22 April 2015

The Difference Between Lists and Segments

You should understand the difference between lists and segments in iContact in order to make informed decisions about how you manage your contacts in the software. Here are what I consider the most important differences when decision making:

A segment is based on a variable you would use to send segment specific messages.

You can use a segment to differentiate contacts on the list by any variable, such as geographical location (City, Province) or relationship status (member/non-member). You can send a message just to that segment by excluding/including it when you send. These segments would allow you to send event information only to those local to the event or special promotions to past members only. Segments serve to split your list when sending.

Contacts subscribe to lists but are assigned to segments.

Contacts cannot unsubscribe from segments. It is your choice if they are in a segment, their choice if they are on a list. You cannot send to a contact that is in a segment but not on a list.

Lists are managed by the software, segments are manually managed.
The software is designed to keep you CASL compliant by managing your contacts and their subscriptions - your lists. It does not track segments in any automatic way. Be careful,  managing segments is labour intensive!

You pay for subscribers.
Contacts count as a subscriber for each list they are on. They do not count as a subscriber when assigned to a segment. A single contact that is subscribed to 3 lists, will be charged as 3 subscribers. A single contact that is subscribed to one list but assigned to 3 segments, will be charged as 1 subscriber.

I see the benefit of segments, but why would I want a second list?
To give your subscribers options. If you are running multiple campaigns that together generate email volume, or if you know there are significant contacts on your list that would not be interested in specific content, you will want to create a second list. Your subscribers can then unsubscribe from one campaign but remain subscribed to the other. Your subscriber could subscribe to your newsletter but unsubscribe from your event campaign. Giving them choices helps you retain them as a reader for the content they are interested in, without feeling overwhelmed with content they are not interested in.

Always remember that unsubscribes are not personal. Perhaps they value the information in your newsletter but are not local to attend your events. You never know why someone unsubscribes but you can always know that it is never personal. Trust me. It isn't.

Originally published on DanielleCarrier.com

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18 April 2015

Design Colour Trends for Fall 2015

Digital colour trends will often follow the fashion industry. Here are the colours for Fall 2015 from Pantone.

click to enlarge

"An Evolving Colour Landscape: This season displays an umbrella of accord that weaves earthy neutrals with a range of bold colour statements and patterns to reflect a landscape of hope, fun, fantasy and all things natural."

Missed the Spring 2015 colours? See them here.

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14 April 2015

Adding Audio to your Content - Part 2

Natasha working in her studio
*** Click to listen in rather than read

Creating and sharing audio content makes good business sense for me as a voice actor. In Adding Audio to your Content, Part 1, I mentioned that ALL business owners and sales people could benefit from adding the element of audio, not just those of us who are selling our voice.

What to say?
  • Introduce your business, or yourself, with a recorded greeting. (Here’s an example.)
  • An elevator pitch - a compelling 30-60 second story of what you do...
  • A call to action - something you would like the listener/reader to do – sign up for your blog, call you, order your product...
  • A summary, or explanation, of your services.

But where and how do you add audio content?

Your blog site will (likely) allow you to add an audio file anywhere in the body your blog. Sharing your blog will then share your audio, too.

Want to share it in your newsletter or on social media?

Upload your audio to SoundCloud. You can share it directly from there OR you can paste link to anything, anywhere. While Facebook and LinkedIn don’t attach audio files, sharing it through SoundCloud resolves that, or embed a link right into your newsletter or website.

Adding audio content can be very easy. It doesn't have to be highly produced with music or sound effects. A dry audio file (one with no production behind it) is perfectly acceptable. And, recording a professional sounding piece isn't difficult, if you have the right equipment... a microphone, a free download of Audacity or other recording software, and off you go.

Be sure to receive feedback from others as to whether or not your voice and your finished product hold up to your own high standards. You don’t want a shoddy recording or a weak sounding voice representing you.

Alternatively, a voice talent can help you record your own voice at a low cost. Consider hiring a Presentation Skills coach to improve your delivery OR hiring a voice talent to record an audio clip that would represent your business professionally.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder April 14, 2015

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Sharing as a Strategy

I advocate sharing your best with your audience if your goal is to be seen as an expert. Give them your best advice, express your opinions, share your top tips and tricks, tell them about great tools you have found and share the benefits you gained by using them. I regularly encounter resistance to this strategy. The worry seems to be that if you share your best, they won't need you. This is a false worry.

