How to Destroy Your Mailing List in Four Easy Steps

Any social media expert worth their Twitter followers will tell you that you need to build a solid mailing list*. A well-built e-mail list is a ridiculously powerful tool you can use to build the sort of community you most desire. 

Of course, you must decide how to build it, and what to do with it once you have it. Like any powerful tool, you can use your list to build the Taj Mahal, or a giant crap factory that churns out endless rivers of useless spam. (tweetable) In nearly a decade on the periphery of conservative politics, I’ve subscribed to (and have been press-ganged into) dozens of mailing lists. Some of them were great. Others were…well, lets just say I had some candidates and organizations in mind when I wrote these tips**. Here are a few helpful tips for how to utterly destroy your carefully-built mailing list, gleaned from my experiences.

1) Dragoon new subscribers onto your list. Permission is overrated, isn’t it? This is social media. The gatekeepers are down, baby, and you don’t have to follow The Man’s rules anymore. Let’s build that list! The first thing you need to do is create a couple tricky little opt-in forms. Maybe you can run a little contest and give away a couple cheap t-shirts or something. The point is you really don’t want to obviously let people know that by giving you their e-mail address, they’re also signing up for your mailing list. They might say “no”, right? Can’t have that. 

But that’s only the first step. Next, buy an e-mail list. Don’t know where to look? Check out a big conference and ask the group in charge. Wave cash. (tweetable) Add those thousands of people to your list and make note of the number. You’ll want to brag about it later to those groups who organically build their puny, flaccid lists. Those sillies. 

2) Spam your list relentlessly. Once you have a list bulging with addresses, it’s only natural that you should send them e-mails. Lots of e-mails. About everything. Did your organization issue a press release? Mail it! Did your candidate put out a statement in support of National Forest Products Week***? Your subscribers must know! Some reporter somewhere mentioned your group in an article? Cut and paste the whole darned thing! Your candidate kissed three babies at a county fair? If you’re playing along, you’ve probably guessed the answer: send an e-mail.


Three babies? Three e-mails! Everything gets an e-mail, no matter how trivial or boring the subject. Permission is for chumps! (tweetable) You have a list to churn and, by Rove’s Thinning Hairline, you’re going to churn like a Pilgrim housewife who just discovered how to twerk. 

3) SELL ALL THE THINGS! E-mail isn’t just for press releases and YouTube videos, though. There’s money to be made from your list. You have to sell, sell, SELL — t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, t-shirts with bumper stickers stuck to them, keychains, everything. (tweetable) No matter the real point of your e-mail (Forest Products, Hooray!), always include a pitch for some piece of merch with your logo on it. Imagine yourself as a cross between Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross and a heroin addict. A-B-S. Always Be Selling. Your next hit is in the next t-shirt sale. Go get it every day, all the time! Ignore the objections, even if they come from the mailing list itself. Those people don’t understand why money is so important in politics. Besides, they probably just want a new, hot t-shirt design. Quick! Call up that college kid you rooked into doing the last design for free!  

4) Hide the escape hatch. A few years ago, Congress passed this annoying little piece of legislation called CAN-SPAM. One of its provisions says you have to provide a method for people to opt out of your mailing list and you have to include that method in every e-mail you send. But while you legally have to let people opt-out of your list, no one ever said you had to make it easy on them. Here’s what you do. Make the opt-out link as small as you can and stick it all the way at the bottom of your e-mail, down by the copyright notice. When the would-be escapee clicks it, make sure they get another page that will require another click to opt-out. Then send them an e-mail to which they have to reply in some way. Once they jump those hoops, and have escaped your list, send them one more e-mail to ask what went wrong and beg them to take you back. Pride? You have none at this point. Might as well e-mail one last video of you singing “Baby, Please Don’t Go”. (tweetable)

Better yet, skip the e-mail stuff altogether. Give them an e-mail address and make them write to you to get off the list. You have 10 days to take them off your list so spend that time wisely. Send them as many e-mails as you can in that period. Maybe they’ll buy a t-shirt!

Of course, you do have other options. You can choose not to burn your e-mail list to the ground. You can build your list deliberately by giving your subscribers real value and protecting their time and attention. You can only send out your best content tailored for those super-fans you’ve attracted. You can sell in less desperate ways. You can give people open channels to talk with you and a clear way to leave if they want to. You can build a real community around your candidate or cause.

Or you can run rampant and wreck your reputation. You get to choose.

*That’s not hyperbole. Spend a few minutes and read David Risley, Jeff Goins, Chris Brogan, Michael Stelzner, Monica Hemingway, or Andrea Whitmer

**No, I won’t tell you who. Hang around social media for a little while, especially during election season, and the culprits will become readily apparent.

***It really exists.

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia)