Buying B2B Email Marketing Lists: Challenges and Recommendations

Email email emailBuying email marketing lists. It makes many think of the spam emails selling a database of millions of top executives.

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 However, procedural contacts instead of influencers or decision makers, out of date email data, and lack of consistent data for segmentation limits the value of this data to marketing.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:

  1. Work with multiple data or list sources.
  2. Clearly define the data required for each marketing record.
  3. 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:

  1. Purchase marketing lists in small increments so you can test and refine sources and selection criteria over time.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Your Turn

Will inbound marketing erode list buying, or will companies like (formerly JigSaw, now part of 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).

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  • Tgraves

    Having been a B2B marketeer for more years than I am willing to admit, I have always seen data as one of the biggest factors to success.  We all know that even the coolest program, content and/or creative will not drive results if it isn’t sent to the right target buyer.  And as much as we want inbound marketing to create a list of those perfect buyers on its own, that’s just not reality.  Inbound marketing is a good list source, but self-reported registration data has its own set of challenges and your can only ask a limited amount of questions in your registration form before you take away all chances for conversion.  Where I have seen the market heading, is to incorporate inbound registration, house list, rental lists and purchased data into a target database that is properly segmented, cleaned and scrubbed while being properly tagged to be able to separate original source and point of opt-in to not only measure conversion rates  but also prepare for continuously changing data regulations.  In parallel, the more data that you can accurately append to a record at the beginning of the buyer’s journey, the more you can tailor your follow on message to increase your chanced of developing a “relationship” with that contact that becomes more meaningful over time.

    • Hunt down SPAM

      But how can you accomplish your feats when you buy rubbish data from the B2B sources. I regret to inform you that my name was stolen off my resume, and attached to a fake profile. My work email was reverse engineered simply became it was pretty standard “”!

      Anyway, the profile described me as a “VP in San Jose” even though I was actually a software developer in Singapore. How did my profile help your business?

      There are several other profiles floating around with my name and email attached to them. Each one has a different inflated title, and a different location in the USA. Not one has a profile located in Singapore where I actually reside.

      Some of the B2B lists have other Singapore and Taiwan colleagues listed with fake titles, and important sounding locations as well.

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  • Kevin Fitzgerald

    world is moving fast and its not feasible to wait for someone to provide you an
    opt-in email address so that you can then start your business process. Its
    really a smart thing to do to buy lists from trusted sources like D&B or or Salesforce. I I am sure friends in the sales & Marketing would agree that a good list definitely makes the sales cycle faster and smoother.

  • Rob

    I am interested in running an email marketing campaign for my start-up that is targeted at small and medium businesses. How should I go about obtaining a list or finding a firm that provides email marketing services to execute my sales outreach? Thank you!

    • Hi Rob,

      Email me at eric at with a little bit more information about what your goals are and what you need, I may be able to introduce you to a firm or help you understand the potential cost.


      • Guest

        Hi Rob,

        You can email me at evaz at with your exact requirements. You can narrow it down to targeting companies and contacts by revenue size, employee size, decision makers, specific geography and more. I’ll even provide you with a sample as a tester before making any purchase.


    • John McIntyre

      Hi Rob,

      We are global database providers.

      If you are looking to buy list with offers and additional benefits.

      we can talk about it.

      revert back to :

  • Jessica DeTorres

    Good afternoon. I am trying to obtain HR Execs for the CT & Mass region of the country, does anyone have any thoughts or the best way to go about this? Thanks, RM

    • Are you looking to buy or to rent a list? There are quite a few lists available for HR. If you email me a bit more information, I’d be happy to share a few more thoughts with you. eric at b2bdigital dot net

    • mark jones

      Hi Ramaurer,
      We can help you to reach HR Execs across globe, let me know your target specifications, And please email me your reply to my mail

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  • Marcel Corona

    The only problem you might have with a purchased list is a reliable mailer that can send the emails with a high inbox delivery rate. One of the better ones I have come across is

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  • SGove

    Hi Eric. I’ve read a few of your articles and share many of your views on list purchasing, its pitfalls, but the benefit when done correctly. One thing that I am struggling with is an email service provider that will allow me to use my lists, and can also maximize deliverability. It seems that people who dont monitor for list purchasing let anyone in to do whatever they want and their deliverability suffers. On the otherhand, there doesnt seem to be anyone that has a balance approach. By that I mean, allow someone with a clearly targeted list, and emails with all the necessary legal elements (easy unsubscribe, address, etc) to use their system. Any thoughts or suggestions on a provider?

  • Olly

    Any suggestions for French and German speaking Europe and Middle East are welcome as well. There are so many unreliable offers on the market that one should really double check and test as much as possible.

  • tsamuel

    SGove, I’ve found list rentals solve many of the deliverability problems. I purchased through, and it worked well, but when I did a rental with they provide a deliverability report (I don’t think that’s what they call it, but you get the idea) They calculate the ones that didn’t deliver and then send to that many other contacts.

  • Dean Frank

    I use (will always be jigsaw in my head) and it’s fine, but I started using LeadFerret too, based on their integration with SalesNexus which makes everything so. damn. easy. I am not sure organized so being able to pawn off the nitty gritty stuff while cutting out a fumbly middle man (in this case it’s me), is great. Hopefully this is the future of buying data: having companies build partnerships so you can trust one if you trust the other, and so you can have everything integrated with a few clicks, instead of downloading form one place and uploading to another and hoping you have the right files and stuff.

  • Hintz

    I personally use Much cheaper for same quality leads.

  • Hi web marketers

    We‘ve just lauched a digital marketplace to help entrepreneurs/small and medium companies to find b2b databases and business email lists. help you to send marketing & promotion campaign to a segmented target.

    • Is it Monday already?

      If my name is on any of those lists, I want it removed. How do I opt out?

  • Is it Monday already?

    The lists are utter crap. They steal names off resumes, social networks, linkedin, etc. They highten the titie and sell the list.

    I am a software developer in Singapore. I have found my name on a dozen lists. Of course they elevated my title to “Senior Executive”, and changed my location to “San Jose”. I guess that makes thier phony list worth more.