Lauren: Welcome to Consider This. I’m Lauren McGaha.
Holly: I’m Holly Fong.
Lauren: Hey, Holly.
Holly: Hey, Lauren. Hey, have you noticed at some podcasts at the end of it they said, “I’ve been like Holly Fong,” for example? Have you heard that ever at the end of the podcast?
Lauren: I’ve been?
Holly: Yeah, like, “I’ve been Holly Fong,” at the end.
Lauren: Oh. Instead of this episode, I was Lauren McGaha.
Lauren: No, I don’t …
Holly: Should we start doing that?
Lauren: I’ve been Lauren McGaha.
Lauren: And I’ve been Holly Fong. I don’t know. Let’ play that by ear. It sounds pretty awkward.
Holly: I might for it.
Holly: Don’t be surprised.
Lauren: We’re all here on the edge of seat waiting to see how you play that at the end here.
Holly: People are probably going to fast forward to the end of this episode because they’re going to be so excited.
Lauren: Well, I’m excited about this episode because we’re going to be talking about a topic that we get a lot of questions about, particularly when people are first getting into their digital outbound marketing strategy, and it’s about how to effectively market to a purchased email list. So today, we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about the do’s and don’ts of purchasing a list, what types of content are going to best resonate when you start marketing to a purchase list, how to go about putting together a strategy to emailing a purchase list, what sort of performance metrics you should expect, and also talk about some other common questions that we get around “where should I buy a list? Is it even ethical to purchase a list these days?” All of those types of questions.
When we start working with firms on their digital marketing strategy, we do and we talk a lot on this podcast about the content strategy, and we talk about that a lot from an inbound perspective. That you should be publishing a certain volume of indexable content to the site that is rooted in your expertise so that you’re likely to bring people to discover you online who have a need for the problems that you solve. But a very important component to a successful digital marketing strategy includes the outbound side of things, right? So we want to make sure that even though you’re developing this thought leadership and you’re publishing to the site that you got to really smart way of engaging people by putting that expertise in front of them on a regular basis. This is where outbound email comes into play.
But a lot of firms we meet, their list size is just pretty small. It’s often just a few hundred names, maybe around 300 to 500, would you say?
Holly: Yeah. You know what’s interesting about those names to is so many of them aren’t actually their target audience.
Lauren: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Holly: It’s like friends and family.
Lauren: Yeah. Their mom.
Holly: Yeah. Family.
Lauren: Yeah. I mean, it’s true. I think calling it a prospect list is probably pretty generous for a lot of these firms.
Holly: Way generous. I would say maybe like a hundred of those names are prospects.
Lauren: Yeah. They know it. The question is what do I do about it? So I mean, you could choose to wait and try to grow that list organically by increasing the volume of content that you’re publishing to the site, and hopefully people flood the site, come by the masses, and sign up for the blog digest, or you’re looking at list purchase. So that is often the route that our clients are taking, and that’s a journey that we help them navigate.
Holly: Yeah. Definitely. It’s the fastest way to get there. Waiting for enough people to come to the site and then for those people that come to the site to fill out a form takes years.
Holly: I think we projected that in one of our blog posts. I want to say it was …
Lauren: Yeah, it was like if you hit every other metric that we recommend. Like 3,000 words of content. You’re getting a hundred unique visitors to the site each day and you’re sustaining a 3% conversion rate. It’s still going to take you like eight years to build up your list from 500 to 3,000. 3,000 is a magic number that we start with. A lot of our high performers have much higher …
Holly: I would say is probably around where they’re at.
Lauren: But as far as a minimum viable list database to begin marketing to and start to see reliable conversions on and reliable success from, we’re looking a minimum of 3,000 names.
Lauren: So to get to that threshold, we’re looking a list purchase. So we’re going to get into all the details here, but one of the things that … One of the places I’d like to begin is let’s say that a firm has a newly acquired list, they’ve downloaded the names, and they’re ready to start marketing to it, what is the very first step they need to take?
Holly: So they need to first clean that list.
