Serve it upright!

Serve it up right!

Subject Line: TWM’s Release – #10: Serve it up right!

CONTENTS IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Editor’s Remarks by Terry Kent
2. Corrections for last month
3. How to Start Your Own Ezine – Part II
a) Finding the Right List Server.
b) What the Experts Use – Special Guests:
David Handlos, Roger Whittaker, and Greg Leveto
4. What’s New at The Write Market
5. Get Your Ad in TWM’s Release!
6. Administrative Information

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EDITOR’S REMARKS

Welcome all new subscribers!

I know that Renee ranted last month about “service”, but due to our recent problems with our web site host, now it’s my turn to rant. This editorial will not only show you the importance of customer service, it will also show just how little I cook and how much I eat out.

In my area there are several fast food restaurants, all part of the same chain. There’s the one with a sign at the drive-thru window that states, “fastest drive thru in town.” They are, in fact, the slowest drive-thru in town. There’s a second one where I sat at the drive-thru window waiting for service (nothing happened at the speaker so I drove up to the window – uninvited) and watched as a young woman mopped the floor and ignored me. She even stopped at one point to stare back at me for a moment. I ended up driving away, apparently the drive-thru wasn’t open that day?! There’s another restaurant in the same chain where the employees all look like they’re about to commit suicide; they pout, slouch over the register, never look you in the eye, mumble every word and look absolutely miserable the whole time they wait on you. The final restaurant in the area (same chain) has never done an order right. Even something as simple as a kid’s meal with a diet drink got me a “Mr. Pibbs” drink (I don’t even know who Mr. Pibb is).

What this leads me to conclude is that this chain feels service isn’t important. Their food is what keeps me coming back, but I have changed my habits trying to accommodate them. I now check everything in my order before pulling away from the drive-thru or walking away from the counter (regardless of how many people are behind me). You and I apparently have no idea how hard it is to get a diet drink correct.

I am on the verge of boycotting this chain. It’s just that it’s so convenient, and I happen to love their french fries. It will only take a few more instances, however, to force my hand.

How does this relate to the internet? Last month, we had a major league problem with our host. Our web site was down for the better part of two weeks. We only figured out what was happening through discussion boards and eventually a news site mentioned the problem. All we knew was that our site was down and that meant that our business was down.

After trying to reach them for days we finally got a recorded message, “we are having a domain name server problem, but sites will be back up in 3 hours.” Several DAYS later, the site finally reappeared. It flickered in and out of existence for several more days before it stabilized. This entire time we were trying to figure out what we should do. Their lack of responsiveness was driving me over the edge. I wanted out, and I wanted out IMMEDIATELY.

After Renee calmed me down, we debated for a while on what to do. Switching wasn’t going to be convenient and Renee was afraid we’d have more down time while we switched over. We decided to spend our down time looking for another host. Then when we finally could get a hold of someone at our host, we would hopefully be able to say, “Adios.”

In our search we finally found two hosts, one for our existing site and one for our new site. The two new sites will cost us less than the old one.

The thing that we looked for first and foremost, though, was responsiveness. Both new hosts responded to our emails in a few hours or a few minutes. They were helpful and respectful. We rejected several possibilities on this criteria alone. The ones that didn’t respond or were just a little too short with their answers were dismissed right away.

Our original host’s act of responsiveness was to offer anyone affected 1,000 megs of space. Fine (like I need a GIG of space). This was not good enough for us. They never really apologized or tried to contact anyone – even their own site was down for most of this time period.

In the end, the hosts we found are much smaller companies than our original host. I think that sometimes, the bigger they are doesn’t necessarily mean the better they are. People tend to go with what they know, or stay with what they know because they fear the unknown. Sometimes, it’s easier to stay and deal with it than to leave. That’s also why I feel that the service in the fast food industry could just plain stink and we’ll still continue to frequent their establishments.

