Renting an e-mail list can be an effective way to do e-mail marketing. But it also can be a minefield. While the industry has come a long way in the past 10 to 15 years, it's still good to go into any e-mail rental situation with a "buyer beware" attitude. Here are some tips to help you be a smart e-mail list renter:
1. Work with a legitimate list owner or broker: Most traditional list brokers handle e-mail, as well as offline direct marketing lists; this is the best place to start your search for an e-mail rental list. Many offline direct mail lists have e-mail counterparts. In my experience, these are the lists that offer you the best chance for success.
2. Know the average cost of legitimate e-mail lists: There's a perception that e-mail is "cheap." While it can be cost-effective, legitimate e-mail lists are rented at rates comparable to (or above) offline direct mail lists. Here are the figures for average cost per thousand names (one-time use) from the Winter 2010 Worldata List Price Index:
- B-to-C e-mail lists: $110
- B-to-B e-mail lists: $284
- International e-mail lists: $408
Remember these are averages; it's not unusual to pay more for a proven e-mail list. If someone offers to rent you a list at a significant discount over the figures above, beware. It's like someone offering to sell you a brand-new Mercedes for the price of a Vespa scooter—there's something wrong. Good, legitimate e-mail lists aren't rented at a deep discount to fair market value.
3. Insist upon seeing a datacard: I don't know any successful offline direct marketer who would rent a list without reviewing a datacard. The same rule applies to e-mail lists.
The datacard should tell you how the names were acquired. Make sure what you read makes sense. If the names were acquired online, visit the Web site and make sure the opt-in language is prominent.