Holly: There’s different ways to do that. If they work with us, they can do it through us. Webula is the provider we use that they could also use on their own as well. There’s a bunch of other list providers or list cleaning services and list providers. Sometimes they’re one in the same that can do that service for you. What that’s going to do is it’s going to check for the valid email addresses because there’s a chance that some of those people could’ve left those companies and things like that. There’s also a chance when you’re purchasing data that some of that data is not only not valid, but it could be different honeypots and spam traps and things like that that would be really bad for your IP and your delivery …
Lauren: Honeypot sounds like such a pleasant little thing though.
Holly: Don’t want to get stuck in a honeypot. You don’t want that because you don’t want to be blacklisted or have any issues like that, which could prohibit you from being able to send to your list moving forward.
Lauren: We recommend that you do a third party list cleanse outside of the validation process that the list provider is providing to you as part of the list purchase. So a lot of these places they say, “Oh. We clean the database every other month,” or something like that. What we have found is that even when the list provider is saying that, we put it through a third party cleanse through Webula in this case and we still get a ton of bad domains and we find a bunch of spam traps and that kind of thing. So always important to put it through a separate professional cleanse aside from what the list provider is saying that they do on a semi-regular basis.
Holly: Yeah. You should account for that when you’re purchasing a list as far as what that’s going to cost. The cleanse is going to be a quarter of what the purchase itself cost.
Lauren: If that. Is it even that much?
Holly: Well, how much are we saying a list purchase is?
Lauren: Fair point. So if we’re saying to get to … If you were going to purchase 3,000 names, I would say that you could expect to spend roughly $4,500.
Lauren: So a list cleanse on 3,000 names …
Holly: Would be 10% of that then.
Holly: $300, $400.
Lauren: So a fraction of what … Yeah, but that’s a good point to build that into the budget.
So you cleanse a list, figure out where you your valid names are, and then that’s what gets put into the CRM or the marketing automation system or both. Then the logical next step is what kind of communication do we send to this list?
Holly: Yes. I think it’s a big mistake for the first communication to be something like a branded blog digest where you’re giving that individual lots of options as to what to click to and they’ve never heard of you. They don’t know who you are and then you send them an email that says, “Here’s our most recent content.” You haven’t given them a reason to care, and you’re also saying, “Here’s a bunch of choices as what you can click on.”
Lauren: Right. Yeah. You read through, you figure out what’s the most relevant, click through.
Holly: Yeah. They’re going to be like, “Why should I even read through this?” They’re probably not going to. The other thing that’s not great about sending them more branded email that might have pictures and things like that included is it’s going to be less likely to get into their inbox, right? So it’s a better idea …
Lauren: Because, sorry just to drive that point home. It’s less likely to get into their inbox because you’ve never sent, your domain has never sent to this company before, so that company’s domain doesn’t recognize you as a safe sender. So something like an image is more likely to flag spam filters.
Holly: Yeah. So the email client, like Gmail or something like that or even the …
Lauren: Company’s domain.
Holly: Yeah. The company’s domain or the different spam filters that they have in place. All of those things are looking at the sender and looking at what is in the email. So if it sees an unfamiliar sender and it sees a lot of html or imagery in that email, it’s going to be less likely to put it in your inbox if it’s an unknown sender and those things are true as well.
Holly: So sending an unbranded email, so a text based email, with one link is definitely part of our recommendation when it comes to sending to that purchase list initially.
Lauren: Because it’s more likely to be placed in the inbox at all, and also, strategically it’s going to focus on the attention of the reader and tell them what they need to pay attention to and not hit them with a bunch of options.
Lauren: Now as far as the messaging is concerned, I was working with a client last week on this. They had purchased a very small list, actually a very targeted small list, and they were excited to be promoting a new service that they had. So they were building out this whole automated campaign to promote that service to this very small list whose never heard from them before. We stopped and we said, “Whoa, whoa. Let’s back up, and let’s first deliver a piece of thought leadership before we talk at all about this service that you want them to buy into.” Which I think is a really important distinction because obviously a big catalyst for a lot of firms purchasing names is that they want to talk about what they do because they want to sell their services to these people. Of course, that makes sense. But I think there’s something really important to the rule of establishing your own credibility with this audience and that takes some time of delivering thought leadership and education before you ask anything of these people.
Holly: Definitely. So the other thing we talk about when it comes to that first message is making sure it’s not about you, right?
Holly: So don’t send them a message saying, “This is who we are.”