The small guy, though, needs to excel at service just to have a chance to survive. We never heard of our new hosts before, they simply impressed us with their attitude. It takes more than a good product to succeed on the web these days – it only takes being burned once to become savvy to bad service. You have to WOW them with your knowledge, attitude, and responsiveness if you ever want to have a hope of competing with the big guys.

pheeewwww,

Terry Kent
[email protected]

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CORRECTIONS

1. Don Eubanks of http://www.symmesmusic.com/
(An awesome site for sheet music and karaoke tapes.) writes,

“Interesting article on your shopping experiences. I was wondering if before you wrote this article did you contact KBkids to give them an opportunity to respond to your concerns? As a business owner I want to know if customers have not had a good experience. Maybe there is nothing I can do about some things, but if I am contacted at least I have a chance to try and explain why things are done a certain way. If you did express your concerns to them I think you should have also reported their response.”

No, I did not contact them. But Don is right – I should have tried to contact them and maybe they would have made amends. I guess I was pretty hard on KBKids without giving them a chance to explain. (However, I should mention that we did give our web host many chances to explain, in Terry’s example above. We tried contacting them and they were totally unresponsive.)

2. Christina Gibbs of http://webxina.kerchunk.com/
(An eclectic bunch of stuff including rubber stamps!)

and Duncan Johnson of http://djd.freeservers.com
(Free Flight Simulator downloadable add-ons, info, and more!)

both pointed out that “Tribulations” means almost the same thing as “Trials”.

For some unknown reason, I thought that “Tribulations” was the opposite of “Trials”. (I was somehow associating “tribulation” with “trumpeting”.) So… I had to rename the article that used this phrase. It’s now called, “Should You Start Your Own Ezine?” I’ve also rewritten the article slightly – you may read it here: http://www.thewritemarket.com/ezine.shtml

(You may want to bookmark this page – that’s where we’ll be keeping the “How to Start Your Own Ezine” tutorial.)

Renee Kennedy
Correction Specialist
[email protected]

__________________
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FINDING THE RIGHT MAILING LIST PROGRAM
by Renee Kennedy

If you are new to this tutorial, please read last month’s installment at: http://www.thewritemarket.com/ezine.shtml

In this installment, we will cover the technical issues associated with maintaining a mailing list and several programs that you can use to keep track of your mailing list and send out your publication.

Technical Issues:

1. Subscribe – how will people subscribe to your mailing list? Usually, you will have an email address that people can use to subscribe to your mailing list. They simply send an email to an address ([email protected]) and they will automatically be placed on your mailing list. All of the programs or List Servers that we cover below offer an “automatic subscribe function”.

2. Unsubscribe or Remove – how will people get off your list, if they want to? This may be handled manually or automatically. In most cases you will have either a form or an email address that people may use to be removed from your mailing list.

3. Error Mails or Undeliverables – how will you handle all those undeliverable emails? When you start publishing, many of your subscribers may change their address and not inform you. When you send out your ezine, you will quickly find out about undeliverable email. Some of the programs below will handle removing undeliverables from your mailing list automatically.

4. Archives – how will you archive your ezine? Why should you archive your ezine? Archives are helpful because you can refer people to them. Many people may want to read your archives before subscribing to your newsletter. Some people may want to read them for the information they contain. You may want to refer back to them for what you wrote in previous issues. Some of the programs below will automatically archive each issue of your ezine.

5. Mailloops – what if your newsletter gets caught in a never ending mailloop? This means that you send out your newsletter and the address you send it to has an autorespond message, so it sends you back a message and then your address sends them back a message, etc. etc. Some programs will handle this problem, others won’t.

6. Security Features – are you fearful that your mail list will be discovered by spammers? If so, then you will desire security features on your mailing list program.

7. Double Opt In – this means that people must send an email to an address, they receive an email, and they must reply to that email in order to be included on your list. (They have sent out two emails or fill out one form and reply to one email in order to be included on the list.) Because your subscriber is acting twice – it’s called – “double” opt-in.

Five programs you can use to send out your email list:

1. A regular, old email program. Suggestions: Eudora or Pegasus (both shareware). These email programs may be configured to auto subscribe and auto unsubscribe people to your mailing list. It is a very simple way to maintain your mailing list. You will be in full control of your list, but you will also be required to do a little bit more manual work than a list server would offer. Be sure to read Greg Leveto’s explanation below.

