Don’t Put Me On Your List


Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie teaches consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win their ideal clients by becoming seen as authorities in their field.


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Business Development Mindset

Don’t Put Me On Your List

on .

You've got mail!A topic I've blogged about frequently is the importance of good follow-up and of nurturing relationships over time.

In The Importance of Good Follow-Up I highlighted the futility of the “Nice to meet you, if you ever need our services…” email follow-up to networking meetings and suggested a number of value-adding alternatives.

One trend I've noticed recently is the increasing use of email newsletters as a follow-up mechanism. It's a trend I whole heartedly applaud – my business is driven by email marketing. But only when you do it right.

And signing people up for your email newsletter without their permission is absolutely the wrong way to do it.

On at least half a dozen occasions recently I've found myself subscribed to email newsletters from people and companies who I've met briefly at networking meetings. I've given them my business card and they've plugged it straight into their email distribution list.

This is a follow-up mechanism that has the potential to add value if the newsletter is of high quality and relevant to me. But how does it make me feel to have my details “harvested” in this way?

To be honest, not great.

It feels impersonal. I've not had an email or call from them. Nothing mentioning any connection we made at the event and no thought from them on tailoring the message to my specific needs. I've just been fed into their email marketing machine.

I wondered whether I was the only one who felt this way, so I posed the question on Twitter to see how others felt:

How do you feel if you're auto subscribed to an email newsletter?

As you can see from this sample of responses, people's feelings are almost universally negative. They range from “I want to *smack* them!” and “it sucks!” to at best, “my junk filtering can soon take care of them if they fail to send me anything interesting or useful”. And remember, these negative responses are to something as seemingly innocent as adding someone's name to an email distribution list after meeting them. For me, Kneale Mann summed up the sentiment best best when he replied: “A handshake does not make you a customer”.

Obviously, Twitter followers are not a sample that's representative of the public at large. But I do believe they represent an important and growing sensitivity to the appropriate use of information.

So what's the alternative?

Well, since you are interacting face to face with them, there should be ample opportunity to offer to send the newsletter and get their permission.

If the time isn't right when you meet them, then send them an email afterwards with a sample copy of the newsletter suggesting it might be of interest and giving a link to sign-up if they are. Personalise the emails – recalling topics you discussed or better still – add value by suggesting ideas for questions they posed or challenges they highlighted when you were talkign with them.

Now don't get me wrong, this is my opinion as to what you should do rather than something that is proven to have better results. I haven't done any testing to see what results in better long-term subscriptions, click throughs on the newsletter or eventually sales.

But for me that doesn't matter. If you want to establish a reputation as someone who can be trusted then you mustn't do anything early on in the relationship to suggest an abuse of trust. Auto-subscribing people to your newsletter without asking is hardly the crime of the century – but to many people it suggests that you will not treat them as individuals with their best interests at heart.

Personally, I'd rather lose potential newsletter subscribers than lose that reputation of trust.


PS Many thanks to all the Twitter users who replied to my poll on this topic – your answers were most helpful.

You can follow me on Twitter at

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Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie teaches consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win their ideal clients by becoming seen as authorities in their field.

  • user

    AUTHOR Michael D. Goodman

    Posted on 1:36 am March 21, 2009.

    Hello Ian,

    Thanks for the excellent insight. As a fellow business consultant and sales professional I have pondered this question regularly.

    I have personally settled on a little more extensive effort that does a much better job of fostering trust and credibility with my potential buyers even though I may have only met them over a handshake and a cocktail.

    After each event I send a template email, that is personalized with their name and the name of the event we met at. I point out that it is rare for me to share all the elements of sales I am involved in at any given event and that I like to send an email follow up to personally invite them to participate in any of the sales activities I participate in that may support them. I clearly recognize in the email that they may not be interested in anything and they are certainly under no obligation but they are more than welcome if they choose.

    I then share my Linkedin profile, my twitter address, my blog, and an invitation to several online and live sales associations I lead or participate in.

    It is a completely opt-in environment that only draws people who have demonstrated an interest in knowing more. Frankly, it helps qualify future prospects more effectively. ( I aint gonna sell nothing they aren’t interested in…)

    While it is more work, it establishes a trust relationship, invites them into my world and lets them opt out with no further action required on their part. In fact, the email has a scrubber in it that allows them to never receive an eamil from me again in the future. That option has not been used yet, I suspect because, as you said, the indications are I will not attempt to take advantage of them.

    Hope this is something your readers can use. I am not following you on twitter and if you get feedback, I would love to hear about it.


  • user

    AUTHOR Ian Brodie

    Posted on 12:11 pm March 21, 2009.

