Should I Send My List Broadcasts or Follow-Ups?
There are two types of messages you can send to your list: "follow-ups" that are sent to each subscriber in a scheduled sequence, and "broadcasts" that go to the entire list at once. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses.
Follow-ups are ideal for sending a coordinated sequence of messages designed to turn new subscribers into paying customers. For example, you might give away a free report or software tool to new subscribers, and then use a series of follow-up messages to explain the advantages of upgrading to a paid version or buying a related product.
Once you've inserted each message into your follow-up sequence, it's sent to each new subscriber a fixed number of days after they subscribe. It's as if you were following up individually with each subscriber, but it runs on autopilot.
Follow-ups are powerful, but they have weaknesses. First, they're not useful for truly time-sensitive offers, because they go to each subscriber at a different time. They're sometimes used for artificially time-sensitive offers, but subscribers can easily bypass time limits by deleting browser cookies and/or subscribing with a different email address.
Another problem with follow-ups is that if you insert new messages into the middle of your sequence, subscribers who've already passed that message may receive a later message twice. (This problem really should be fixed by mailing list services, but at least some of the major providers haven't yet addressed it.)
Since you control exactly when broadcasts are sent to all of your subscribers, they're ideal for time-sensitive messages.
Broadcasts are also ideal if you're constantly generating new content, and aren't concerned with whether new subscribers receive past content. For example, if you blog regularly, you can set up an automated "blog broadcast" that monitors your blog for new posts and broadcasts them to your list.
The problem with broadcast messages is that you have to keep producing new content for your list to keep the relationship warm.
You Can Use Both
Of course, you can use both types of messages with the same list. Some marketers generate new content sporadically, broadcast any time-sensitive messages, and tack the rest onto their end of their follow-up sequence.
Be aware that if you send frequent broadcasts, they can disrupt the normal follow-up sequence. If your follow-ups are a closely related series, you should avoid sending broadcasts to subscribers who haven't received them all. Most mailing list services should enable you to specify that broadcasts shouldn't be sent to subscribers who haven't yet received a particular follow-up message.
What If You're Not Sending Either?
What if you've followed the advice of your mentors and created a mailing list, and you've figured out a way to entice people to subscribe, but you haven't yet figured out what to send.
Maybe you have 3, 4, 7, 10 follow-up messages queued up, but you're not broadcasting, so once a subscriber finishes the initial sequence, they just sit there gathering moss.
Ray Edwards addressed that situation today on his blog:
Here's the lesson: there is a fortune in the follow-up.
But why stop with seven messages? Why stop with 10?
Here's my recommendation: block out 3 to 4 hours one day, and write up at least 52 follow-up messages. ... Make sure every e-mail in your follow-up sequence has a call to action, even if it's simply redirecting prospects back to your blog...
My point is simple: once someone raises their hand and volunteers to be marketed to, why on earth would you ever stop marketing until they ask you to stop?
Here's my recommendation: either find a way to consistently produce and mail new content, or follow Ray's recommendation.