Lauren: Right. That’s a really common misstep. “Hey, introducing xyz brand. Let us tell you about ourselves.” No one cares.
Holly: No, they’re going to introduce you to their trash. Maybe a spam filter.
Lauren: Ouch. So cold.
Holly: So that’s not usually the best idea. No one ever sees those emails and is like, “Oh, I’m so glad this person introduced themselves via email to me.” Maybe there’s a few people. I doubt it though. So what’s better instead is to talk about the piece of content that you’re promoting to them, and let’s talk a little bit about that piece of content that might make the most sense for send to purchase list.
Lauren: Yeah. I think first and foremost, the thing to keep in mind is don’t make it a gated piece of content. So you might be really excited that you’ve got a new asset coming up, like a white paper or you’ve got a webinar that people can sign up for. I think you’re less likely to see conversions on those assets if you’re delivering them for the first time to a purchase list because what you’re asking of the reader then is to click through on an email from someone they don’t know, who works at a brand they probably never heard of, and then when they get to that landing page, you’re asking them to take a few more steps by submitting more information about themselves to access your coveted piece of marketing content that’s been gated behind the form.
Instead, it goes back to this idea of establishing credibility and trust. So choose a really thoughtful piece of content and send that to them, but if it’s historically gated piece of content on the site, create another link on the site, and allow the people who you email it to on the purchase list to access that content form free; or choose a really smart, well written, indexable piece of content that has no form in front of it so that you can begin to establish yourself without asking them to do anymore than read the education you’re sending.
Holly: Definitely. I would also say that I wonder if the length of something like a white paper might be off putting as well. You know what I mean? Because they don’t really know who you are yet, and not only are you saying, “Hey, fill out a form.” But you’re saying like, “Do you have 15 minutes to read this?” Maybe I’m just a slow reader. But I think you would have more success sending something that someone can digest more quickly and get to the point of more quickly than maybe a larger piece.
Lauren: I can see that being true in a lot of scenarios. I think for the most part for our clients, we tend to recommend the blog post route or the article route because it is … There’s usually really great content that comes in that format that would be suitable for a purchased list. I will say, though, I think it also depends on the topic at hand. If you have an annual research report that’s got a lot of valuable information.
Holly: That’s a good point.
Lauren: Or if you’re doing a big trend analysis piece that’s relevant to this person’s industry. Stuff like that I think would be a really nice way to establish yourself as a thought leader inside of this space that the prospect is working in. I would not gate that asset for those people specifically. So what you do there is just create like a hidden link on your site that has the same asset but not gated, and make sure that’s the one that gets deployed.
Holly: Yeah. That’s a good point. Especially about like something like a trend’s report. I would also maybe argue that even though that might be a longer piece of content, it might not have as much content as it does like metrics and things like that that are really easy for someone to look at, get an idea of what that point is, and they can read into it more if they want to, but they can also … It’s not like just one big lengthy post about something that’s later stage maybe or that they need to have a better understanding of before they can really dive into it.
Lauren: Yeah. Maybe so. I mean, I just think it depends on the topic and how it’s been produced.
Holly: Yeah. Agreed.
Lauren: Okay. So we know single link email that’s focusing the reader’s attention on this particular asset.
Holly: I would also say the from address is very important. So who you’re sending that email from. I would not send it from a generic email alias.
Lauren: Like a hello@ or a …
Lauren: Stop sending emails from marketing@, nobody opens those.
Holly: No, definitely not. So sending it from a person at the company makes a lot of sense.
Lauren: That’s just good email marketing best practice right there. Purchase list or otherwise. We never see a higher performance coming from a generic email alias versus somebody at your organization.
Holly: Yeah. I think a marquee person at that organization makes a lot of sense too, right?
Holly: Maybe it’s the CEO, principle or president, right? Whose written a piece, and it’s really nice when they write that piece too, and they’re sending an email promoting that piece that they’ve written to these people.
Holly: When it comes to crafting that email, I also think they could think of sending it to one individual person and then find a bunch of people who fit that profile and send it to them. But if they’re comfortable sending it to that one person, then they should be comfortable sending it to a large list of people that fit that same profile.
