Pro and Con: Outside Lists for E-Mail Acquisition

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Beware of Rented Lists 

Tricia Robinson

You wouldn't cross the street without looking both ways, so why throw your company into oncoming traffic with rented e-mail lists? Rented lists never will be as effective as your house list, and they can lead to deliverability issues and brand damage.

The best list is one you create yourself. It takes time, but it pays off big in the long run. Here are a few tips:

Make them want to join. People like things that are easy, free and beneficial to them. Entice potential subscribers by offering a free report or stating clearly how they would benefit by joining this subscription. Ensure the sign-up process is smooth and easy. Test it often and keep it simple.

Make the opt-in visible. The first step is to ensure an opt-in to your company's online newsletter or other online communication is in a highly visible place on your Web site, such as your home page.

If you are introducing an online newsletter or updating an old one, create a pop-up that invites visitors on your site to subscribe. Consider adding an encouragement to opt-in on every page of your site. Remember, the more obvious the permission request, the more valuable the name and address will be.

Make content informational. Inboxes are inundated with e-mails. Ensure your subscribers look forward to receiving your messages. Providing informational or industry-relevant content like tips and tricks will encourage subscribers to remain interested and might also lead a subscriber to share the message with others. And this leads to the next step.

Promote viral forwards. Promoting a reader's ability to forward the original message to a colleague can spur acquisition and drive response rates. Display the forward-to-a-friend option in a prominent area. Once the message is forwarded, give the new recipient the ability to subscribe.

Use lists from different divisions. The best lists always come from your customers. Just make sure to ask permission. In-house lists are also a good bet because your recipients already are interested in your product and know your company.

Partner with other businesses. Partnering with an affiliate lets e-mail users opt-in to your e-mail communications while subscribing to their other favorite industry sites. This includes industry publications to which you could submit an article. Remember to include a link in your article for potential subscribers.

If you haven't gotten the message yet: Do not use e-mail name harvesters. There may be an initial payoff, but the long-term damage is expensive. Send e-mail to people who have given you permission or those with whom your company has a pre-existing business relationship.


Choose Wisely and Prospect Successfully

By Jay Schwedelson

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?

Jay Schwedelson

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.

Jay Schwedelson

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.

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