Would you buy a used email list from this man?

In my last post, I talked about email lists and my motivation – a good friend and her complaint about the amount of spam trying to persuade her to buy email lists.

“I know you are against buying lists, but why?” she said.  I don’t have the amount of time we had at lunch, and she was buying, so I need to make it brief for the blog.

I won’t spend time talking about the miserably low response rate on a cold email list.  

First some context: Since we now sign up for many things on the web, the owners think they can oblige the ‘victim’ to impart much information – and on a web the owner can make those fields mandatory – in order to get to where they wish to go.  The worst I have found is IDG and its MacWorld conference.  In order to get the pass for this event, one needs to complete pages of information.  Even if, as my colleague did and stated that he was retired, he was still obliged to fill out his authority and spend for many different IT segments.  You can imaging his diligence and the veracity of the information he submitted – but there was no other way to get to his desired outcome, the printed badge.  How meaningful is that data? 

I also get bored with the multitude of questions on the forms, so in recent years I have been a ‘Chicken Sexer’, a ‘Coronation Programme Seller’ (you probably have to be a Brit for that one) and a ‘MYOBB’ (that too).  How much value does that data have?

That’s the stuff you are being sold as ‘quality’ data upon which your email list purchase is justified.

And finally, for the background, and to give you another data point on how up to date and accurate such lists can be.  I was a corporate VP for quite a few years, but I left that job over seven years ago.  For various reasons, the email address remains valid, but essentially intra-company only.  Regular spam still arrives at that address.  A lot of it.

So that’s the data quality of many, many of the lists out there – the ones you are being beseeched to purchase.  But, oddly, that isn’t my major beef with buying email lists – though that should be enough to put you off for life.  No, my big issue is that most of us are trying to build a business where we build a relationship with our customers, not to make a fast buck. 

To build a relationship, one that has value for your business and for your customer, takes time.  Trust is an essential part of a relationship.  And trust only comes over time.  There isn’t a quick fix way to build a relationship.  It always takes time.  Always.  And a purchased email list may look like a quick and easy way to get to new business.  But it isn’t.

So, should you use email and lists? ABSOLUTELY!  But lists that have value are the ones you build yourself, one customer, one relationship at a time. And you must use them to communicate (and I DO mean communicate, that is both ways) with your customers.

There is another, complementary, way that works for some too.  That’s to partner with an organization you know and trust, whose customers would genuinely get value from your products and services.  Work with them, don’t “buy” their list (and if they would sell it to you, that raises a red flag), have THEM send out a communication to their customers and then you are working with a list where trust, albeit not with you, is already established.  This can work well, especially if a reciprocal arrangement is possible. They send for you, you email your customers for them.  Or include information in e.g. your regular newsletter if not an email list and folks can then join your list as a subscriber.

But, and it’s a big but, the information must always be of value to the recipient.  Otherwise you will damage your relationship, your trust and your brand.

Happy marketing!

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