When you are expert at anything, you will lose a layman pretty quickly - always before the point where they could accomplish the same results they would get if they hired and worked with you. It is usually beginners that sharing your opinions will help... to a point. There will be a certain number of followers that will read everything and use your advice to follow your plan. Content is published in very small packets so it would take a lot for someone to be able to piece a whole plan together. Those people will find someone else to follow if you are not publishing the content. You would rather they follow you because then you are the expert they refer.

The number of people that can follow through on their education, without hiring you, will be very marginal. People will need to hire you for motivation, inspiration, support, accountability and understanding. As an expert, it would be difficult to accomplish what you teach - without a you in the equation.

You will gain clients who:
  • realize they cannot be successful without your help
  • simply do not understand the more complex parts of what you teach
  • succeed on their own, attribute that to your help and refer to you
All of those are positive outcomes.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder April 14, 2015

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Once You're Hooked...

I came across what seemed like an amazing deal on web hosting. Because I'm very familiar with the company making the offer, I paused to have a better look.

Wow, I was thinking, they're really cutting prices to get business. Because I'm familiar, it also seemed a little out of character. So, I went hunting for the small print and there it was in tiny light grey at the bottom. Only 99 cents a month but it only applies to the first month.

How many people are going to feel a little ripped off or a little stuck when they realize what they signed up for? Quite a way to deflate a new website experience.

Now I know there are all sorts of businesses that use a prepaid subscription model. It's easy to to say all the info is there, but what if your customers don't understand it? It's a business model that relies on uneducated consumers.

Wouldn't it be better to have a business model where people know exactly what they're signing up for and exactly what the costs will be? That would actually be a bit novel, perhaps even a bit unexpected.

Having customers who want to work with you rather than customers who feel trapped is going to be much more effective for business growth.

photo by SomeDriftwood / Flickr
originally published in Work Better, Not Harder April 14, 2015

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10 April 2015

Crafting a Title to Get Read

Whether it's an article title, a blog post title, a subject line or a call to action, there is no doubt that crafting a good one takes a little art and a little science.
"The job of the headline is to get the first line of your copy read."
For every article, I could write 4 titles:
  1. the simple straightforward one that says what it's all about - it's useful and truthful
  2. the catchy or clever one - the content adds context to the title once you start reading
  3. the teaser that hints at the content, but is meant to garner opens rather than be useful
  4. the version for SEO using keywords and phrases that people might search for
I tend to start with #1 because it's often the idea that I jotted down to write about. After I finish writing, I might come up with a couple of choices that are more like #2. I tend to avoid #3 except in certain circumstances. Then a friend started talking about #4.

I resisted because it kind of felt like selling out. Giving up a #2 for a #4 just didn't feel right. After all, keyword phrases are commonly used and not unique. Then I decided to experiment. Just one at first. Then another a few weeks later. And now I do it more frequently but certainly not always.

sample of keyword searches that led readers to my blog
Now there's no doubt that using keyword phrases in subject lines has increased traffic to my blog. I know this three ways:
  1. traffic arriving through Google search has increased significantly and it's now the highest referrer
  2. readership of those posts tends to be higher than others that aren't as SEO-ish
  3. I can often find myself on page 1 when searching relevant keyword phrases
I'm not really sure why I didn't start sooner. Kind of silly when I'm obviously writing in the hope that others like you will read and find value!

06 April 2015

The Myth of Double Opt-in

One day, not so many years ago, an email marketer with big glasses and a funky haircut decided to add a bunch of people he didn't know to his email list. When he got complaints, instead of owning up and politely offering to remove them, he said, “I didn't do that. Someone else must have signed you up.” This geeky guy was the first of many.

And so, the myth of the mysterious newsletter signer-upper was born.

The email marketing industry somehow had to address this strange phenomenon. How could they keep these signer-uppers from signing other people up?

And so, the double opt-in process was born.

Of course, this made it really difficult for the signer-uppers to cause mayhem. No longer did signer-uppers gather on Friday nights over beer to wreak havoc on the email marketing world.