    @Michael D. Goodman – Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful reply Michael. I’m sure readers would benefit from considering doing something similar themselves.

    You also rightly point out that it gives you a more qualified list too. If someone is so uninspired by the meeting with you, your email and/or sample newsletter that they can’t be bothered to click a button to sign-up then they’re unlikely to have been a great prospect anyway.


  • user

    AUTHOR Chelsea

    Posted on 7:00 pm March 22, 2009.

    Good article Ian. I have been wary of using email newsletters as a follow-up mainly because I often find them of little value in terms of building a long lasting relationship with future clients and associates. I too much prefer sending a personal friendly email which does a lot in making a good impression and offers relevant services and products.


  • user

    AUTHOR Terri Zwierzynski

    Posted on 4:21 am March 23, 2009.

    No, no, no. Definitely don’t want to be unknowingly subscribed to a newsletter. I’d be hitting the gmail spam button pretty quick!

    Here’s a slightly different approach: Do something for them. Chances are you talked about their needs at some time in the conversation (right?) — follow up with a resource, an article, something. Ideally, it would be something on your website (where your opt-in box is clearly displayed). Even if it’s not, you still have the chance, similar to Michael’s suggestion, to put an invite to your newsletter in your email sig (along with twitter/facebook/linkedin addresses.)

    People will always remember that you helped them and didn’t ask for anything in return :)
    Terri Z

  • user

    AUTHOR Dinesh Kandanchatha

    Posted on 1:01 am March 26, 2009.

    To be trully CANSPAM compliant (US antispam legistlation) anyone who emails you should follow a double opt in process where you are able to subscribe for the newsletter. A perhaps better approach would be post networking event send a follow up email with the highlights of what your newsletter covers and why it would be relevent to stay in touch. Most email service providers offer this kind of “list building” service which allows recipients to opt in for mailings that are directly relevent to them. Otherwise its just junk.

    Dinesh Kandanchatha

  • user

    AUTHOR Ian Brodie

    Posted on 11:23 pm March 26, 2009.

    Dinesh – I don’t believe you’re right.

    Double opt-in isn’t required by CANSPAM. Single opt-in is enough – as long as there’s an opt-out link in the email. And having a pre-established “business relationship” allows a name and email address to be added to a list without an electronic opt-in – meeting face to face and swapping business cards would seem to meet this criteria of a pre-established relationship.

    I completely agree (as per my post) that you shouldn’t auto-subscribe folks – but there’s nothing in CANSPAM to prevent it.


  • user

    AUTHOR Sharon Wilson

    Posted on 1:01 am April 18, 2009.

    Great blog. I’m more likely to unsubscribe myself.

  • user

    AUTHOR Reeta Luthra | Stress and Health

    Posted on 2:01 am February 13, 2010.

    I commented on two blogs some time ago and got added to their mailing list! Wasn’t impressed at all.

    It’s hard to take someone seriously when they turn their online “social” interactions into nothing but a snare.

  • user

    AUTHOR Ian

    Posted on 2:06 am February 13, 2010.

    Hi Reeta – another great comment!

    I was thinking in the post more of face-to-face networking but you’re right – it can happen online too.

    I know there’s a plugin for wordpress that allows commenters to subscribe to your newsletter by checking a box. I’ve looked at it myself. And it’s also possible to get it to default to having the box pre-checked which I don’t think is a good idea. We’re all increasingly intolerant of that sort of thing.


  • user

    AUTHOR Jules Thomas

    Posted on 2:11 pm March 11, 2012.

    It get’s worse, just lately I find myself added to mailing lists because I have agreed with them on social media, almost no interaction at all and yet those responsible presume to think I am going to be at all interested in their newsletter. This has happened 4-5 times in the last couple of months and my usual response is to unsubscribe straight away.

    Where is the relationship building? Where’s the pleased to meet you even! At this level I am afraid it is just spam

    Thanks for highlighting this issue, it seems to be escalating.

    Best wishes


  • user

    AUTHOR Brendan Cullen

    Posted on 4:29 pm March 11, 2012.

    A good anchor is to treat others as you would like to be treated. And, if your list is qualified (by it being opt-in), your conversion rate will be higher.

  • user

    AUTHOR Ian

    Posted on 9:09 pm March 11, 2012.

    I’d not heard of people adding you to their mailing list just because you’re connected on social media – madness!


  • user

    AUTHOR Paul

    Posted on 2:55 pm March 12, 2012.

    Your followers could do worse than read, Permission Marketing, Seth Godin’s excellent book on the subject

  • user

    AUTHOR Ian Brodie

    Posted on 3:55 pm June 26, 2014.

    Indeed. Probably the original on doing it right.

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