Ask the E-mail Diva: Acquisition List Vetting

Dear E-mail Diva,

I am planning to use e-mail to drive new traffic to my Web site. Since it and the business I am operating are new, I've yet to generate a list. I'm considering using a firm that will e-mail my message to people who have opted-in to a list that they maintain. What factors should I consider in choosing between these firms for the vendor I will use? Are there other issues about this kind of e-mail campaign that I should be aware of?

Steve Apel

Dear Steve,

The E-mail Diva will assume you are not looking for a partner with a complementary product who reaches your intended audience, but an e-mail list vendor. Consider the former also, but the measures below may be a bit severe for a well-known partner. Many of these good ideas below were presented by Sean O'Neal of Datran Media and Stephanie Miller of Return Path at the E-mail Insider Summit. For a copy of their presentation, click here.



First, make sure you know the source(s) of the names. What did the user opt-in to receive, and when? Don't settle for vague answers, e.g., "we gathered these names on a variety of sweepstakes and free offer sites." Demand specifics: screen caps of the opt-in page, date range of opt-ins and whether or not there was an incentive.

Next, check references--and beware if there are none for any companies you recognize. Run a credit check and make sure that the list vendor's mailing address is a real office. Look at its Web site --is this a serious concern or a sketchy player?

Consider what qualifies someone as a good lead for your site or your e-mail program. Are you just trying to spread the word, or do you want people to register, purchase or otherwise qualify themselves as potential customers? Yesmail can track list response conversions, so you can see which lists are working for you. Test a segment of each rented list and measure the conversion rate.

Remember that your best list growth strategy is to provide high-quality content. Competition is fierce in the e-mail inbox, so those who are playing the numbers game will lose out to those who are satisfying customer needs in the long run.

And while paid acquisition efforts will jump-start your program, don't overlook the organic and basic viral efforts that will pay dividends daily.

Good luck!

The E-mail Diva

Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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