The challenge with buying email marketing lists is you cannot easily judge quality until after you buy and few marketers understand the email list market.
This makes selling email marketing lists in particular fertile ground for scammers and many marketers have been burned by bad email lists. Telling the difference between good and bad providers can sometimes be difficult, as Welcome to the Murky World of Email List Sales outlined now more than three years ago.
According to IDC, the challenge is not just email sellers. Here are three organizational issues for marketers identified by IDC (via a DemandGen report, link at the bottom of this post):
- No central ownership of customer data and data acquisition.
- Inconsistent definitions of data elements across multiple legacy systems.
- Lack of usage policies and enforcement.
Marketing lists are often acquired sporadically, and when these acquisitions are handled by various groups, companies lose the opportunity to learn from their successes or failures.
Legacy systems are not just a data challenge, they create a major perception challenge as well. The business sees a huge repository of customer and prospect data it believes is valuable for email marketing. However, procedural contacts instead of influencers or decision makers, out of date email data, and lack of consistent data for segmentation limits the value of this data to marketing.
In their report, DemandGen also includes a number of recommendations to improve B2B email list purchases:
- Work with multiple data or list sources.
- Clearly define the data required for each marketing record.
- Centralize management of the corporate database and data acquisition
In addition to DemandGen’s recommendations, I would add the following recommendations when buying B2B marketing lists:
- Purchase marketing lists in small increments so you can test and refine sources and selection criteria over time.
- Establish a series of welcome emails with your best content. Every email you send should be worth opening and these first emails set the bar for every communication that follows.
- Keep an audit trail. Consider Canada’s pending legislation of email marketing practices, can you illustrate the source of every contact and if you have the right to contact them, even if legislation changes? Will you know what records to remove?
Additional recommendations are in DemandGen’s 2012 Data Acquisition Report (light registration required) via a link at the bottom of the linked post. [credit to Oceanos who I discovered the report through]
Are you opposed to list purchases? I would rather see a company build their list organically over time, creating a list of people that have opted in specifically to hear from them. However, list purchases are a reality in B2B sales and marketing and an area marketers need to understand before wading in.
Will inbound marketing erode list buying, or will companies like Data.com (formerly JigSaw, now part of SalesForce.com) integrate data purchases into B2B sales and marketing operations and make them a key part of day-to-day activity?
Share your views in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).