2. A free List Server that comes with your host. Many hosts are now offering a free List Server. This offers you the ability to have auto subscribe. It doesn’t handle auto unsubscribe or any of the other technical issues mentioned above. It requires manual work to maintain, however, you have full control over all aspects. Read my explanation of this type of List Server below.

3. A free Mailing List Provider. You don’t need your own host. The following sites will host it for you. The following services are free – however, they will usually include their own ads at the bottom of every issue of your ezine. Usually, all of the technical issues above are addressed with these providers.

http://bravenet.com http://egroups.com/ http://www.OneList.com (David Handlos explains this one below.) http://www.listbot.com (Roger Whittaker explains this one.) http://www.coollist.com http://www.topica.com

4. A paid for Mailing List Provider. These websites will charge you for maintaining your list. All of the technical issues are addressed by these providers.

http://www.revnet.com http://www.oaknetpub.com $35/month (last time I checked) they also will run your ad campaign for you – and deduct what you make in ads from your fee.

5. Mailing List Software or Scripts – both free and for sale. I have to admit that I really don’t know a lot about this option. However, I have to let you know that it’s there. (If anyone has used a script like this and would like to do a write-up on it, I will include it in the next issue of TWM’s Release.)

You can find this type of program at places that offer CGI scripts.

http://cgi.resourceindex.com/Programs_and_Scripts/ (Check out Mailing List Management) http://icthus.net/CGI-City/index.shtml

Subscribe Me Pro can be found at: http://www.cgiscriptcenter.com/

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WHAT THE EXPERTS USE

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OneList
by David Handlos

When I decided to find a web-based service to host my newsletter, I researched several places, and finally signed up with Onelist , since it fulfilled three very important criteria for me:

1) Onelist doesn’t limit your # of subscribers.
2) It has decent anti-spam features.
3) It’s free!

After signup, the moderator(you), has complete control over the list. The moderator controls who can send messages to the list, and can ban users trying to spam the list. It can be a great help in stopping autoresponder addresses and spammers.

Even the moderator would have a problem spamming the readers. A moderator can only add 100 email addresses at a time, and each one is sent a message notifying them that they have been added.

All of the list’s messages can set to be archived on the Web. The archives can be set as public, so that anyone can see past messages. There’s also a private setting, so only registered members of the list can browse through the back issues.

Subscribing or unsubscribing to a newsletter on Onelist is pretty simple. People can send a blank email to: to subscribe, or to unsubscribe from a list.

Onelist’s features work quite well, but some of their features can also work against it:

1) Since moderators can only add 100 addresses at a time, anyone who wants to move a large existing list to Onelist would have to contact the Onelist staff for help, or spend hours adding members 100 at a time.

2) Since it is a free service, it attaches a small ad to the bottom of any message that is sent. Companies concerned with maintaining a professional image may have a problem with having another business posting an advertisement on their messages.

Onelist’s free newsletter service is simple to set up, simple to use, with a surprising number of features. If you’re interested in starting a publication for free, and don’t mind a small ad at the bottom of each issue, Onelist may be the service for you.

David Handlos
CrossLinkz.com: Free Stuff Directory
http://www.crosslinkz.com
Need to find something for free? Subscribe to the Top Picks Newsletter for our biweekly helping of freebies.

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Listbot
by Roger Whittaker

is a popular web based mailing list program. So what, you say? Staying in touch with clients is an important marketing tool, and rather than setting up software (whether on your computer or server), or spending hours maintaining and updating the software, Listbot is ready to go, right now.

Have you ever noticed that it can be challenging, from the web visitors point of view, to enroll/signup for an email list. Or even worse, to remove yourself from an email list? When a user signs up at *any* web site that uses Listbot, they don’t have to retype any of their information, it does this for them automatically.

In fact, a web visitor can visit the Listbot member section, and remove themselves at any time. They can also send an email to a special email address to be removed. They can even use a web form, and rather than subscribe, they can choose unsubscribe. The user is left in control of their account and information, something they feel comfortable about.

