Should You Use Outside Email Lists?

Business 2 Community published an article Saturday arguing that email marketers should not prospect to “purchased” email lists. While typical, it’s shoddier than most pieces in its genre. For starters, it misuses terminology — unless a company is acquired, lists are not “purchased” -- they are rented for one-time use.

Then there’s the old saw that you’re going to end up with bad addresses and bounces. Seasoned marketers know that you get a credit or refund for bad data. Finally, the author argues that you’re “invading the inboxes of strangers” when you send emails to an outside list.

For pushback, we turned to Geoffrey D. Batrouney, executive vice president at Estee Marketing Group Inc. Batrouney countered in an email that “experienced, sophisticated, knowledgeable direct marketers incorporate all forms of direct media in their customer acquisition campaigns. These include direct response lists, package inserts, on-page advertising — “and, yes, email.”

Batrouney conceded that “email marketing efforts to acquire new customers will deliver a very small percentage of response, in absolute terms, and relative to other media, especially direct response lists married to a superb direct mail piece. Nobody — nobody — responsible for email-based new-customer acquisition is unmindful of this, and financials for an email campaign take this into account.”

And that claim about the inbox? Batrouney noted that “responsible, ethical, email marketers deploy only double opt-in email records, records with the time and date stamp when the individual accepted the invitation to receive emails from third parties. The writer confuses the act of opting in with a poor selection decision by the marketer. An email marketer who is working with a qualified, skilled and experienced list broker will not send an inappropriate email to a prospective new customer.”

Are email lists old, as the article suggests? Some may be.

“I am not at all sure why the writer is focusing on the age of the data,” Batrouney wrote. “Should email data, mailing lists and all direct media be fresh and current? Yes. Are email lists old? No doubt some are. Are all email lists suffering from age? No.”

Moving on, Batrouney explained the technical process of email list rental. “In direct mail prospecting, the lists are merged, the data is standardized at a service bureau and the single mail string then makes its way to the printer, from where it is deployed/mailed.”

He continued, “Email is the complete opposite of that process. An email marketer must rent the email list through a broker, and the marketer must submit the proposed creative to the owner of the email list. After testing, only then is the email deployed — by the owner of the list. There is no merge-purge. There is only deployment.”

Ergo sum? “If we buy the scenario laid out by the writer the owner of a list of (say) 250,000 emails presses a button and away goes the entire email string, polluting bandwidth and firing off spam filters from Arizona to Zimbabwe. This is assuredly not what happens in 2017.”

What does happen? “Today, to protect the list owner’s interest in being able to email to his/her own people, the email being deployed on behalf of a third party is deployed slowly, in tranches so as not to trigger spam filters. Does this ensure a large response rate? No it does not. Does this affect deliverability? Yes it does.”

Next topic: the response rate? "“There is nothing magic about a 2% response rate when using direct mail, a list and a catalog, 2% is wonderful if one is selling test drives for a Rolls Royce; it is a disaster if one is selling $10 per order pantyhose (remember those days?),” Batrouney stated. “The same is the case for email and package insert statistics—two-tenths of one percent is a not uncommon metric. Think about that—a miniscule percentage can be quite acceptable.”

Batrouney continued that building an email list via a sign-up form on one’s website is, as the writer suggests), indeed one way of building a type of email list. However, he added that sign-ups “do not work for sales or anything but informational emails. Sign-ups are signing up ‘for free’; they give little and expect much. They are valued accordingly.”

His conclusion? That the article is “a statement without a cause, and a case without supportive evidence—beyond mere anecdotal tales.”  


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