4 List-Building Myths Debunked

For years marketers have debated the best way to generate leads, with any number of previous or current “best practices” driving the rhetoric. It’s time for some consistency in the lead generation discussion, but before this can happen marketers must understand the realities behind the most pervasive myths in the lead generation discussion; the first of which is to understand the variable nature of a lead.

“The biggest misconception about lead generation is that it means the same thing to everyone,” says Greg Grdodian, CEO at Reach Marketing. “Before you can assess how successful your lead-gen strategy is, you first have to define it.” 

With a clear definition of a lead often comes the pressure and responsibility to grow a company’s email list. Tread carefully marketers, for this is actually the most prevalent and misleading lead generation myth.

List buying is the best way to grow email lists

“The days of list buys are behind us,” says Quinn Jalli, SVP of digital marketing services at Epsilon. “Questions around lead quality, legal compliance, and the value derived from list buys have led the smart marketer to move away from them.”

In some cases this may be for the best. People have grown accustomed to news of monolithic corporations brought to their knees by cyber attacks, often endangering customers’ personal information. The rampant hackings, as well as the open wounds left in the wake of the NSA data scandal, have left many consumers confused and paranoid about their digital fingerprint. In the past marketers simply ran the risk of annoying users and ending up in the spam folder. Now, a user might see an unfamiliar email address and assume her account has been breached. “Unless a marketer can understand what representations are made, the quality of the consumer subscription, and the clarity regarding which company the consumer is subscribing to, it is impossible for a responsible marketer to continue buying lists,” Jalli says.

List buying is dead

The truth of a topic is often gradient, nuanced. List buying is no different. List buys of questionable sourcing and quality are coming to an end. However, responsible marketers can still grow their list by purchasing data from affiliates and via other non-organic methods.

“Marketers are generating valuable leads [by] partnering with reputable companies that possess obvious synergies,” Jalli notes. He points to the example of a company that sells computer games partnering with a company that makes gaming PCs. These types of partnerships allow marketers to expand their reach and potentially grow their email list without encroaching on consumer privacy.

Marketers should still exercise caution here. “Expressly [state] that they are opting in to your list, not your partners’,” advises Ellen Valentine, marketing evangelist at Silverpop. “Once you have that permission from new subscribers, you can email them and not be considered a spammer.”

Organically building a list is slow

Organically building lists was difficult in the past largely because of a lack of options and resources on the marketer’s part. Now, in the age of the increasingly vocal customer—and social media—taking a more organic approach to building lists is a perfectly viable option.

“Building a list is not slow, it takes intention,” says Christopher Lester, VP of sales at Emma. “It’s about building a powerful list. Integration of all of your marketing channels, and focusing on ways to market your email channel so people want to be on it, is an opportunity to build a list quickly—and [this] list is going to outperform a list stuffed full of emails.”

A large list is more powerful

Marketers, and the departments they answer to, have demonstrated an unhealthy obsession with large lists. Email service providers have grown increasingly intolerant of spam tactics, many of which revolve around reaching as many inboxes as possible. Ethics issues aside, the data and technology that has flooded the marketing space has made maintaining large lists more trouble than the effort is worth.

“There’s diminishing returns on large lists,” Lester says. “With all of these automation and segmentation tools, a large list can be crippling. People expect brands to craft messages personalized for them, but it’s hard to have enough information about all of the people in a large list.”

“There  is no magic bullet to getting skinny, there’s no magic bullet to getting rich, and there’s no magic bullet to having a super-great email list,” Lester continues. As they say, quantity rarely trumps quality.

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