We've all probably sent an email to a distribution list at some point when communicating with a business. So it's no surprise that many companies use them to manage communication with customers as well as internally with their teams.
These distribution lists save teams time and effort because they're an efficient way to send an email to multiple recipients at once without having to type out email addresses individually.
However, they also have their problems like cluttered inboxes and a lack of accountability usually caused by using the wrong email distribution list management tools.
Read on to learn more about these tools and how to better manage your distribution lists with Front.
But first, what are distribution lists? And when should you use them?
What are distribution lists?
Distribution lists are a group of emails organized under a single email or group email. For example, a list of contacts may be organized under the group email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
These group emails are handled by an entire team like customer success, customer services, finance, or even support. When customers and employees send emails to these addresses, everyone on the list receives a copy of the email.
When should you use distribution lists?
Distribution lists are ideal for when you want to send the same email to a group of recipients without typing each recipient's individual email address. This can be especially useful when working for a larger organization and managing email and communications for several departments and business units.
Distribution lists are not typically suited for sending marketing emails to customers using marketing automation software like Mailchimp or Marketo of Hubspot.
And it can be tough to use distribution lists for managing external company communications like support and billing, for example, because they often lead to a lack of accountability, visibility, and cluttered inboxes (we’ll touch more on these later).
What tools can you use to create distribution lists?
Microsoft Outlook has been the key player in the business email space for decades. And, to try to keep their crown, they knew they had to introduce a host of solutions in response to a work environment that was becoming increasingly more collaborative.
So they created Microsoft Teams for internal communication, a shared mailbox feature, and yes, distribution lists that allow you to send information to many people on your team with one email.
We won't go into too much detail on how to set these up in Outlook. Just know you can create distribution lists by geographic location, job function, seniority, and language and that it's relatively easy to create them.
Simply click "New Contact Group," name your list, populate it with members and save it. Then, next time you send out an email to that contact group, just add it to the "To" field and hit "Send."
Updating these lists is also easy: Create a new email, add your contact field in the "To" field, and right-click to "Expand Contact Group" or edit a contact.
Google also lets you create personalized email distribution lists using labels (previously known as Groups). Creating distribution lists in Google involves selecting a contact in the left menu bar, clicking on the price tag icon, selecting "Create label," typing the label's name, and hitting save.
Rinse and repeat for all the contacts you want to add to the new label or group. Then, next time you want to send a group email to those contacts, type the label's name in the "To" field.
Related reading: Shared Inbox Management Guide for Teams using Gmail.
Why Outlook and Google fail with email distribution list management
As easy as it is to create Google Groups and Outlook distribution lists, managing them in these two platforms is challenging for several reasons:
1. Cluttered inboxes. When you send an email to a distribution alias, a copy gets created for everyone on the Google group or Outlook distribution list. Each person can then reply, CC, or forward an email copy, meaning things can get messy fast. This makes it hard to manage your email and stay on top of your work.
2. No clear ownership and accountability. There is no way to give teammates ownership or responsibility for their emails. No one knows who is responsible for replying to a group email, and you can't easily let everyone know you've handled an email either. The result is that multiple people respond, often with different answers, or no one replies because everyone assumes someone else will.
3. Lack of visibility. You can't see who's replied to an email at any given time, which leads to multiple replies, duplicate work, and cluttered inboxes. When you’re trying to track communication on a company-wide or team-wide level even, it’s impossible, because there are no analytics or metrics around who has responded
4. Lack of collaboration. You can't collaborate on emails to discuss email internally without either replying to an email or forwarding it, leading to more clutter and disorganization for everyone involved. Yikes.
As a result, many customer-centric teams are replacing Outlook with Front to manage company communication—and with good reason.
Front—a better way to manage your email distribution lists
Front is a better way of managing work email and distribution lists that solves the shortcomings of Google Groups and Outlook Distribution list, particularly for teams managing a high volume of customer communications.
With Front, you get:
A shared inbox with built-in visibility and accountability
Unlike Google and Outlook, Front offers built-in visibility and accountability for team email thanks to shared inboxes. Shared inboxes provide a shared perspective on email and one email copy, instead of one for every person.
Everyone can see who's replying to an email at any given moment. You can also assign emails to teammates who are responsible for them, preventing multiple or no replies. Your team can better stay on top of messages with more organized inboxes.
"With Outlook, it was impossible to track emails, know what had been replied to, and see if anything had been missed — especially when you're getting hundreds of emails per day," explains Judith Leung, Sales Support Team Lead at Cisco Meraki. "Front helps us keep track of them for fast follow up, which is critical to the business as a whole."
Related reading: 6 reasons your team should try a shared inbox.
Team collaboration features to get rid of inbox clutter
Front also improves email distribution list management because you can get analytics on email, manage them alongside apps and other customer communication like live chat, SMS texts, and social media, and collaborate on emails, which reduces the number of emails sent significantly.
You can chat on email threads internally and @mention colleagues without sending a new direct message or forwarding an email.
And you can easily reference previous chats as the context and messages are saved with the email, and you can tag emails for easy retrieval.
These features reduce the number of emails sent, creating more organized inboxes, so you can stay on top of your work.
Learn more about how shared inboxes with Front can improve your email distribution list management to help you stay on top of your work.
Written by Nick Darlington
Originally Published: 29 July 2021