Why Won't You Get On My Mailing List?

Dear Email Diva,

Working in the health-care industry can make it difficult to market to the people in one's community. We incorporate e-newsletters in various health services including cancer, heart, women's services and others -- but what steps can we take to grow our email list to the general public in the area? We have an "Add me to Mailing List" link on our left nav, but how can I help grow that list? Any ideas?

John Bruce

Providence Health & Services - California

Dear John,

The Email Diva wakes up every day and wonders -- am I on enough mailing lists? Are there mailing lists I should be on that I just don't know about? How can I get on more mailing lists?

OK, sarcasm aside, this is what most approaches assume -- that if we only knew there was a mailing list, we would be clamoring to get on it. In our overstimulated world, consumers are looking to manage the volume of marketing messages coming at them -- witness satellite radio, DVRs, pop-up blockers and spam filters -- not add to them.



If you want consumers to pay you the ultimate compliment, granting you access to their inboxes, you have to earn it. You have to develop content they desire and then tell them why it's brilliant.

Most of the health-care newsletters I receive, whether postal or email, are so general, unfocused and lengthy that they discourage readership. We don't want to hear about your latest hire, your new building or your advances in treating the disease I don't have.

What do we want instead? Precise, targeted, timely information. We want what we want when we want it. We may want to know about six dietary changes that reduce our risk of cancer, a personal story of how someone beat the disease we have, or what to do now that we've been diagnosed with X. Talk to those who talk to patients to understand typical questions/issues and identify the gaps in available materials. Yes, you can talk about you, but only after you have met the needs of your audience.

Your site is information-rich, and your sign-up form has good preference options for tailoring content to readers' needs. It may be that you produce fabulous newsletters but just haven't managed to convince me (or anyone else). Provide samples and back issues of your e-newsletter to meet this need and keep your site information fresh. You also have two links -- one presumably to the postal mail newsletter with fewer options, although you ask for an email address -- which is confusing.

Consider an onboarding series for new subscribers. Someone who has just been diagnosed wants information NOW, so create an introductory series that starts immediately and provides basic information and resources for those just starting the journey.

For those interested in general wellness information, consider writing for other email publications that reach your audience, to demonstrate your helpful content, with a link to your sign-up form. Write an article for the garden club on women's health, or one on nutrition and fitness for the local yoga co-op. They'll be delighted to have your content and you'll have an excellent forum.

When you have a sound strategy for meeting the information needs of your audience, boil down the value proposition into a thick, rich, meaty statement. Then make that statement "prominent, compelling and everywhere" (to quote Stephanie Miller of Return Path): on your site, on complementary sites and in your printed materials.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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