Lauren: Yeah. That’s an important point. The point of tone in these emails, particularly what we’re describing as a simpler design, really unbranded kind of email. The point is that it should feel personal. It should feel like you sat down at your computer and wrote this email to an individual who you know and respect saying, “Hey, I think you’re going to care about this for these reasons. Check it out.”
Lauren: So yeah. Part of sustaining that tone is making sure that it’s actually coming from an individual and not a generic email alias.
Lauren: Let’s talk a little bit about how often to send to a purchase list specifically. We’ve sited that generally speaking when you’re up and running with your digital marketing in full earnest, you should be sending between two and four emails to your list each month. Do the rules change for a purchase list?
Holly: No. I would say it’s the same amount. So I would not blast them with an email a day. I think that’s a mistake. I also wouldn’t set them in some super advanced program where if they click on that link, then immediately they get sent another email.
Holly: Or they go to that one page, and then immediately they get sent another email. I would probably give it a little more time in between. So something like once a week, once every 10 days for the first few months. I would be careful with the first few emails that you send though. Meaning that it’s not just that initial email that you’re sending, but it’s not like you send that initial email and then you jump right in to sending your blog digest.
Holly: Or something like that. So think about the post that you’re sending these individuals to because you’re going to be gaining that trust for a period of time. It’s not just going to be that first email. You also have to think about the amount of people who actually going to read that first email, right? So really that second email is a second chance at some of those individuals who maybe open the first email but most likely didn’t open that first email.
Lauren: Yeah. By and large, I tend to lean on the more conservative side of the two to four recommendation, two to four emails per month recommendation. I mean, that’s a broad swing percentage wise, and I think you can probably plan on sending thought leadership twice a month for the first quarters worth of marketing to a purchase list before you start falling into say a blog digest rhythm or sending more gated content or getting a little bit more promotional from here and there. I’d give it three months of two emails per month, six emails going to a purchase list. One every other week feels pretty conservative, and observe how it’s performing, observe how people are engaging, and make your best call from there. But I think that’s a good average timeframe to be planning on when you’re first getting into marketing to your purchase list.
Holly: Yeah. I would also say one thing that you could consider when it comes to these emails is the diversity of content that you’re sending them. So the content types that you’re sending them, for example. So we talked about not necessarily initially sending something like a white paper, but if you have different content types, let’s say you have a podcast and you have a blog post. You could send one promoting a blog post and the next one promoting a podcast, right? Because people like to digest content in different ways. So someone who might not be attracted to that blog post might be attracted to the fact that you have a podcast they can listen to.
Lauren: Couldn’t agree more. I think the more diversity you have in your content plan, the more opportunities you have across the board when it comes to marketing to your list, purchased or otherwise really. So I think that’s a really good strategy if you’re trying to introduce somebody to your brand and to your expertise to kind of give them a nice sampling throughout the quarter of what you’re capable of. Again, just building the foundation, establishing the trust.
Holly: Yeah. One other thing I was just going to add is we talked about not providing multiple links in that first email.
Holly: I would say that when you’re three or four emails down, you could start providing a few more links giving them a few choices as to what they want to click on. I wouldn’t say like five. I’d say maybe like three different links, three slightly different blog posts, and based on what they click on, you might have a better idea of what they’re interest might be.
Lauren: Yeah. I would still reserve that toward later in the quarter personally. Because of your earlier point really which is those first few emails, they may not even see it, so the third email you send might be the first email in their minds. That’s why I think the quarter give it six emails inside of a quarter, and wait until you get toward the end of that time period to start sending them more options and more choices.
Lauren: Wow. Okay. So the Sono speaker in our studio just came on. I think that means it’s a good time to take a break. We’ll take a break, and then we will come back and get to some questions.
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Lauren: All right. So let’s go ahead and dive into a few questions that we often see around the subject of purchase list. The first one here I’m going to pose to you, Holly, which is “what kind of performance should I be expecting from the emails that I send to a purchase list?”
Holly: Not great performance. You’re not going to expect a super high engagement rate. So generally what we say is that you can expect half of what the engagement rate would be of a more nurtured list, a list that has engaged with your content before. Those numbers have gone down some. So we used to say 25% to 30% when it comes to an open rate, and lately we’ve seen it closer to 20% to 25% and there might be a variety of reasons for that.