Now the experts, who not so many years ago were preaching that having a double opt-in process was a must, are saying that maybe it’s not so necessary anymore.

I have yet to meet anyone that is or ever was a signer-upper and I've never been the brunt of signer-upper trickery. Now really, who does that?

Double opt-in:
  • is not required by any law in Canada or the U.S.
  • is for you (mitigating risk), not your subscriber (a pain in the ...)
  • has only a 40% chance of being completed and, because you asked once, you don't have permission to ask again (CASL), so the contact is lost to you
  • means you're sending your subscriber an email that has NO VALUE for them

When someone expresses an interest by subscribing, don’t turn it into work for them by making them do it twice.

31 March 2015

Adding Audio to your Content - Part 1

Natasha in her studio

Have you considered adding audio to your blog or eNewsletter?

As a voice actor, someone who uses and sells their voice for a living, showcasing my voice and having an archive of recorded blogs is an obvious choice for me. Adding audio to marketing adds to the multimedia dimension, offering readers more for engagement. Lucky for me, Linda Daley of Daley Progress has embraced my audio blogs as she is able to listen to it weekly while completing other tasks!

But adding the element of an audio file isn't limited to voice actors. Including a voice in your content, be it a blog, newsletter, website, or social media is just smart.  When you want your client or customer to have the perception of a personal connection with you, offering more of yourself, like a photo, audio greeting, or even video is another step closer to making your way into their hearts and minds.

Who might consider adding the audio element to content?

Business owners of any kind in ANY business can benefit from adding audio. Contractors to health professionals to website designers, dog groomers and more can all do with a personal and professional presentation to attract more clients.

Real estate agents are also at the top of my list for adding a voice to marketing materials. Like the inclusion of a professional headshot, adding a voice to their website, blog, or property videos takes them to the next level in terms of personalizing their content.

Sales people and account managers could also benefit - putting a face, and voice, to their name would offer an elevated representation of themselves.

But, what if your voice isn't amazing?

You don't need to sound like Rick Dees to sell yourself. “Real people” voices are what you hear on the radio all the time. However, if your voice is not a good professional representation of yourself, consider hiring a Presentation Skills coach to improve your delivery OR a Voice Talent to record an attractive audio clip that would represent your business professionally.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder March 31, 2015

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Resetting Expectations and Owning a Moment

I recently had the pleasure once again of hearing Toni Newman speak about innovation and being different. If you haven't attended an event featuring Toni, you won't hear the energy and conviction behind her message, but an important message it is. Below is my attempt to share it with you – quotes are from Toni.

Each of us has a default set of expectations around just about everything we do, even things we haven’t done. My default will be different than yours, but we both have one. Toni’s example was about tipping in a restaurant and a delightful experience with a waiter named Stefan. My default might be to give a 15% tip before taxes; yours might be different. For me to tip more or less, the experience has to break my expectations, either better or worse.

“The unexpected moves people beyond their default mindset.”

Toni says that in order to be better, we also have to be different, because being different is what breaks those default mindsets. And ‘different’ doesn't look like anyone else, while ‘better’ can.

“Innovation = a value based change that resets expectations.”

We don't have to be different at everything – that’s hard work and even harder to maintain. But we can strive to own a moment. An example that Toni gave was about a pizza joint in Dubai and how it chose to own one moment – the ordering of pizza. Click here to read about what they did.

This, of course, led me to wonder what moment I own. Among the people that know about me, I think one moment is when they open a crappy newsletter and think, “Linda would be aghast at this.” Or they forward it to me saying, “This company needs your help.” Should I try to craft a different moment to own? Toni certainly has me thinking hard about it.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder March 31, 2015

27 March 2015

People DO Sign Up for Newsletters

“Nobody signs up for newsletters anymore.” I heard as I sat in the audience during an Infusionsoft presentation. I gritted my teeth. The presenter went on to say that newsletters are all about what’s happening with the company and have no value. A filling popped out. I kept my mouth shut till I could get home to my keyboard. Here's why...

I was chatting with a new client recently and asked her if she had a chance to look at the newsletter examples in my online gallery. She told me she had actually signed up for several of them. This is just one example that shows people still want interesting and useful information delivered to their inbox.

