Grow a List: 3K to 11K in One Year

From time to time, companies email me asking for suggestions on growing their mailing lists. If you are one of those readers or have wondered the same thing, today’s case study is for you.

The Sales Board is a sales training organization. When Matt Monarski, director of marketing, joined the company last spring, the house list had about 3,000 members. A year later, the list has grown to over 11,000. Here’s what Monarski and his team did.

  1. Eliminated direct mail. Last year, the only form of communication with prospects was direct mail. The Sales Board was sending direct mail to about 10,000 prospects a week, but the return was fewer than 50 leads — at a cost of over $50 apiece. Clearly, this lengthy approach wasn’t cost-effective. So the department turned its energy and budget dollars elsewhere.

  2. Sent HTML to the current house list. The Sales Board created a free, selling-skills test and offered it to registrants. The company sent email to its house list (this was and still is composed primarily of prospects, people interested in The Sales Board who have not purchased from the company). The message linked to a Web site registration form. Once registered, users could take the quiz and see how they ranked against others who answered the same questionnaire. Sales reps then called recipients to discuss results, which naturally led to a discussion of the registrant’s sales training needs. In June 2002 the company saw a 3 percent response rate to house list mailings. A recent mailing to the list garnered an 8.63 percent response.
  3. Sent HTML offers to list rentals. There isn’t a broad selection of business-to-business (B2B) lists in the training/sales management arena, so Monarski shopped around until he found a list broker who was reliable and seemed genuinely interested in helping both sides. The Sales Board first looks at titles, then company size. Lists cost on order of $350-$450 CPM

    (Note: I asked Monarski if this was for “good” email addresses, or simply email addresses. He replied he had never gotten a discount after the fact based on bounces. As the lists he rents are legitimate B2B opt-in lists, he imagines bounces are pretty low. I recommend he view those figures himself and ensure he’s getting what he pays for.)

    The Sales Board cycles through a list. For instance, if a list has 40,000 members, the company will mail 5,000 members a week for eight weeks, then try another offer. Result is a CTR that averages 10-30 percent. Roughly half the individuals who click through convert.

  4. Optimized the Web site for search engines. The Web site wasn’t spider friendly. Splash page and frames made it tough for search engines to find, so The Sales Board streamlined it and put in more appropriate meta tags. Monarski registers with online search submission tools such as HitsLink at least once a month. The Sales Board doesn’t employ paid search submission, though Monarski is thinking about Google AdWords and may soon experiment.
  5. Redid the Web site, part two. Monarski’s team also reworked the site to make it more visitor friendly. Before the change, navigation was difficult and the site looked like a brochure or online PowerPoint presentation. There was little company information. Now, visitors see hooks on the front page. They can register and take the free benchmark test, see a free copy of a report, or view a free white paper; opt in to the email list; or make an online purchase.
  6. Created an e-commerce function. I can see how all this would help sales, but can it really help grow a list? Monarski says yes. An e-commerce function allows The Sales Board to sell products the company doesn’t want the sales team focusing on. Customers test the waters with a less-expensive product before exploring a larger training program. As The Sales Board has their contact info, reps can begin building relationships.
  7. Improved trade show materials. The Sales Board redid its trade show booth so it presented a consistent brand (images, colors, logo, etc.). Reps submitted their email address lists to the house list. Now when conference attendees visit the Web site, they are more likely to recognize the company, stay on the list, and take advantage of company offerings. (Here’s a great case study on using trade shows to grow lists.)
  8. Worked PR and publicity angles. Along with routine press releases, the company looks for other news angles, including, naturally, email I received from Monarski. “I’d be happy to share some ideas — pros, cons — and discuss how I’ve grown our house list from [about” 3,000 names to over 11,000 in about one year if you’d like,” he wrote. The hook got me interested.

Which methods are most effective? Monarski says he doesn’t think about it that way. All are important pieces of the puzzle. I, of course, would prefer more quantitative data. Monarski says for lead generation, HTML mailings to targeted rental lists is the quickest and most cost-effective method. Altogether, a near four-fold increase in a house list speaks volumes.

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