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List Procurement – There’s No Magic Bullet

imageList procurement is top of mind for me. Not only because I’ve recently been working with a few partners on purchasing lists to support their direct marketing campaigns. Mostly because lists are a representation of your target audience. No matter how good your product or service is, if you are marketing to the wrong individuals you will fail. Identifying the correct target audience for your marketing campaigns is the most important thing you can do to make sure your campaign succeeds. Some say that 50-70% of your campaign success is dependent upon your list. The challenge is acquiring a list that will help you meet your demand generation goals. Unfortunately, list procurement is not an exact science. There’s no magic bullet… no database that specifically houses contacts that exactly match your target audience. So what can you do? Here are some practical tips from “The Complete Guide to Direct Marketing” by Chet Meisner.13 Rules for Working with Lists:1. Know whom you want to reach, not just what address. Addresses or companies don’t buy products. People do. Addresses can give you information about the characteristics of your target audience, but you will need to have a good idea of the characteristics of the individual person you are trying to reach. Your marketing will be viewed by a person, not an address or a company.2. The more you know the better. Collect as much information as you can about your targeted individual. There are mountains of information available on both consumers and businesses. Much of it is in different places and you will probably have to look around to collect and compile what you want.3. Seek professional help. In the list business, a good list broker is worth his weight in gold. Some are generalists and some specialize Because there are literally tens of thousands of lists available, list brokers are an excellent resource for beginning your search for a particular list or audience.4. The larger the company, the more important the contact name. In a business-to-business setting, don’t think about what company you are marketing to. Think instead about whom within that company you need to reach. 5. Build your own list when you can. Nobody knows your market as you do. And even the best rented lists will be 5% to 10% inaccurate or slightly off target for your marketing. The best to ensure your list is the right one is for you build it from scratch. 6. Your house list is rarely as good as you think it is. Unless you have specifically built a list for direct marketing from scratch and have rigorously maintained it, your in-house list will rarely be as valuable as you think it is. Unless your company has recently gone through the process of updating its in-house list with outside information, you should assume some work needs to be done before you use it for direct marketing.7. Always opt for opt-in email lists. In today’s electronic marketing environment, email lists are being compiled in a number of ways. Not all of them following best practices. When renting email lists, always check to see if the names on the list have actually opted in to be on the list. Some companies offer double or triple opt-in lists. These are even better.8. Nothing is perfect -even in the list business. No list you rent will be perfect. Some of the names will be out of date or inaccurate. Others will have bad addresses or incorrect phone numbers. The list business is a volume business. It is unreasonable to expect a faultless list. Generally speaking, you should expect 5%-10% of any list you rent to be inaccurate. 9. The rent-to-own strategy. Generally you will not buy lists; you will rent them. When you rent a list and market to it there are usually restrictions in your contract as to how many times you use the list. However, once a name on a rented lists responds to you from a marketing activity, that responding name becomes your and you generally have perpetual rights to market to it.10. If people would just stay put. On average 15% of consumers move to a new address every year. In a business-to-business environment, people move from company to company or from department to department within a company even more frequently than that. So once you compile a list of good prospects, you’ll need to actively work to keep it up to date.11. Once you find a well, drink it dry. Once you find a list that responds well to your marketing, stick with it until its performance begins to significantly deteriorate. Keep marketing to the same people over and over until it becomes unprofitable. Most lists can be marketed to three to four times within a six month period before experiencing response deterioration so significant that you’ll want to stop marketing to them. If you let the list rest for another six months you can usually go back to it again with good results. It can be very expensive to find a good list for your product, so when you fund one, stick with it as long as you can.12. Learn to talk the language. Learn the language of the list business so you can make intelligent list purchases and find the lists you want. List owners capture certain data elements. For business lists these data elements include business type, number of employees, sales income and more. Learn which data elements the list owners capture and how they talk about them. Then define the market you are trying to reach I their terms instead of your own.13. How can there be some many lists? There aren’t as many lists as it might seem. Many major list owners rent and update their lists with the lists of other major list owners. Many brokers and managers package the same existing lists differently to give them a different look and feel. Be certain to understand the actual source of the list you are renting to be sure that you aren’t paying a premium just to have someone repackage some else’s lists.

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2 Comments.


  1. Hi Ruth, Great blog on lists and how they are misperceived! As a channel marketing vendor, we promote our clients to purchase the list when possible. We are trying to get them to look at building a targeted list to continually market to. We even offer a new service for partners to view a list prior to purchase. They even own the list!!!

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  2. Getting a good targeted list is indeed very important for any kind of business.

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