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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't Rent an Email List ... It's a Waste of Money!

In an earlier blog, we discussed how to assemble a quality email list ... one that is more likely to lead to sales! We said that of the four methods of gathering the list (confirmed opt-in, unconfirmed opt-in, opt-out, and purchasing a list), buying it was NEVER a good idea!

Let's now discuss WHY it's never a good idea to buy an email list ...

First of all and most importantly: It doesn't work!

Where Do the Lists Come From? - List Brokers
List brokers provide lists of names, with contact info. There may also be various bits of demographic information, such as age or sex. Purchased lists are a common source of names for catalogues and many promotional offers. Often, the list broker is really just serving as a middleman, between the list owner and the potential buyer or renter.

More Isn't Necessarily Better!
Though purchasing a list is a quick way to grow the size of your mail list, it won't grow a Quality list ... which means it won't necessarily improve your sales at all! And, it could possibly hurt!

Even if there are hundreds of thousands of subscribers in your file, if most of them aren't opening, reading and clicking on your emails, what good is it?

In general, once a name ends up on a list, if that user never opts-out, the name stays on the list and messages continue to be sent to it. But, a recent action by went completely against this norm. sent out a series of emails asking subscribers to reconfirm they wanted to be on the mailing list. If a subscriber didn't respond within a certain period of time, the name was removed from the list. Although the list became considerably shorter, their response rate actually grew!

Remember that both consistently unopened/unread emails and, even more, clicks on the Spam button will hurt your sender reputation and, therefore, your ability to get email to the Inbox. The members of a purchased list are highly likely to fall almost entirely into these categories.

Ill-gotten Gains
It is never considered acceptable to send messages to email address that have been harvested on the Internet ... without permission ... or that are being guessed at, by only changing one letter at a time, in what is called a dictionary attack.

Another negative for purchased lists is that there is no way you can guarantee the list you buy will not have such names on it. Sending to such addresses will hurt your sender reputation.

Confirming Consent
It is important to have the consent of the receiver, before you send them emails. If you don't have this, your email can end up in the spam folder ... and we all know what that does to your sender reputation!

There are developing standards that explicitly define the acceptable ways to confirm consent. For example, a box is checked for one of several types of opt-ins ... or, a box isn't UNchecked for a pre-selected option in a signup form.

One thing is certain, however, and that is that the members of a purchased mail list will rarely feel they have given permission for any email they receive ... perhaps they only checked the box, because that was a requirement for entering a contest and they really liked the prize! Or, maybe they didn't notice the pre-checked box, when they were registering for something else. Whatever the reason, they aren't interested and they don't want the "information"!

These recipients are as likely to hit the spam button as anything else.

A similar situation is the assumed permission taken by a vendor, when someone places an order. The buyer is added to a mail list for promotions, though no consent was given. An incredible 31% of all vendors observed in one study by Return Path did this, with no mention of it during checkout. Another 5% mentioned the promotional emails, but gave no way to opt-out.

Purchased Lists - It Just Doesn't Work!
In November, All Web Email sent a previously tested and proven successful email offer to a rented list of 10,000 names, on three separate dates. The email also included either a 15% or a 20% discount offer.

The offer was for a high-end skin care product and the rented list contained generic "Health & Beauty" email addresses. The list came from a reputable opt-in list vendor ... one who mentioned client names like National Geographic, AT & T and Microsoft, to justify their rather pricey rental charge.

Earlier, the same email had been sent to confirmed subscribers and significant sales resulted. However, with three separate mailings to the rented list, the total sales were zero ... $00.00!

A fourth mailing had been planned, but simply wasn't worth the effort, even considering there would be no additional expense!

Remember that quality mail lists really are worth more ... the best quality lists are smaller, but they result in more sales! Although won't sell you an email list, we will help you manage and grow your lists.

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  • Another great post Barb. you already know, I think you left out some important information.

    In Barb's defense, she was rather insistent that we exclude the amount of money we paid acquiring the list for November's list rental test, feeling that it would cheapen the value and integrity of her writing. After a few email volleys, I caved in but suggested I might still get my 2 cents worth in with my own reply to her post.

    Here goes...

    We spent $1,000 to have our test offer delivered to 10,000 "targeted" email addresses. If we weren't an ESP, this would have cost $1,600.

    OK, I said it, and here's why.

    First of all, 8 out of 10 inquiries we receive for email marketing services come from companies that don't have their own lists and want to buy/rent lists for prospecting purposes. The vast majority of these companies are looking for the "50,000 addresses for $97" solution. I'm doing my part to save them some money and recommend alternatives that have an actual chance of a positive return on their investment.

    Secondly, this was the $1,000 list and not the $97 list and it's important to demonstrate that we made every effort to acquire the highest quality list available for the test.

    Test Summary: We spent $1,000 plus creative time designing the two offers. Our sales were ....PRICELESS! ($0.00)

    There, I've said it, I'm at peace. Hopefully Barb is still talking to me.


    By Blogger Peter Roebuck , At May 22, 2009 at 10:36 AM  

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