People say YES to value. When they know you deliver value on a regular basis, they'll sign up because they won't want to miss it. In fact, stats say that 1 in 5 people actively seek out and sign up for newsletters to get the information they want.

Creating that perception of value happens over time as you consistently meet readers’ expectations. And that presenter was right about one thing: it doesn't happen when all you talk about is yourself and your company news. So don't do that.

23 March 2015

Using that 3-Letter Word in eMail

If you've ever tried to send a newsletter with the word 'sex' in it, you'll know that spam checkers don't like it. Likewise they don't like 'ass'. Or 'financial' and 'freedom' anywhere near each other. Or many swear words.

Sometimes this can be a challenge when talking about certain topics. For example, I've had to change the word 'sex' to 'gender', and another time to 'sexual'.

But what do you do when 'kick ass' is exactly the right message you want to send? It doesn't have to be a show stopper. Find some creative way around it.

Here's an example. Debi at New Life Business Solutions sent me her content with the subject line filled in as "Need a kick in the ass?" It had to change. The alternative was "Need a kick in the posterior area?" Hardly catchy, but maybe intriguing. I tried to make up for it inside.

view full email message

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19 March 2015

Your Subject Line should Signal Your Intentions

You might think it’s a good idea to use a subject line that will make people curious about what’s inside the email - a teaser. That tactic can work well if the sender is familiar. But generally, if that’s the case, there’s no need to trick people into opening. And, if that isn't the case, there better be something really amazing within the email or your reader will feel duped - not a good thing!

Instead, consider a subject line that clearly signals what’s within. When people know what they will get and it’s relevant to them, they'll open. If it’s not relevant, they can ignore, and ignoring is much better than unsubscribing.

Consider this example: Among the many emails in my inbox every day, I found one from my local pub with the subject line ‘Open me. I’m Irish!’ The combination of the sender and the subject line meant I immediately knew they're writing to tell me about what was going on for St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps food specials and entertainment.
  1. If I was planning to go out and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I'd open it right away.
  2. If I wasn't, I'd delete it without opening it. I’m not interested in St. Patrick’s Day, but when the summer patio specials start, I want to know.
  3. And, if I wasn't sure, I'd probably leave it in my inbox for a couple of days as a reminder.
I could make all those decisions without opening the email, which saved me time.

Not every newsletter or marketing message you send will be relevant to every subscriber. Make it easy for them to know. Saving people time is a valuable thing and this strategy also grows trust.

15 March 2015

Let them Unsubscribe if they don't want your Stuff

Recently the first fine was handed down from the CRTC for violations of the new Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL). The abuse had two parts:
  1. having no unsubscribe function
  2. content not relevant to those receiving it
Those two parts go hand-in-hand. If you have an unsubscribe function, subscribers can easily signal that the content isn't relevant. (Tweet This!) And that's likely the only step they'll take.

This is a relatively easy solution to a risky situation. Reputable bulk email service providers (ESPs) are not that costly to use. It also sends a message to your subscribers that you care about their opinions and are willing to pay for them.

If you make unsubscribing easy, it will be a non-experience rather than a bad one - for both you and the subscriber.

photo by 28 Dreams / Flickr

Tweet: Let them Unsubscribe if they don't want your Stuff http://ctt.ec/7z5xg+ via @DaleyProgress

11 March 2015

Creative Domain Names

I've been thinking recently that launching businesses are likely having difficulty getting their desired domain name or even something partway relevant. It makes me happy to have my own little stash of domain names.

I'll always recommend buying a .com domain, and a .ca domain would be your second choice if you're in Canada. The short, snappy, relevant domain names are mostly all snatched up. I know because I'm often searching for domains for clients or event promotion.

If you're unfortunate to be stuck with very limited options, you might instead opt for a domain name that's more memorable, if perhaps not so easy to guess. The first round of new domain extensions are already live, and more will be launching - in fact, 243 of them!

Here's what's trending for March 2015: (source: Netfirms)
  1. .space
  2. .website
  3. .nyc
  4. .club
  5. .ninja
  6. .solutions
  7. .photo
  8. .global
  9. .buzz
  10. .guide

Aside from choice and variety, there's fun to be had, too. How about head.space or illtakeyour.photo or wehave.solutions? Granted, some of them are costly, but not all. And you can pay a fee to reserve a domain name you want, but isn't available yet.

