E-Mail Prospecting: Smart Third-Party List Procurement

E-mail marketing is becoming increasingly complex and costly. Spam’s negative implications affect consumer perception of commercial email and reduce response rates. To better protect consumer privacy, new U.S. and European legislation restricts data use. Anti-spam measures are multiplying. All of these erect extra hurdles for the reputable marketer.

Despite these facts, email remains more cost-effective than traditional print mailings. It continues to attract spending. Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) expects U.S. permission-based email marketing to almost triple in size, from $2 billion in 2003 to $6 billion by 2008.

At the heart of this activity is the gathering or procurement of email addresses to target. Unscrupulous businesses harvest email addresses in whatever way they can, then indiscriminately mass-broadcast unsolicited messages. Legitimate marketers, looking to achieve maximum response while maintaining a good reputation, must ensure they have documented consent from interested consumers prior to approaching them.

The best chance of getting a response to commercial email messages is sender recognition. To build recognition, first develop in-house prospect pools to communicate with. Implement a list-building strategy whereby prospects, driven to touch points via advertising and promotions, are actively encouraged to provide contact details and consent to future communications.

If you don’t have an adequate in-house list but want to quickly grow one, third-party lists of email addresses are available through providers and aggregators, such as Buongiorno Vitaminic, eCircle, and Experian. Marketers can buy or rent a number of targets based on certain selection criteria.

Remember to be highly selective in what you buy. Seek quality over quantity to maximize open rates, help improve campaign efficiency, and protect your brand from potential negative responses. Ensure third-party lists satisfy a number of criteria, as outlined below.

List Quality

Ensure list selections and subscriber groups are carefully profiled and segmented so the target audience can be closely matched. Consumers are most responsive to content relevant to their interests and desires. Make sure lists are freshly collected; lists atrophy quickly and always require updating.

Opt-In/Opt-Out Procedure

Ask to see the related Web site and registration page to understand the consumer’s journey. Registration wording should be clear and explicit, data use policies clearly stipulated, and consumers shouldn’t be misguided when consenting to third-party communications. Consumers should be able to set personal preferences. Understand how unsubscribe requests are managed. If the data supplier can’t provide this information, and supply suitable verification and contractual warranties and indemnities, don’t rent the data.

Cost and Volume

Try small, quality lists before progressing to larger samples. Negotiate price on volume, incorporating test mailings. Ask for case study examples of likely response rates and return on investment (ROI) through different approaches. Understand what’s included in the price to more accurately calculate ROI.

Be wary of large file sizes. If the file is significantly larger than you expected, question the seller. Use selections to further hone in on your target audience.

List Contact

Make sure receptivity to marketing communications hasn’t been detrimentally affected by over-mailing. Ask to see the content of previous correspondence. Better yet, sign up yourself, to understand how to differentiate your communication. Know who used the list previously. Negotiating exclusivity guarantees the same list isn’t made available to a competitor for a set period.

Broadcast and Tracking

To better the chance of acceptance, list owners should deliver messages on the advertiser’s behalf through host mailings. Ensure the platform is adequately capable of dealing with campaign.

Technical Details

Make sure resources are available to handle email content and assets, and manage deliverability and bounce-back issues as they arise.

For more guidance and list rental best practices, contact your local Direct Marketers Association (DMA) branch or the Federation of Direction Marketing (FEDMA) List Council in Europe.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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