Some of it might be that people’s list have grown, and so the more people that you’re emailing usually you’re getting more people to click on it but that doesn’t necessarily mean the percentage is higher. The other reason being I think more people are engaging in email marketing. Meaning, sending marketing emails and spam filters and things like that have gotten smarter over time as well. People are opening their phones on mobile and mobile does different things when it comes to different filters that happen on mobile.
So what I would say is around 10% of an open rate is fair, and if it’s a little below that, 8% or so, I think that’s okay. I wouldn’t freak out about it. I would expect that. Usually you’re going to see under a 1% click through rate on that first email that you’re sending.
Lauren: Or the first several, right? I mean, yeah. The list is going to stay cold for a little while. I would consider a purchase list cold for at least six months.
Holly: Definitely. Yeah. I think that if you’re slowly inching up after the first month to above 10%, you’re doing pretty well.
Lauren: Yeah. That’s not that common.
Holly: No, exactly. Yeah. So if initially it takes you six months and you’re still seeing around a 10% open rate, I think you’re fine to continue to email to that list. The people, now it’s important to note that the people who don’t want to be on that list, they’re going to be able to opt out. So any of these emails that you’re sending do, for spam compliance reasons, need to have an opt out link, they need to have your physical address of the company that you’re sending from, and as long as those two things are true and you’re not sending to people outside of the U.S., then you’re fine from a compliance standpoint.
Lauren: Mm-hmm. That all makes sense. Yeah. I think just like any other element of digital marketing, the outbound nurturing process is about the long game. So sending your first blast or two to a purchase list and expecting it to perform like it does to your legacy list that has, like we said, friends and family on it for the most part is an unrealistic expectation.
Holly: The next question we have here I’m going to pose to you, which is something that I get a little less pushback on lately, which is whether it’s ethical to purchase a list. What are your thoughts on that?
Lauren: Yeah. Do it. Everyone purchase a list. It’s fun. I find that firms are less squeamish about this these days as well. It used to be when I would first have these conversations with their organizations, they felt like it went against their brand to purchase the names of people who hadn’t asked to be marketed to. But this is the nature of marketing. I mean, there are people out there who do need your services, who have a need for what you do, and you’re not going against some big moral, ethical code by making sure that people understand what your business does and how it can possibly help them. I think that there’s a way to go about it so that it’ll be more effective for you. I think positioning matters a lot here. So the more tightly you are positioned, the more relevant of a list that you can buy. So the more relevant your message is likely to be to the recipients on that list, then that’s going to be the more respectful way to go about this.
But between the fact that this is just kind of how this is done in digital marketing today. Everybody’s buying lists and even HubSpot, who are the big proponents of inbound, they probably send more email to purchase names then any other organization I can think of right now. So this is kind of how it’s done, and the fact that there are ways to do this that it’s above board so that people who don’t want to receive email from you can opt out. I mean the things that you just listed that keep emails spam compliant like having the email address and the email and making sure there’s an opt out link and things like that. All of those things are ways to keep this above board.
I think the final thing that I would think about on that front is that there are, I think, where you’re purchasing a names from matters a lot in terms of where the recipients are located. So you mentioned the U.S., which still has a relatively high amount of flexibility in terms of marketing to purchase list. I wouldn’t say go purchase a bunch of names from Canada or Australia or the UK now or Europe generally because they have tighter, stricter anti-spam laws that make it more difficult to ethically market to those people.
Holly: Yeah. It’s not even an ethical piece more as a legal piece.
Holly: Don’t do that.
Lauren: Yeah. Right.
Holly: But yeah, I agree with all of that. I would also say that purchasing a list of people who fit a profile, people market to people who fit a profile in so many different ways. So purchasing a list of their email address, to me, in some ways isn’t different than the restaurants that live in your area putting a flier on your door.
Holly: Saying that we’re a take out place nearby.
Lauren: Or the organizations who send a bunch of junk mail to your mailbox.
Lauren: Same thing.
Holly: That’s also their personal information. That’s your address.
Lauren: I mean, that’s a, I would say a much more offensive, unethical form of marketing than sending education, like thoughtfully developed education to a well targeted purchase list.
Holly: Agreed. The next question we have here is where should you purchase your list from?