05 March 2015

When are you Reading This?

One question I get asked a lot is, “When is the best time to send my newsletter?” If the person asking has an hour or so, we might chat about how it can depend on a lot of things about their business, strategy and target market.

Then I might tell them about the overall industry statistics. But really, do you pick Tuesday because it’s half a percent better than Monday? That will only make a difference if you have thousands of subscribers.

Consider your own email habits. How do you vet that backlog of emails you find on Monday morning? Keep in mind that, if you aren't part of your target market, your habits will vary from your subscribers’ habits. Don't project your own judgments onto your readership.

Ideally you want your newsletter to arrive when your subscriber is using their email. And when they read is often dictated by where they read - at home, at work, or out and about.

So, the answer is simple: figure out when your subscribers are using their email and send your newsletter then. The implementation is not so simple, but it may not be such a wild guess in some cases. There are industries and professions where you can pin down specific times to find subscribers at their desks. Perhaps you don't have this luxury, so survey people in your target market, formally or informally.

Are you a small business owner reading this post in your email? What day and time is it? And are you mobile or at your desk? Hit reply and let me know!

27 February 2015

A Different Name for Conversation

I've had people look at me a little oddly when I say that a newsletter is a great way to build relationships and start conversations. That's because a newsletter is often thought of as one-way communication - a broadcast, like a newspaper.

I find myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to describing what I mean, even though I've seen it happen countless times. This quote I found recently on Twitter sums it up nicely:

Writing, when properly managed, is but a different name for conversation.
- Laurence Sterne

There is a way of writing that connects with your readers and draws them in. You can tell when you're achieving this by the replies you get after your newsletter goes out. That is the start of the conversation and then it's up to you to keep it going.

photo by Ed Yourdon / Flickr

Tweet: A Different Name for Conversation http://ctt.ec/0fY0f+ via @DaleyProgress

23 February 2015

Guest Post: Designed for Success

Melanie's newsletter
The thought of designing a newsletter for a designer was a little daunting, but I jumped at the opportunity when Melanie Orr of Interiors by Melanie first approached me. I recently asked her to tell me how it's helping her small business and this is what she wrote...
My newsletter guru, Linda Daley, recently pointed out that I've passed my three year anniversary of sending out my online newsletter. I hardly believed it, yet I know why I have been successful with this strategy: it has been such an easy and enjoyable monthly endeavour. It is also a very effective way to stay in touch with clients and reach out to new potential clients.
My newsletter is the one strategy I am consistent with and do without fail. Linda schedules my issues for the year in advance and, because I have promised someone other than myself, I meet this schedule. This in turn ensures regular posting on media platforms, on my own blog, and updates to my website, as I share the newsletter. I’m always busy, and often don’t get to that post or blog I intended to do, but I always get my newsletter written.
Every issue brings comments and business from readers. That’s an amazing return on my time and investment.
Linda and her team are wonderful. It takes me about half a day each month to write the content and choose pictures to insert, and they do the rest to make it user friendly, easy to read, and beautiful. Then they send it out to my list of contacts and onto my social media platforms. It’s easy to add and remove contacts, and I can access analytics, such as how many are reading a particular issue.
As a professional in the home décor business, I believe it is critical that my newsletter reflect an understanding of great design. I like to have input into how the newsletter looks; Linda is more than qualified to do this yet supports my interference when I get a new idea. I love that she will change the whole layout occasionally when I get the urge.
When Linda gives me the schedule for the upcoming year, I pencil in ideas for each issue. Colours and styles change every year and I help keep my readers abreast of what’s trending. Decorating for holidays is fun, and spring is a big time for home selling so staging ideas are important. Maybe I have a trip planned to another part of the world where I can discover new decorating ideas, or I’m scheduled to speak at an event which my readers would find interesting. The description of a particular staging or decorating job may be a perfect way to share tips and tools. Anything happening in the news which is design related can trigger an article. The more you think about it, the more possible topics there are. Readers are encouraged to let me know if there are topics or questions they would like to see addressed. I keep a file with topics for newsletters and blogs, and I tuck in testimonials, too, so they are handy when I need one.

