Crafting Your Email Lists: Six Rules

Ok, you’re emerging technology is profitable, you are moving beyond missionary sales and are beginning to think about how you scale the sales process. As you build momentum, you will want to start some simple content-based email marketing. The foundation of this process has two components: 1. snappy, valuable content; and 2. a solid email list. I want to address the second item in this post.

There is a fair bit of art and a lot of work that goes into the care and feeding of solid email lists; they take steady upkeep and it seems that one’s work is never done.  A good email list is like….. sourdough starter (Metaphor alert!).  You keep working it, feeding it, even as you tap it.  Fresh, bubbling, lively.

1. Figure out who you are targeting.  Really

Better to build a list focused by title, industry and function that is smaller and a little humble, than spamming every C level individual at Fortune 500 companies.  I know and you know that the solution you are offering is absolutely, totally, completely essential to the survival and flourishing of  businesses that you will be approaching and that your content will be killer, but you should stay focused.

Invariably, when I receive email marketing material from companies looking for business, it has absolutely nothing to do with my title, the vertical I work in, or the size of companies I work with.  Kind of a waste of time.

2. Mix and match your sources

Sources vary as to quality and reach: bounce back estimates range form 20- 30% on a given list.  I like to compare leads generated by a particular source with a vertical and geography I know (e.g. all VP level Marketing leads in the 94111 zip code.).  I like DemandBase, JigSaw (now owned by Salesforce) and NetProspex: with the latter two you can trade leads in and get credits.  And, folks like Nielsen run trade publications (e.g. Commercial Property News) solely for the purpose of capturing lead information to sell.   I haven’t had a lot of experience with list brokers – if I can, I like to go to the source.

3. Fresh is Best

Email lists get stale pretty quickly: you need only to think about the turnover in the industry that you are selling into to to realize that 20 – 40% of your list will go stale evey year.  One of my clients proudly announced that they had a 50,000 name list and were ready to rock and roll with it.  A little digging revealed that this list had been built up over 15 years and never culled: likely, less than 50% of it is of any use.

4. Own don’t rent

There are providers that still rent email lists (I think this was more common a few years ago when acquiring a prospect’s email address was difficult).  I much prefer to own my list so that I can built a steady, repetitive campaign around it.

5. Size matters.  To a point

One of the beautiful things about email marketing is that it is almost cost-free to scale (preparing the content for a campaign takes the same amount of effort regardless of whether you are emailing 1,000 or 10,000 names.)  This leads to temptation to turn your marketing effforts into spam machine.  I like a list that is between 10 and 20 thousand names.  This size range is big enough to generate leads (at a 2% yield rate, a 20,000 name will generate 40 enquiries) but small enough to get your mind around.  The latter point is important:  you should know your list, recognizing companies, regions, titles and names in it.

6. Take what the email marketing folks say with a grain of salt

There are lots of good sources (blogs, white papers, email marketing service providers.  Marketing Profs is a great read.) of information about how to use email marketing, which can be great places to “check in”.  My only beef with these is that they tend to be somewhat B2C focused and/or biased toward the email marketing professional within a large organization, talking in terms of 100s of thousands of prospects and tweaking of a program that you are unlikely to undertake.  The way that you run your email marketing at an emerging company will smell different than this, it will be lean, flexible, simple.


  1. Too bad, i have retired from business, else would have. Been worth a lot fpr me.

Speak Your Mind