If a user already trusts the Listbot name and/or service, they may be more apt to sign up for your newsletter. It’s unfortunate, but it is sometimes risky giving out a personal or business email address to a web site. This may be a step in the right direction by helping add one more element of credibility for your web site.

I hear you, but I’m sure it must cost too much.

Nope. That’s the best part, it’s free! However, for those higher end needs, they do have a premium service ($19.95 a month) that includes Listbot Gold, 5,000 monthly Link Exchange banners, and Submit It services.

So where do I get started? I’ll bet you have several outstanding questions related to your specific needs. The best place I suggest starting is visiting Listbot’s home page http://listbot.com, and then review the Frequently Asked Questions for the List Owner.

It’s all about establishing the right relationship with your web visitor. Listbot has been a time saver and an effective tool in sending our email newsletters.

Will it be good for me? Give it a try, it’s free!

Roger Whittaker [email protected] of Whittaker Technologies, LLC. online provider of 100’s of popular gifts for every occasion at GiftFriends.com, http://www.giftfriends.com, and online provider of business and webmaster resources at http://www.startyourbusinessday.com.

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Pegasus Mail
by Greg Leveto

Pegasus Mail is NOT a listserver, it’s simply an email program with distribution list capabilities.

It’s Freeware, available for download on the web at http://www.pegasus.usa.com/

Features:
a. automatic subscribe (by an email address) — yes
b. automatic unsubscribe (by an email address) — yes
c. automatic removal of undeliverables or error mails — no
d. archives — no
e. mailloops — no
f. security features — everything is contained on my PC — not on the web.
g. double opt-in — this is available if companion program “Mercury” is installed. I can also use my web host autoresponders, then feed subscribers to me at the subscribe email address.

Recommended only for small lists. I have about 200-250 subscribers. With auto subscribe/unsubscribe, there is no work. It takes a few minutes to delist bad addresses each issue — these are mostly from email spammers. It’s simple. It’s free. It’s 100% under my control. I also use it for daily email instead of Eudora — Pegasus has more basic features. Companion program “Mercury” can extend the features. Also a list of add-ons available from their site. Support is handled from other users with good response.

However, there are no real bells and whistles. If you don’t know what you are doing, or want to spend no time on your list, then a listserver may be easier, and more intuitive .

I don’t use a subscribe confirmation, but it could be rigged with an autoresponder. You could have subscribe info go to an autoresponder for a return email containing the “real” subscribe address. This could eliminate most of the email spammer addresses then they would not have to be manually deleted. Then the only maintenance would be manual removal of “dead” addresses.

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A List Server Provided Through Your Host
by Renee Kennedy

The price of this List Server will depend on your web host. If you shop around, the host should provide this for free.

Features:
a. automatic subscribe (by an email address) — yes
b. automatic unsubscribe (by an email address) — no
c. automatic removal of undeliverables or error mails — no
d. archives — no
e. mailloops (autorespond messages) — no
f. security features — no

Recommended only for small lists. Usually this type of program will not take more than 1,000 subscribers on the list. You can make a couple lists, if you go over 1,000 subscribers – our host allows us to keep as many lists as we like. This type of list is an excellent way to start out your ezine. It’s free, everything is within your control, email addresses are stored on your server with your website, you can add and delete people from the list as you choose. The autosubscribe function takes away a lot of work.

It would be much better with an auto unsubscribe function – but – it really only takes about an hour each month to delete all of the bad email addresses and all of the unsubscribes. Because it’s free, I’m willing to spend that hour.

The other thing I like about it is the simplicity. There is no double opt in – and actually, I like that better. I get worried that people will forget that second response. I feel more comfortable deleting them later on if they really don’t like or need our ezine.

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WHAT’S NEW AT THE WRITE MARKET

A new website:
http://www.allwritedesign.com/

We’ve archived every issue of TWM’s Release –
http://www.thewritemarket.com/archives.shtml

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GET YOUR AD IN THIS EZINE

Getting your ad into TWM’s Release is NO LONGER FREE!

In order to get your ad in the newsletter – you must answer the contest questions above
OR
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OR
pay us big money and we’ll put your ad in! ($5 per issue for a 10 line ad – contact [email protected] for more info.)

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