Interiors by Melanie has been serving the décor and staging needs of the Halifax area since 2004. Melanie can be reached at 902-223-3237 or online at interiorsbymelanie.com.

Tweet: Guest Post: Designed for Success http://ctt.ec/1ear9+ via @DaleyProgress

19 February 2015

Can't Write? Try Research

I've heard a lot of small business owners say they can’t publish a blog or newsletter because they can’t write. I think you don’t know till you try, but let’s say that’s a valid reason. There are still ways to create content on a regular basis without writing articles. One of those is researching and compiling information that’s valuable to your target market.

Valuable compilations need not be lengthy or onerous to assemble. BUT they should be two things: interesting and useful. Plus funny - funny is good, but humour in email can be tricky. Use it with care. These compilations can be factual, but don’t need to be. Instead they can represent your opinion.

Here are some examples, in this case for a target market of small business owners in Nova Scotia. You can use these ideas as a jumping off point for creating your own lists of valuable content for your target market.

  • Top 10 Coffee Shops for Business Meetings in Halifax
  • 15 Most Useful Apps for Small Business Owners
  • Networking Groups in Halifax
  • Upcoming Small Business Events
  • 5 Best Blogs for Small Business
  • 10 Facebook Pages to Like for Business Tips
  • Follow these 12 Local Tweeters for Community Info
  • 8 Options for Ordering Business Cards
  • Best Places to Hold a Workshop in Halifax
  • How to Advertise at the Airport
  • Where to get Funding for Professional Development
  • 10 Best Marketing Books
  • New Housing/Commercial Developments in the Halifax Area
  • 3 Best Places to Buy a Domain Name
  • A Complete List of Conference Centres in Nova Scotia

A successful newsletter doesn’t necessarily require writing articles. A different approach might be just what your target market wants.

photo by therealrealjd / Flickr
originally published Work Better, Not Harder February 19, 2015

Tweet: Can't Write? Try Research http://ctt.ec/XcgFa+ via @DaleyProgress

Think About Your Reader

I advocate reading what you share but, to save time, I have a short list of experts that I share without reading first. They are experts I have vetted and trust. For the most part, they have the same philosophy that I do. One of the experts on my list was a bulk email software company that shares great statistics, infographics and a few good tips.

I received an email from them that had an awesome download full of updated email statistics. I was immediately excited to have something to share quickly. Ooops. No sharing buttons in the email - which meant I did not share it. I went on to the next email. I can't afford to get distracted from my inbox. I went from excitement about sharing their content, to not sharing it at all. In 10 seconds.

Later, I came back to that email and clicked through to their website. My intent was to follow them on social media to easily share their content that way. It took me far too long to find their buried social media links and when I did, there were no social media connection links. I could Like or Tweet, but not click through to their profiles to browse, like and follow. Suddenly, they didn't seem so expert anymore. That change of heart took 20 seconds.

The result was that I removed them from my list of experts I share without reading first. They went from sending me something I was excited to share to being removed from my list of experts with one email, in 30 seconds.

I've said it many times. Think about your reader before you publish any content. Why are they reading? What is keeping them engaged with you? What do they expect from you? A single email can change everything from your reader's perspective.

Yes, I made a too quick, too harsh judgment, but the result affects the quality of my content. My reputation rides on my content. And the truth is, making sharing easy is basic email marketing. If they were experts, they would know that.

originally published Work Better, Not Harder February 19, 2015

Tweet: Think About Your Reader http://ctt.ec/s6eUh+ via @DaleyProgress

12 February 2015

eMail Marketing for Business Networking Associations

Business networking groups are in a unique position to grow their subscriber list exponentially faster than many other organizations. This also means they're in a fine position to benefit from providing useful and interesting content to their subscribers. Unfortunately this opportunity is often wasted.

A networking group will benefit from building a mailing list and sending out a regular newsletter because:
  • It reminds subscribers of upcoming meetings and agendas.
  • It encourages non-members to attend as guests.
  • It can market the benefits of membership to non-members.
  • It’s a way of staying top-of-mind within the association’s community.
  • It provides a way to promote and seek sponsors for big events, like annual fundraisers.
  • Creating valuable content is relatively easy.
On top of all this, associations can make use of a private list to communicate with members about members-only information.