Lauren: Okay. Is this our last question?
Holly: This is our last question.
Lauren: Okay. Yeah, list acquisition sources- so we’ve used several for our clients over the years. So let’s see, for a while we had a lot of clients using Data.com.
Holly: Which is going away.
Lauren: Yeah. That’s being phased out.
Holly: That was a little different than some of the list purchase services in that it was a lot of them try to be subscription services, but Data.com did a really good job at being a subscription service in that you would basically get 300 names a month.
Holly: Right into your Sales Force account, which was a nice feature. I think they’re going to add on to that. I mean, it’s not going to be the same thing. It’s not Data.com anymore, but Dun & Bradstreet I think is doing something along those lines.
Lauren: Okay. Because when I spoke with them about it, they were a little cryptic as to what was coming next.
Holly: They’re kind of cryptic about all of it, right? When they were like getting rid of it, it was this big kind of secret that everyone knew but no one knew when it was happening. You couldn’t buy it anymore, but if you were on it, you could keep getting names.
Lauren: You could get grandfathered in for an undetermined period of time.
Holly: So I don’t know what’s going on there.
Lauren: So not Data.com anymore. WinMo is an option as well if you’re looking. We have a lot of firms who are looking to target the marketing departments of different types of organizations and WinMo, which is the list provider from the list has a lot of names in the marketing world specifically. So a lot of our clients will go there. They also have an interesting sales prospecting tool so you can see where and when people are moving around, when certain positions get new CMOs or when CMOs or leaving other organizations. I think you can get notifications like when a certain organizations maybe gone public or when there’s be a merger acquisition. Things that would count as sort of business triggers that might indicate that organization might have a need for your services. So I have a lot of firms who go with WinMo because the subscription to the sales prospecting is really valuable for them.
Holly: That makes sense.
Lauren: Then the final source that I would recommend that we’ve been using a lot lately is Synthio. So that’s a database that we’re still getting to know, but we’ve purchased a number of lists through it at this point, either on the behalf of Newfangled or on behalf of our clients. It’s really good so far.
Holly: Yeah. The cleanliness of the list is much better than what we’ve experienced in that past. I think that might have to do with the fact that they do have real time data validation.
Holly: Meaning that when your purchasing that list, they’re going to check in real time whether that email is still valid or not. Now, there are still going to be a few people on that list, much smaller number than 20%, which is what we typically see with purchase list, that are no longer valid or are raising some flags when it comes to if they’re a threat in any sort of way.
Lauren: Sure. That’s just the nature of the beast. You’ll never purchase a list and expect to not get any of the names bouncing back once you do the cleanse. But I think the real time, I think you’re right. The real time email validation is interesting and not something that we’ve really seen before that I can recall. I think most of these places they do a regular cleanse, maybe once a month or every other month they’re going through their whole database and cleansing. But things change all the time. So yeah. I like that about Synthio.
What I also like about Synthio is that you’re only charged for the valid names. So you can even go and do a third party cleanse based on the data that you download from them. If you can return that report back and say, “Hey, here are the bad names,” and they credit your account back, which is really cool.
Holly: That’s awesome.
Lauren: There’s very low risk in purchasing from Synthio, which we like. Also, the database so far seems really robust. Lots of different industries, lots of different types of departments, lots of position levels.
Holly: You can get pretty granular with that. So it can seem smaller because the more granular you get, the less names that show up, right? Because you’re getting more and more specific, but there’s definitely a lot of names for a lot of different industries, a lot of different job titles, things like that in there.
Lauren: Yeah. Definitely. Great. Okay. Well, this was fun. I think we’re going to wrap it up for today. I’ll do my regular spill, which is if you’re enjoying the show, please tell your colleagues and friends about it, recommend it to others. We’re still spreading the word about Consider This. If you have a question or a request for an upcoming topic, you can get in touch with us at ConsiderThis@Newfangled.com, you can tweet us @ConsiderThisPod on Twitter, or find us on Facebook at Consider This Pod. Yeah, I think that’s … Oh, rate us. Rate us, review us. We’re on iTunes, we’re on Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts.
Holly: I’ve been Holly.
Lauren: I’m still Lauren McGaha. Thanks.
Holly: Have a good one.
Lauren: Thanks for listening.