Knowledge Is Power: Free E-Mail Intelligence

The old adage “knowledge is power” is truer now then ever.

Think about how the email business has changed over the last two years. Consider changes that will take place by 2005, when IDC predicts over 36 billion person-to-person emails will be sent every single day. Think about regulations that will be adopted to prevent spam and other abuses. What will it take to survive as an email marketer?

Here’s a little something that can really help you prepare for the future: email discussion lists and groups. Sure, they’ve been around since the early 1970s, but I’ll bet few of you tap into the wealth of information they have to offer.

That should change, particularly in light of a growing number of email professionals in services and in marketing. They’re joining these services (which, by the way, are free) in droves. Each brings unique expertise to the mix that further enhances the quality of the information that’s exchanged.

E-mail discussion groups and lists are basically peer communities that provide members with powerful information. Each community has a common denominator: Members share interests and are willing to discuss experiences and knowledge pertaining to every aspect of email marketing. Members share thoughts, advice, and suggestions. They participate by emailing a community address or posting to the community message board. That information is forwarded automatically to other members, who can add their own thoughts and suggestions to the conversation.

I currently belong to some 25 lists and groups that cover a variety of marketing and advertising areas. Membership does results in a lot of email (I get, on average, between 5 and 15 “list posts” daily from each one). The knowledge I gain is well worth it.

Often, participants are industry leaders and professionals who live and breathe specific topics on a daily basis. They share that information with their peers. That alone makes these lists invaluable.

Our business provides a wide variety of marketing-related services. As such, I belong to several lists hosted by Adventive. Topics include Internet copywriting and ad design, sales, even public relations. I’ve received excellent help from members, ranging from ideas and suggestions to solutions to unique problems we’ve encountered. We keep each other apprised of new technologies that have the potential to impact our business. Just by being part of a community, I’ve enjoyed helping others as much as they’ve helped me.

If you’re not already participating in discussion groups and/or lists, it’s not difficult to get started. First, identify areas of specific interest, such as spam, email filters, design, or marketing in general. Start at some of the major discussion group and list hosts, such as Adventive and Topica Use their search features to find groups that match your interests.

Alternately, locate directories of discussion groups and list directories, such as L-Soft’s CataList and PAML, both of which are searchable databases of tens of thousands of public lists.

You can also search any major search engine for groups. Many offer their own discussion groups covering a wide range of subjects. Use terms such as “email discussion group” combined with terms for your specific interests. Be prepared to sort through thousands of hits when using this method.

Finally, I highly recommend you keep discussion list email out of your primary inbox. Create a hierarchy process to filter mail automatically into the group’s folder, keeping your inbox clutter-free (if you’re anything like me, it’s too late for that!).

Discussion groups and lists are not one-sided newsletter communications. They don’t exist for you alone. They’re a mutual, reciprocal method of sharing information, ideas, and expertise that benefit the group as a whole. If you participate actively and effectively, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of usable, useful information to improve your email marketing business.

Keep reading.

Meet Paul at ClickZ E-Mail Strategies in New York City on May 19 and 20.

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