Detour!

August 25, 2008

Sometimes the freedom of the Twisting Road means you get to try a new route to see how it works. And sometimes the freedom of the Twisting Road means you get to take the route off your plan when it doesn’t work out for you.

I have been using an autoresponder for several months now to send out my newsletter, now titled On The Twisting Road. During that time I’ve seen a slow but steady trickle of new subscribers coming in, which seemed great, considering I have not used any pay-per-click advertising or search engine optimization to get potential subscribers. Heck, I don’t even have a free give-away to entice people to sign up!

I noticed recently that some of the new subscriber names were things like “Casino Nights,” and later they were the names of – how to be prudent? – enhancement drugs for men. So I finally paid more attention to my autoresponder and what’s happening.

It turns out most of the new subscribers never actually opted in the second time. That means a name and e-mail address were entered and put on my “waiting list,” which shows dozens of people, nearly one hundred. But they don’t go on the list to receive the newsletter until they click the link to confirm their subscription. That list is just a dozen.

Looking carefully at the list of unconfirmed names and e-mail addresses, it appears they are the equivalent of S-P-A-M. For example, the name might say “Dave” but the e-mail address is “Tony@provider” where the provider is something like “Mail.com.”

I’ve been spending two dollars and fifty cents per actual subscriber per month (about thirty dollars) to send out e-mail using an autoresponder. The first lesson I learned is: pay close attention to the information on new subscribers to see if they are real. I assumed they were real until they started being named after pharmaceuticals.

The second lesson I learned: don’t get an autoresponder and then sit around waiting for people to sign up. I didn’t need an autoresponder to send out my e-mail until I got to around fifty names. I’m not there yet, now that I checked the list carefully. I could have sent the newsletter manually until I was ready to focus on building my list. Money wasted.

The third lesson I learned: automated nonsense garbage comes to you in many forms, including sign-up forms and contact forms as well as blog posts. I have gotten increasingly more responses through a contact form on my web site. They are either nasty ads or meaningless gibberish with links to web sites. I have started getting the same kind of nonsense as comments to my blog posts. They say things like, “I agree. Couldn’t have said it better!” where such a comment is not related to the post, and there are imbedded web site URLs.

I’m going to pull down the contact form from my web site – as soon as I figure out how to do it! I know how to change a page, but I have to figure out how to remove one. I have the blog comments on “moderate” so I see things before they go public, which keeps these nasty ads and garbage off the blog site. And I have decided I’m going to shut down my autoresponder account so I can save the thirty dollars per month until I’m ready to build a list.

Didn’t I write a post somewhere about doing things in the right order? And didn’t I write, in that same post, about the difference between having a plan and just using tools with no clear plan?

Absolutely I did! And absolutely I got sidetracked and detoured by jumping in too soon to an autoresponder.

Hopefully this will keep one of you (and there are more than a dozen who read this blog – it’s not just my confirmed newsletter subscribers!) from wasting money paying for a service before you need it.

But you know what? If you do start using a service or a tool before you have a real purpose for it, you’ll be learning and growing and figuring out what’s right for you. That’s a big part of the fun anyway.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

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