How to Pick a Winning Email List

Published on May 21, 2019

Your email campaign will fly or die based largely on the audience you select. In most email campaign endeavors the search for the right list is where the quest for results begins. To find the perfect list you will need to do some research. You can start with the information in the Resources section of this book.

Here’s the bad news – there are no “perfect lists.” In most cases, despite best efforts you will have some element of the audience that you may not entirely want and can’t remove. This is OK. You will want to minimize this element through targeting, but just realize that no list is perfect and if you target too heavily, you will wind up with too few numbers to launch your campaign.

How Can I Determine a Quality List?

Companies with quality lists generally have a clear and easy to understand method for collecting their email records. Print publishers that have given their subscribers an opportunity to receive emails are general very targeted and high quality. Random companies that promise the world at a very low price with no cohesive explanation for how their data is collected are generally low quality and not worth the effort.

• Review testimonials
• Run a small test
• Contact other advertisers who have used the vendor (ask their open rate, response rate, etc.)
• Look for repeat advertisers
• Get data origin details (who, what, where, when)

Quality lists cost money. There is a real danger in purchasing a list because it has the lowest cost. In the world of data, you get what you pay for.

And if your email rental company says they have to send their mailings through a variety of servers to mask their identity – run! This is usually a result of being black listed by ISPs for spamming.

What Happens if I Select a Bad List?

Many companies decide to purchase based on price. When you purchase low quality or lower quality data here’s what you can expect.

• Little or no response
• Spam complaints
• Many clicks, but no buyers
• Very low open rate
• Your mail gets blocked by spam filters

It happens all the time. Next to your message, the proper list selection is key.

In procuring a list you really have just three basic options.

Option 1: Rent a List

List rental is very popular today. Quality companies that rent lists dedicate their efforts to managing the audience and ensuring that it remains receptive by not bombarding them with too many messages. A good list management company will also make sure the offers going to their list come from quality companies and are relevant to their audience. When you rent a list, all you do is specify your target audience and provide the message to be sent. The list company does the rest.

Option 2: Purchase a List (Caution: This is Generally Shady)

It’s tough to find companies willing to sell the names they’ve worked hard to acquire because of the potential to abuse the list and their need to maintain their users’ privacy. However, you can find some situations where the owner is willing to sell (or trade) email data. You can also find people willing to sell you lists acquired through questionable means on the web. During the Internet bust, there were several companies going out of business who were willing to sell their lists to the highest bidder.

Option 3: Build Your Own List

In Chapter XXX, we’ll discuss a variety of techniques for building your own email list. This is by far the least expensive way to go about email marketing because you can use it whenever you want without having to pay anyone. I also believe it’s the safest way to market because you can trust the source and build a stronger relationship with the subscriber base. Maintaining this properly does take some work.

Renting a List vs. Buying a List

As I stated earlier, when you rent a list you never take possession of the names. You are paying for the right to contact the audience with a message that the list management company sends out. Buying a list however, does give you possession of the email names and other data for you to mail at your discretion.

Of the two options, renting lists is more popular.

In my experience there are precious few high-quality lists available for purchase. The main reason being, that unless you are a partner with the company who owns the list and they are extremely selective about who they sell to. A responsive list that has been built through ethical means is a tremendous asset to the company that owns it.

Once a list “gets out” management of communication to that list is no longer controlled. Once a list has been sold 2 or 3 times the audience on the list could be receiving unsolicited messages on a daily basis. An irritated audience is not a receptive one. Not only can the publisher of the list risk a huge backlash from their audience for selling their trusted email addresses, but now his list and permission to email that list himself also starts to deteriorate.

Publishers often view selling their lists like selling the goose that lays the golden eggs. They can make more money over time and protect the list quality by renting it over and over vs. selling it once.

You might be asking, “What about all those lists I see for sale on the web that say 1,000,000 email names for just $59.95?”

Steer clear of these sources. They are generally old and have been sold so many times the audience is unresponsive. And you don’t have any permission to contact them, so they will probably resent you spamming them.

If you are primarily interested in saving money then you should consider building your own list. Ask your customers for their email addresses, set up a newsletter for your visitors to subscribe to, build a database of names and grow it.

Where Can You Find the Best Lists for Rent?

When you are launching a campaign that targets business professionals, the highest quality lists for professionals in targeted industries were published by industry publications.

• Industry Magazines
• Targeted Websites
• List Brokers
• Online Agencies
• Data Firms
• The Digital Harvest Directory

Trade magazines and targeted websites that reach the audience you are looking for are ideal sources. They are up-to-date and focus on the specific audience you want to reach. For most of these lists, you can further define your audience selections by demographics such as industry, job title, company revenue and geographic location. If you are in the information technology sector, many of the top lists that target these professionals further specify by the type of computer hardware and software used.

If you buy quality, you will be rewarded. My clients who have tried to buy cheap in this area tell me that – every time – they got what they paid for.

Opt-In and Double Opt-In

You need to ask if the list is opt-in or double opt-in. An opt-in list requires that the subscribers do something to add themselves to the list. You’ve likely seen these collection points on a site. They ask if you’d like to sign up for a newsletter or to receive offers periodically. Opt-in actions ensure the list is composed of those who have given permission to contact them.

A double opt-in list goes a step further. After the subscriber signs up to receive special offers they are sent a follow up message that basically asks them, “Are you sure you want to sign up for this email list? Click here!” These lists are extremely clean and targeted. The subscribers have taken two actions to become a part of the list and because the confirmation email is sent to the subscribing email there is no way a friend or someone else can add you to a list.

Tell Tale Signs of a Bad List

Here are some signs that should send up a red flag if you are purchasing a list.

• The list owner can’t tell you where the data comes from
• The names on the list don’t have date and source stamping
• The list rental company is black listed from most ISPs
• The company can not provide references from reputable companies
• The prices are super low. Managing an opt-in list responsibly takes resources and resources cost money.
• The rental company accepts CPA (Cost-Per-Action) campaigns. These campaigns can often burn out the best lists in a short period of time.

Test and Measure

Shopping and discovery questions are an important part of selecting a quality list. And eventually, you will have to take the plunge and choose a list. Limit your risk with a test run to see how things perform. The ability to analyze and identify good email lists for rent is a powerful skill that will be key in your email marketing success.