Email discussion list – Hosted providers

Electronic mailing lists ensure the right people are included in the discussion.

Email discussion list around a table

Have you ever tried to have a group discussion by email? Do you find yourself double-checking and triple-checking the recipient list before sending, worried someone will be excluded? And have you noticed how hard it is to add a newcomer to an ongoing email discussion? Personal email accounts are not designed to handle the volume of traffic or the nuances of managing an email discussion list. For example, how do you ensure people reply to all?

About ten years ago, one of my church clients embraced the use of electronic mailing lists for group coordination and decision making. They had one list for the church board, another for elders, and one for church-wide announcements. Over the years we tried several ways of managing the lists. We tried mailing list software managed by a shared web host; open-source software that tied in with the client’s content management system; and a provider that specialized in mailing lists. In the end, we chose the specialized provider because it just worked, and we could use the client’s domain name for the email lists.

An email discussion list provides an easy way of consistently reaching all the right people. Here are two hosted providers that worked well for me.

Two email discussion list providers

I have tried several hosted mailing list providers, and two of them really stood out to me.

1) If you want mailing list addresses that match your domain name, I suggest Simple Lists. They charge a monthly fee, but for me it’s worthwhile to have something hassle-free, private-label, and customizable.

As shown in the screenshots below, Simple Lists gives you lots of flexibility to run announcement (aka newsletter) and discussion lists. For example, they give you the option of requiring approval for subscriptions, un-subscriptions, and posting new messages to the group. You may also choose whether replies go to the original sender or to the whole group.

2) Google Groups is a great option if price is a concern and you don’t need to use a specific domain name. As expected, you have the ability to choose who can join and send messages, whether approval is needed for posting new messages, and who receives any replies. At one point, I helped a 50-member Bible study group set up an email discussion list using Google Groups. We didn’t care about domain names and we didn’t have any money, so this was a good fit for us.

More people use email than Facebook

There are lots of tools for having a group discussion online. Sometimes the best methods are not the coolest.

It may surprise you to hear this. Research shows email is the most common way to talk online. Overall, an estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide use email. That number is going up even as more people start using social media. And by social media I mean the dominant brand, Facebook. One study showed 40% of Americans over the age of 12 still didn’t have a Facebook account in 2014. Compare that with another study saying 20% of adult Americans were not actively using email in 2013.

I just threw a bunch of numbers at you. What do they mean? More people use email than social media. Email is still the common denominator.

I don’t know the right answer for your situation. Maybe it’s something completely different–in which case I want to here about it! Still, I suspect more groups and teams would benefit from an email-based discussion system.


Perhaps email is the right way for your group to keep in touch online. If so, consider using a hosted email discussion list to keep your team connected and communicating. You will rest easily knowing all the right people got your message and no one was excluded.

Question: Which online discussion tools have worked well for you? Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Ebook marketing by word-of-mouth

Three tips to let social media boost your exposure

woman reading ebook

Do you have an essay or ebook that desperately needs to reach an audience? Do you feel like your message deserves to be heard by more people? Let Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks boost your word-of-mouth marketing. Here are three tips to help you get going.

Earlier this year, I met a guy who wrote an extensive ebook about the Bible, world history, and future events. He invested a lot of time and energy into this, and it showed. He had a definite and urgent message to share about our need for a personal relationship with Jesus. Sadly, his strategy for reaching people did not match the urgency of his message. In the age of Facebook, his strategy is to use word-of-mouth referrals and to send PDFs by email. Frankly, his message deserves more attention than that.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get your message out there.

Tip 1 – Trade it for a relationship

Should you sell the ebook or give it away?

Well, there’s actually a third option! You can offer the ebook in exchange for something other than money, such as permission to follow up with the recipient. That’s why many people offer ebooks as an incentive for joining a mailing list. By offering a mailing list subscription, you give the reader a chance to receive more valuable opportunities that may develop later. And you get better exposure for your next ebook!

The easiest way to collect mailing list subscriptions is with a website, which brings us to the next point.

Tip 2 – Give your ebook an address

If people are going to spread the word, they need a location they can point to and say, “Take a look at what I found over here!” That means your ebook needs an Internet address, and preferably one that you control. A one-page website would be sufficient. It doesn’t need to be complicated!

To make it even easier for people to spread your message by word-of-mouth, include some sharing buttons on your ebook’s web page. People who visit your page can click a sharing button to begin a conversation with their friends about your message. And the conversation will automatically include a link back  to your page, leading more people to read your message.

Tip 3 – Get a professional ebook cover design

Despite the age-old saying, people actually do judge books by their covers. What is on the outside is just as important as the inside. You took the writing seriously, and that’s why you also need to get a professional ebook cover design. The book cover design can even serve double-duty as the basis for your website design!

You don’t have to be an artist or even know one personally. One option is to use a service like 99designs to launch a design contest. You get to preview a bunch of ideas and choose what works for you. Or you could use stock photography from shutterstock or iStockphoto.

Whatever you do, make sure the cover art fairly represents your message. A cheap sketch or bare-text cover will send the wrong signal to those who need to connect with what you wrote inside.


You don’t need to spend a lot of money to boost your ebook’s word-of-mouth marketing. Let the Internet work in your favor by following these three tips. Trade your ebook for a relationship, create a website people can share, and grab attention with a professional cover design. Your message deserves to be heard by more people.

Question: Which of these tips will be the easiest for you to implement? Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Email and website – How they fit together

Matching email and website addresses build trust.

email and website servers on the Internet

Have you ever wondered why some people have email and website addresses that don’t match each other? Like and What did that tell you about their professionalism?

Email and website systems work hand-in-hand, and matching their addresses adds professionalism to your brand identity. That means more trust. I want you to have the insight you need to piece together these two systems. Let’s take a look at how email and website systems fit together.

Email and Website Servers

First, I need to give you a little bit of background. Don’t worry, we won’t go into much technical detail. But you need to understand how things fit together on a conceptual level.

Email traffic is handled by email servers called mail exchanges (MX) or message transfer agents (MTA). The email server may be a separate machine or just another piece of software running on a shared machine. The server speaks special languages called the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). The first is used for sending email to the server, and the second is used for downloading messages to your phone or PC.

Website traffic is handled by web servers. Like the email server, the web server can be a separate machine or another software on the same one. This server speaks a special language called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTP sends website data to your phone or PC.

DNS Holds Them Together

The glue that holds the email and website systems together is called the Domain Name System (DNS). Most domain name registrars will manage the DNS for you when you purchase a domain name from them. Your domain name–like–can be used for email and website traffic. The DNS system figures out which language your phone is speaking and sends the traffic to the right server.

When you buy something like from Dotster or Gandi, they offer a few “full” email addresses to go along with your custom address. Make use of that opportunity! Matching email and website addresses will set you apart as a professional and trusted entity.

Question: How did you feel when someone gave you an email address that didn’t match their website address? Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Do you have a passion for loving people in the name of Jesus? Do you need a website to help make that happen? Do you feel stuck or frustrated with the technical bits?

If that’s you, please help me out. Please take a moment to fill out my 6-question reader survey. It will take about 10 minutes. Your input will show me how I can best serve you.

Sounds good! Take me to the survey.

Thank you!