The Email List Conundrum – Purchase, Rent, Grow.

I remember writing about how to build an email list almost 10 years ago now and it puzzles me that people still are questioning whether they should build a list, rent a list or a purchase a list.

Here’s my updated take on the whole email list matter.

1. Organically-growing an email list is always the first choice. Why? First, these subscribers want to be here. You have earned their trust by the content you provide, your helpfulness, your engagement with them – whatever the case may be – and they value you. Second, these folks are your fans and could be an evangelist or influencer for you down the road. Third, these folks could also be considered warm or hot leads, and with the right nurturing of these leads, could become customers. In addition, the open and click-through rates of email campaigns are the highest with an organically grown list.

2. Renting an email list is usually a no, but perhaps a maybe. In any event, I use my standard phrase “it depends” when it comes to renting a list. The only cases I see to use a rented list are (1) if you have a new business and you want to use the email marketing channel or (2) you are introducing a new product or service, and you do not have an email list built to specifically target the product or service to. This approach will take research (researching the email list providers that make sense for you), and the ability to target your content very thoroughly, especially the CTA (Call To Action) and Landing Page components of your email campaign.

A note about email list providers. There are many questions to ask them. What I have listed here are only a few. What is the age of the list? Have the individuals on the list gone through double opt-in to be on the list? How did the list provider get the names on the list? What is included in the price? How many email addresses do they send to? What is the quantity of creative pieces included in the price? How many A/B tests are included?

Also, I suggest that prior to reaching out to any email list provider, you have set targets to your list. As an example, if you are an environmental nonprofit and you want to rent a list, then search for email list providers that have lists of individuals who have donated to environmental causes in the past 1-2 years. Also, define environmental – what type of environmental causes? Remember, and this is very important, that the email list company will need to send out your email. Since you rented the list, they control the email addresses. You will only be able to have a recipient’s email when they sign up for your campaign. Renting a list is a means to help you build your list and not a replacement to #1 above.

3. Purchasing an email list is, in a phrase, a bad idea. First, chances are the leads are cold. Second, if you have an ESP (email service provider) you are using, you wouldn’t be able to use it to email these people. Third, your open and click-through rates are going to be extremely low. So, does that really justify the money you want to dish out to purchase a list?

Whichever route you go, keep in mind all results are dependent upon having the right content that answers the recipient’s pain points and motivates them to take action.

What do you say?






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