Although a big focus of BSA Marketing’s work is helping you keep in touch with people you already know, there is no question that email marketing offers potential to make an initial contact as well. We regularly receive enquiries from people looking to use email as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional cold mailshot. A key issue for this type of project is getting hold of a target contact list which includes email addresses and is of appropriate quality. I am not going to go into the legalities of email marketing here as the rules are complex and, to a great extent, untested (call me if you wish to discuss) but needless to say, you must make sure that whatever your list source, you comply with the regulations. Interestingly, traditional Business to Business marketing list brokers have been quite slow to develop a strong email list offering with many of their lists few, or no, email addresses. Where their lists do include emails, costs are high. We recently sourced a list for a client who was looking for SME businesses in the North West of England (quite a broad spec!). The first list we found (from an established broker) contained 12000 records with email addresses – but was going to cost almost £5000 to rent. So are there any alternatives? Most of you will have received emails from a new generation of email list brokers who seem to offer big lists for (relatively) small prices. Continuing our search for SMEs in the North West we received an email from one of these specialist brokers offering 19000 records of North West SME businesses for less than £500 – 50% more data for 10% of the cost! Can this be for real? The short answer is YES! – but beware -all is not quite what it seems and you have some work to do. Here are some hints and tips for searching for B2B email lists: Before you buy: OK, so you have found a list source that looks like it fits the bill. Before you get your credit card out:
- Does the company have a UK address and landline telephone number? If not, don’t bother going any further
- Do a Google search on the company. If people have had bad experience, you may well find negative comments or reviews.
- Talk to the broker! A quick phone call both confirms the listed number works and gives you an idea of how they operate. Do they sound professional?
- Ask how they gather data. A professional company should regularly check data and make sure they get the necessary approvals to use the data.
- Ask for some sample data – and check it! The broker has complete control to give you the sample they want to but again it shows willing.
If you are comfortable that the broker and data are sound, maybe now you can consider buying the list. Remember you will almost certainly be asked to pay up front – though this is standard practice with most data companies. After you have bought the data: You will probably download the list or receive it attached to an email in a spreadsheet format. This can be useful as there are some more steps you should take to maximise the data quality:
- Check that all the records have email addresses! In practice some may not but it is important that the number of email addresses fits with what you thought you were buying.
- Check for duplicate addresses.
- Check for web-email or ISP addresses (e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, BTInternet, Virgin, Sky, Gmail etc) Our advice would be to delete these and not use them.
- Randomly select a few records and check the data – you can easily get a company website URL from the right hand part of an email address.
At this stage, if you have any doubts, I would seriously consider not using the list. Yes you have paid your money but I’d go back to the broker. You may or may not get anywhere! If you have followed our suggestions above, you may well find your list has shrunk somewhat (maybe by 50% or more) but the list will be better quality, more appropriate and, if you take all these factors into account at the start, still represents value. Now all you need to do is design your email, send it and wait for the response…. ….one final thing. If you decide to give this type of email marketing a whirl, PLEASE don’t use your regular email client. Use a proper email marketing system designed for the job – and make sure their terms allow you to use your list. By no means all do. If you have any questions or wish to discuss anything, get in touch