Your Email List

Old School Email

Because outbound email marketing is efficient and economical, it is likely to be the core of your early outreach efforts.  I blogged about email marketing as a whole and about email lists specifically here a couple of years ago and now want to update my thoughts about your email list.

A solid email list is the foundation of an early stage company’s marketing effort but the challenge is: “How do I develop one?”  There are three ways to do this.

Buy an Email List

Several sources will sell lead information – DemandBase, Data.com (Owned by Salesforce), NetProspex – for anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 a lead, depending upon the quantity you purchase.  This is certainly a way to get started and can be used to augment research you do on your own (see “Build” below) but is not optimal.  Purchased leads vary widely in accuracy and, the fact you are using a lead that 1,000s of other marketers have accesseed means you are opening yourself up to spam feedback (See “A Word About CAN-SPAM” below.

If you do buy names, stay focused, resisting the temptation to purchase contact information for every C level executive at all the Fortune 1000 companies in your target vertical.  This is a waste of money and raises the probability that you will be reported and blacklisted.

Rent It

While renting a large list can be tempting (“Imagine: this email marketing firm will send our message to 50,000 prospects!”), it is not worth it.  You want to own the contacts you market to so that you can generate consistent, steady, repetitive outreach to your targets, so as to build a relationship with him/her.  Renting doesn’t do this for you – a single email sent to a prospect out of the blue is almost worthless.

Or Build One

I like this process the best.  It is remarkable how quickly you can develop a solid, highly targeted list, by combing through company web sites, association sites, LinkedIn, Twitter and trade publications.  It does take work but it is work that will pay off: building your list is a great project for an intern or junior analyst.   And small is beautiful: a solid, focused list of 500 suspects is much better than a purchased list of 5,000 contacts (I’ve changed my tune here from when I first wrote about lists a couple of years ago here.  I think small can be very effective.).  Be rigorous in focusing on specific titles and verticals; doing your own research ensures that you will not make your list parameters too broad.

One of the benefits of researching and building y0ur own list is that you will get to know the verticals you are targeting intimately: there is no substitute for grinding your way through the few hundred companies that you want to target, looking for the right people, figuring out their email addresses, learning about their backgrounds on LinkedIn, etc.

Email lists get old fast: depending on the industries you are selling into, turnover can vary from 6.5% (Utilities) to 33.7% (Hospitality) annually, so keep your email list fresh and growing.  I like to revisit an email list for a major refresh every six months.

A Word About CAN-SPAM

The CAN-SPAM act is primarily focused on B2C marketing, to prevent consumers being spammed with a zillion offers that they do not want (spammers do this anyway but do so breaking the law.) and so states that an email recipient must have “opted in” (i.e. agreed to) receiving your email.  At one level, this applies to B2B interactions although there is an understanding that, by publicizing your name as being in business, you have opted to receive solicitations.

My experience has  been that if you build your own list (do not buy and absolutely, totally, completely do not rent), keep it focused and you are diligent about heeding unsubscribe requests, you will not run into trouble.  Very occasionally, you will get someone that will report an unrequested email to a site like SpamCop and you will just have to deal with them promptly and politely.

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