Questions for a Broker to Love

When it comes to prospecting through email, the task of finding an opt-in email list with fortitude can often be like looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack – it ain’t always easy.

Aligning yourself with a good broker, however, can certainly make a world of difference as you sift through the masses of email lists that are now available. But you still need to know your stuff, especially if you want to find the cream-of-the-crop lists for your audience. It all comes down to a little digging.

In other words, you need to know how to ask your broker the right questions. In order to do that, you need to know what those questions are. Over and above the items you can find on the list data cards, there are important details you should know before you rent. Truly, they can make or break your response.

With that in mind, here are my picks for “Top Questions to Ask Your List Broker or Vendor.”

  1. How was this list collected? This one question actually yields plenty of other ones as well, such as, What prompted the members of this list to sign up? Were they referred to the site from an offline promotion? From an email? From visiting the site itself? This will tell you a little about members of that audience and where their interests may lie. This can also address the question of whether or not an incentive was used to get folks to sign up.

    Another important part of this is the question of the day: Is this list, indeed, an opt-in list? If it is, what is the method of opting people in? And does the list owner – the site – utilize a confirmed opt-in approach or an unconfirmed one? This will help you gauge the interest and participation of the list members, and give you an idea of how active they are with their inboxes.

  2. Does this list have a recency select? This may or may not be on the data card. If it isn’t, ask for it. (A word of advice: Just because something is not on a data card does not necessarily mean that it is not available. Some vendors will make certain selects or terms available, if you simply ask for them.) For the record, recent, or hotline, names tend to pull a higher response than nonrecent names. The assumption is that if members of a particular segment of the file have come on recently, they are more open and amenable to receiving new offers.

  3. When was the list last “cleaned” (that is, when were email addresses last updated)? People tend to change their email addresses frequently, and many have multiple addresses; therefore, this is an important question. If it has been longer than a couple of months since a file has been updated, you should probably think twice about it. Chances are good that the mailing will glean a ton of undeliverables. If there is even a remote chance of that, be sure to ask for a full tracking report, and negotiate a net deal based on the number of addresses actually served.

  4. What is the list’s usage? Who has used this list in the past? What kinds of companies are on the list? Are their business models in line with yours?

    Most important, have there been continuations taken on the list (that is, have previous list users come back and rented again)? Have any of them rented the entire file? If you find that the usage consists of “one-time onlys,” that fact should be a glaring red flag that the list does not perform well enough for folks to use it again.

Of course, all of these items are over and above other minor details (yes, I’m being sarcastic), such as pricing, list enhancements, quantities of segments, cancellation policies, etc. Those details are usually spelled out on the data cards.

When it comes to list research, like all good things, it takes time and energy to do it right. A high level of dedication will pay off in the end – the payoff being an acquisitions campaign report to make you – and your colleagues and superiors – very, very proud.

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