Simple rules to make the most of list rentals

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Simple rules to make the most of list rentals
Simple rules to make the most of list rentals

The secret to successful list marketing is good testing. Unfortunately, many companies aren't sure how to test effectively. They simply rent a list of prospects, send out their e-mail to everyone on that list, and wait for the results. When their campaign isn't successful, they assume list marketing doesn't work and never try it again.

If testing is done right, it can be a powerful tool for any direct marketer. The following rules will increase your chances of a successful list marketing campaign.

1) Test the right number of prospects and lists

Many companies start out too small or too large. Some rent a list with only 500 prospects for an e-mail campaign and get zero response from it. Other companies spend $50,000 for a list with one million prospects, only to find out later that they've sent their message to the wrong audience—or worse, that they bought a "bogus list" full of old, inaccurate contact information.

I believe an ideal test list size is 25,000 names. E-mail marketing is a large-numbers game. You need a certain amount of throughput for it to be effective.

Test multiple lists to find the most receptive prospects for your message. For example, if you send marketing e-mails solely to a list of CMOs, you will probably get a minimal response. You increase your chances of success if you test additional lists of VPs/directors of marketing, marketing managers and even VPs of sales (who often influence marketing decisions).

2) Test the creative and subject header

I strongly recommend doing A/B split testing for your e-mail campaign. Test different versions of the subject header and creative, and then use the elements that get the best response. This will maximize your chances for a successful campaign.

You never know what a client will respond to. On a recent A/B split test, our client mistakenly sent out a test e-mail with only the word "Webinar" in the subject line. To our surprise, the "Webinar" e-mail got three times the response of the test e-mail with the well-crafted subject header.

3) Establish goals

Before you begin testing, establish goals for your list marketing campaign. Know how many leads (or sales) you hope to generate, and know your projected cost per lead (CPL). Then use the testing results to help meet your goals.

For example, say your CPL goal is $10 per lead, but the CPL in the first series of tests is $20 per lead. You can use these results to negotiate a better rental price for the prospect list.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, "That which isn't measured doesn't improve." The more elements you test, the more likely you are to have a successful list marketing campaign.

Dave Scott is the CEO of Marketfish, which recently launched a list Saas-based list marketing platform solution.

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