Prospect wisely

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E-mail is a tremendous prospecting channel if navigated properly. A marketer must focus on list selection, continuation usage, cost and selectable elements.

When choosing lists to rent, focus on how a list was built. Did these individuals subscribe to a publication or online newsletter, purchase a product, or were they compiled from an array of sources? Is the inherent quality of the list source in line with the offer that you are promoting?

For example, if you sell new office equipment and want to reach small business professionals, are you using a publication file similar to Inc. or Entrepreneur magazines or are you using a sweepstakes-generated file? Obviously, a subscriber is more likely to be a buyer than is an individual who has entered a sweepstakes.

The other critical element regarding list selection pertains to permission. It is essential that the recipients of your message are aware of how and why they are hearing from you. Never use an e-mail list that does not fully disclose the list source in an easily viewable area of the message.

A simple technique that can drastically improve your prospect e-mail response rates is to analyze continuation usage of a list. If you are considering a certain e-mail list, ask the manager of that file for other marketers that have used it and whether they continued on the file after the initial test.

You can take this one step further and see whether any of the continuation e-mail marketers are competitive. This lets you leverage the marketing dollars of your competitors and aids in your list selection.

Cost is another factor that makes e-mail an attractive prospecting medium. CPMs have dropped drastically in the past 12 months. Negotiations on the rate card are common, especially if you are a brand marketer with rollout potential.

Be wary of any file that allows cost-per-acquisition price structures in the e-mail environment. These files tend to be overused and have a high complaint rate.

Another way to drive return on investment with e-mail prospecting is to use the selectable elements of a file. Most e-mail files have matured to the point that you can make selections similar to direct mail efforts. These selections allow for more granular marketing.

Remember, almost all prospect e-mail rental files are sent out with an additional 5 percent to 7 percent to help ensure deliverability. This does not solve all the issues related to filtering, but it does allow for a greater sense of comfort that you are getting what you paid for.

Jay Schwedelson is corporate vice president at Worldata, Boca Raton, FL. Reach him at jay@worldata.com.

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