Your guide to buying mailing lists

Mailing lists and marketing data

Buying a mailing list can be fraught with pitfalls. There’s always the risk of buying an out-of-date list; in the worst case scenario you could find you are breaking data protection laws. John Keating from Databroker has eight valuable tips to help you source the right mailing list

1. Don't delegate your data purchasing

I receive many enquiries from receptionists, apprentices or others who are not qualified to source marketing contact data, and who don’t understand the legal implications of getting it wrong. At the very least, the person sourcing a mailing list for your business should have an understanding of your marketing campaign objectives and target audiences.

In our experience, delegation of data purchasing usually ends up with decisions being made on price only. If you want to go down this route, you can just buy a cheap mailing list from a dodgy seller, and throw the budget (and potentially your good reputation) down the drain.

Even the business owner may not have much expertise in the nuances of marketing data. The safest route is to get expert impartial advice before you speak to data sales reps.

2. Don't believe the sales hype

All data list owners will tell you that their data is the best and that it is unique in the marketplace. The truth is, that is all just hot air. When you speak to a mailing list company, you don't speak to the data experts - you speak to a salesperson paid to tell you good things about their data.

So take what the salesperson says with a pinch of salt, and ask the right questions so you can compare the different lists that are available.

3. Don't ask the wrong questions

“How good is your data?” You might think this is a good question, and certainly it's one many people ask, but exactly what answer are you expecting?

I guarantee that all responders will give you a pre-prepared spiel that leaves you with no tangible information about choosing a suitable list.

Questions to ask should cover guarantees, legalities and data suppressions, opt-in mechanisms and sources, samples, duplicate prevention and more. A good broker will ask these questions for you.

4. Don't believe that all data is equal

Would you buy a "genuine article" Rolex off a man in the pub for a tenner and expect it to be real? No, you wouldn't. But some small business owners do believe the hype from data salespeople, and then they wonder why their mail server is shut off, why they have complaints about spam and why the data owner is slow to return their complaint call.

5. Don't buy from people with no data experience

I have seen many companies appearing recently claiming to be data experts. It's vital to work with companies that have good data credentials, so that you get mailing lists that comply with legal and ethical marketing standards.

6. Don't buy more data than you need

As a rule of thumb, data salespeople prefer you to buy large amounts of marketing data from them, and therefore spend more money. They frequently come up with silly offers to tempt you into giving them a large chunk of their monthly sales target.

When these offers come your way, take stock and work out whether it is actually worth your while to buy big chunks of untested data. Even if they did convert into a lot of enquiries and orders, would you be able to handle a large volume of extra business at once?

As a rule of thumb, test first to validate the list before buying large volumes. And if it's too good an offer to be true, walk away.

7. Don't take data samples as gospel

If you have ever purchased a duff list after receiving a good sample, think about these questions before buying your next list: Do you think data companies realise the importance of good samples pre-sale? Do you think data companies have ever considered cleansing a sample before release?

8. Give data procurement the importance it deserves

Do your research. Adhere to direct marketing laws. Think of the ethics and brand implications of using poor quality and/or illegal marketing data. Buy from Data and Marketing Association (DMA) members only.

And most importantly, speak to data experts before you commit to a large outlay on marketing data. After all, would you fix your own car?

Written by John Keating of Databroker.

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