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4 questions you need to ask before selecting a list

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Amy KennelThis article is the third in a series of three about marketing lists. Part One focused on how to clearly define your target audience. Part Two looked at five types of list information.

Now that you have defined your target audience and understand the different types of marketing lists, here are four important questions to ask before you choose a list to use.

1. Who is offering the list?
Consumer lists are offered to agents by a list owner, manager, or broker for a fee. Reputable list companies compile their information through permission-based activities by which consumers have volunteered their information through surveys and/or permission-based marketing activities. These companies also continuously scrub their lists against “do-not-call” and “ do-not-mail” lists. If they offer e-mail addresses, they will also manage opt-outs per the CAN-SPAM Act. Some important questions to ask potential vendors include:

  • How did you collect the data used in your lists?
  • How do you manage opt-outs?
  • How often do you scrub your lists and/or conduct list hygiene to ensure updated contact information?
  • How often are people allowed to mail, call, and/or e-mail the people on your consumer lists?
  • What does your company do to ensure consumer privacy?

2. What are the rules for using the list?
Most lists are available for rental, versus purchase. This means that most list providers will not sell a list to you; rather, they will rent a list to you based on certain usage rights. It’s important to make sure that you understand the list usage rules before signing any list rental agreement. Common list rental agreements will give you the option of single use, multiple use or unlimited use:

Single use: Usually the least expensive usage option, a single use agreement gives you the ability to mail, e-mail, or call the people on the rented list one time. Sometimes, the list vendor will ask you for your creative (letter, e-mail, and/or phone script) and they will deploy it on your behalf. This is particularly true with e-mail lists because of all of the rules and regulations surrounding e-mail marketing. In turn, they will provide you with the leads that are generated from your marketing campaign. Most of the time, it’s assumed that when a person responds to your offer, his or her contact information can become part of your company’s database.

Multiple use: A multiple use option will generally be more expensive, but it will provide you with additional opportunities to utilize the list. For example, a multiple use agreement may give you access to a series of three scheduled direct mail campaigns plus two telephone campaigns. If the list company offers a multiple use agreement, ask about your options. You may pay less for a higher volume of list usage.

Unlimited use: An unlimited use option can allow you to mail, call, and or e-mail a list an unlimited number of times for a specified period of time, usually six months or a year. An unlimited use list agreement may be a good idea if you plan to use the list for drip marketing efforts or if you plan to market heavily to a targeted list of potential clients. Some important questions to ask potential vendors include:

  • Do you rent or sell your list data? (If they say they “sell” their data outright, for unlimited use, walk away. This is not a reputable company, and this is not good data.)
  • What are your list usage options?
  • What are your rules for list usage? (Read, understand, and ask questions before you sign on the dotted line.)
  • How does list rental price vary according to your list usage options?

3. What is the list format?
List information can be provided to you in a number of ways, or formats. It’s important to understand the format by which the list company will provide data to you or your company.

For direct mail lists, list companies may provide you with pre-printed mailing labels for your campaign. Or, they may send you a spreadsheet or disc that includes names and addresses.

For telephone lists, list companies will usually provide you with calling lists that have been scrubbed against “do not call” directories.

With e-mail lists, it’s a bit more complicated. Because of the rules and regulations surrounding CAN-SPAM, most reputable e-mail list providers will require that you provide them with your message, and they will deploy it for you either themselves or through an e-mail marketing provider or contracted e-mail service. Remember: The list provider “owns” the e-mail addresses and responsibility for conforming to CAN-SPAM. When someone opts-in to receive your e-mail messages, you can usually begin including him or her on your own e-mail marketing activities. Just remember to follow CAN-SPAM rules and regulations found at:

Some important questions to ask potential vendors include:

  • What is the format by which the list information will be provided?
  • What information will be provided on the file?
  • What information will not be provided on the file?
  • When was the last time that these files were scrubbed against “do-not-mail,” “do-not-call,” and “opt-out” lists?
  • How do you want our company to communicate new requests to opt out of further communications from our firm?
  • Does your company need to approve the marketing materials that we plan to send out to your list?

4. How much does the list cost?
Of course, list prices will vary based upon data quality, quantity, and usage rights. For a one-time list rental, you may pay about one to two cents per name. For multiple use or unlimited use list agreements, you can expect to pay double or triple the price, respectively. Furthermore, the more information you request or the more detailed the list, the higher the price you’ll pay.

E-mail lists, because they are very difficult to grow and manage, will come at a premium. Many consumer e-mail lists can average 15 to 30 cents per name and e-mail address.

Some important questions to ask potential vendors include:

  • What is the cost per name? What data is included for this price?
  • What are the breaks in terms of list volume?
  • What are the differences in list price based upon the requested data? Mailing address? Telephone number? E-mail address? Other information?

More Sales and Marketing Tips from Amy Kennel.

Amy Kennel is a communications consultant who specializes in insurance, financial services, and retirement planning. She owns Insurance Marketing Concepts, LLC, based in Des Moines, Iowa. You can contact Amy Kennel by calling 515-289-6413 or by sending her an email at [email protected]


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