorly on you.
Two Things to Consider Before You Hit “Send”
Marketing by participating on e-mail lists has an underappreciated search engine optimization (SEO) benefit. Because search engines index posts to many lists, each time you send a post to an indexed list with your website listed in the signature block, you create a valuable backlink to your site.
The public nature of posts to many e-mail lists can be a double-edged sword. If you are posting a question about a case to a law-related list, make sure that the question does not have a whiff of malpractice about it. If you’re not sure whether a post could get you in hot water with a client or the bar down the road, you may have the option of asking the list moderator to post your query anonymously. Alternatively, a trusted colleague on the list may agree to post it on your behalf.
Conclusion: Add Mailing Lists to Your Marketing Mix
Mailing lists existed long before many of the other online social networking tools that are popular today, and they continue to play an important role in the world of online social networking. So, even if you’re a social media whiz, don’t discount the value of mailing lists.
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