But I Want to Buy (or Rent) an Email List!

In a previous blog – “Should I rent an email list? What you need to know before renting a list…” – I provide the many reasons why you may not want to rent an email list. You should definitely review them if you’re considering buying email addresses. But what if you still feel compelled to buy a list? Here are a few items to consider if you choose to go down that path:

  1. Ask where the names come from – Any reputable list broker should be able to tell you how the list was built.
  2. Send to carefully defined segments – Determining well-defined segments that you can send very relevant messages to is always best. As with all email marketing, the more relevant your message, the better your response.
  3. Don’t send the emails yourself – Many brokers will just give you the email addresses and have you do the emailing. While this may sound wonderful, the reality is that it may hurt you. Most professional email service providers won’t even allow you to mail to lists for which you didn’t get explicit permission from the recipients. The reason is that those addresses could seriously hurt the reputation of the sender (i.e., your email service provider and you), thus making it difficult to send your “good” email. You could experience a high level of unsubscribes, bounces, spam complaints, and more. If you do mail to the list yourself, be sure you are being CAN-SPAM compliant.
  4. Have the broker do the email sending – Related to my previous point, I strongly urge you to provide the html/content of your email to the broker to send for you. Most reputable list brokers provide this service. In this way, they are responsible for any reputation problems that may occur, as well as for complying with the form of permission granted by the recipients. Of course, if the emails have your name on them, a bad list could hurt your overall professional reputation. So I’d suggest you include a message reminding the recipient that he or she provided permission and is receiving your email in response to that permission.
  5. Start with a test – Do not rent a significant list initially. Consider doing a test with a small quantity (e.g., 5,000) from various list sources. Plus, be sure you have a very accurate measurement tool in place to measure the open, click-through, and conversion rates. In addition, track the number of bounces, unsubscribes, and spam complaints. If the broker is unwilling to provide such statistics, the unique open rate will be one of the best measures of the quality of the list. Of course, the click-through and conversion rates are where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Calculate the cost per conversion, taking into account the full cost of purchasing each list source.
  6. Obtain historical data – Ask the broker to provide metrics for clients who sell similar services and products. Unwillingness to share data is a concern. The tools to measure email response are generally available today.
  7. Compare to direct mail – Oftentimes, renting names for direct mail costs less than renting email addresses. Test that assumption for your situation. You may want to consider using direct mail to send a great offer/incentive to drive people to your Web site and offer up their email address. Then, they’ll become your bona fide opt-in email recipients.

Please tell us about your experiences and lessons learned with any email lists you may have rented or purchased. Thanks in advance for sharing!

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