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How direct marketers should best buy Cold Lists

How direct marketers should best buy Cold Lists

By Sue Maclure, Head of eCRM, EHS Brann

You know the situation, you want to acquire more customers – your key target is growth of new, not upselling to existing, customers, but how do you find them?

Your web site is all sparkly and live, you’ve got your press in place, you might even have been able to talk the Marketing Director into doing some above the line activity, but you still have numbers to make up. And your main course of activity is email – the only answer seems to be to buy some cold lists…

What are some of the areas one needs to think about around email purchase then?

Essentially, there are 2 key routes

1. Buying from a list vendor

Realistically, gone are the days of the fly by night email provider who haven’t validated their email list and just gathered any email they came across and flogged it to anyone who would pay for it (to be fair, if it ever existed).

Cold list providers just can’t operate like that any more – the data protection’s explicit opt in means if they want to maintain credibility they have to follow due process.

However, you, as a purchaser and potential email sender must do the same.

When you send an email list from your eCRM software house (Smart Focus, Cheetahmail etc etc), anything ‘dodgy’ about that list, (e.g .the prospect never said they wanted to hear about the latest beard trimming product, or patio cleaner and have no idea why you think they did etc etc), will come back on your software supplier.

Excessive bouncebacks, or spam reports will reflect on the eCRM software house and as a result the email service providers (Gmail / Yahoo / hotmail etc…), may blocked the emails from that software house for a period of time. Either way, it’ll have an adverse affect on the sends.

So, it doesn’t even reflect badly on the client who sent the list, but the software house who sent it. You can see why they have such strict privacy policies, and if you check any website for blast providers, you will see they are quite explicit in correct sourcing of data.

Success of buying a list will be driven by many of the same things as an offline list – what is’ source is, how you select from it, how many emails the names receive. But once you’ve ensure you have your strategy straight, there are two, perfectly workable, quick ways around buying the data:-

1. Get the list provider to email on your behalf. In fact, a lot of them will insist on that anyway. That way, any come back is on them, and they can be confident they know how their list is being used.
a. It is not ideal because it means the email comes from a different domain than your usual one.
b. Secondly – whilst you get to keep all the leads that are generated in this way, what you won’t get to see is who opened or clicked but didn’t go on to explicitly register with you – and knowing who showed an interest but ultimately didn’t respond is very useful.
c. And thirdly, there will probably be some creative restrictions – as a minimum they will require their own unsubscribe clause to be used and maybe even their templates

2. Get the list provider to either provide a source for each name, or proof of collection method that demonstrates that the correct permissions were used  – and then test on a small volume. Whilst this doesn’t specifically prove opt in, it allows you to mitigate any risk, and more importantly demonstrate that you have been through due diligence before sending the email.

So it can be done but you need to do it properly.

Another thing to bear in mind is that cold email lists tend to not perform as well as those names that have been generated by your own activity getting people to raise their hands. But, as in the old cold paper direct mail days, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for cold lists as a start point.

2. Generating your own emails

If you are generating names through your own activity (competition entries, events, recommend a friend), and asking for the relevant permissions, then by definition you overcome any issues with the spamming complaint.

However, you still have to think about how successful a campaign using that data will be.

When you set up a competition for people to enter you attract, well, competition entrants – and they are not necessarily the same as potential purchasers. There may be a fundamental disconnect between those that made the affiliation with the competition rather than you as a brand.

And you need to think about how you use the data – it’s not a natural leap for a customer to register for a competition and then get weekly emails – you need to think about what your first communication with them is and how you position yourself.

Likewise for event data, think about how relevant the sales email you are sending is to the event at which you gathered their details, there’s nothing worse than attending an event on say, pension advice, and then being sold loans for the next 6 months.

As with all data collection and usage – the key driver is ‘how relevant are you when you come to send something’ and that, along with source, will dictate how successful your campaign is and therefore how great ROI is likely to be.

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