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If you’ve ever done any amount of email marketing, you’ve probably been enticed or at least entertained the possibility of purchasing or “renting” an email list.  You may have even tried it.  It’s ok… you can admit it.  You were swayed by the instant access to large number of supposedly highly targeted email recipients – ready and anxious to hear what you have to say.

With email marketing possessing some of the highest conversion rates of all digital marketing tactics, it’s easy to be tempted to shortcut the system – especially when you don’t have an impressive in-house email list.

Enilon’s general position in such cases is to avoid buying or renting email lists.  Why?  It’s two-fold really.  First is a question of ethics.  We believe wholeheartedly in practicing opt-in email marketing.  No one wants to get email from a company or organization that they didn’t ask for.  Frequently these list brokers obtain their email addresses in shall we say, less than optimal ways.  Enough said.  Secondly, is a question of performance.  Largely because of the ethical issues described above, rented/purchased lists almost never achieve performance in the same marketing universe as your own home-grown lists.

That said, we have had clients that have purchased lists in the past with moderate success.  Don’t get me wrong, this is by far the exception rather than the rule.  So despite my warnings (or depending on your situation), you still want to dip your toes in the dirty water…  OK, here are some pointers.

Choose your broker and your list carefully

Don’t go for the cheapest option out there.  The adage, “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true in this case.  The more current, targeted and demographically and behaviorally precise your list is –  the more it will cost.  Also, B2B lists tend to cost more than B2C lists.  Be sure to choose a broker that has a list containing users that are a good match for your product or service and can provide adequate segmentation.  In essence, make sure you’re relevant.

Relevance trumps permission

Let’s be honest here.  You really don’t have permission to send email to even the cleanest of rented lists.  What you MIGHT have however is relevance.  If your product or service is highly relevant to the recipient, permission is usually forgiven.  How do you ensure maximum relevance?  You can’t.  But you can do your best.

Sponsorship as an option

One way to help help ensure relevance is to go with a sponsored email approach.  Rather than just send an email exclusively dipped in your company’s branding to another list, seek opportunities where your message and brand will be introduced to the list via a sponsorship arrangement.  Find another email marketer that complements your brand and message and work out an arrangement with them to share content.

Make the ask small – get them on YOUR list

Unless your offer is very succinct with an extremely low resistance to complete, your goal should be small.  Get them to go YOU their email address so that you can continue to market to them.  Remember, with rented lists, you’ll never actually get the list of email address so it’s pretty much a one-time shot.  If you can entice that list with an offer that compels them to give you their email address, then it’s yours forever (practically).  You can use a great piece of content, club membership or discount offer for example.

Get ready to measure

As with all things digital, get ready to measure your success (or lack thereof).  Be clear on what success looks like for each campaign. This will allow you to test better and make adjustments that are effective moving forward.

Lastly, develop a solid lead generation strategy for your brand so that, building a robust, in-house list so that you never have to be tempted to rent or purchase an email list again!