List Buying: 3 reasons why this tactic can be deadly for marketers
Editor’s Note: Buy, build or both? This is the eternal quandary for many marketers and salespeople looking for a reliable list to contact. We’ve asked Andrea Johnson, Senior Editorial Analyst, MECLABS, to cover both sides of this debate. Today, she explores the downsides of list buying. It’s the start of a three-part series. The next two posts will focus on how to build a list and then on how to use a purchased list if you choose to go that route.
You’re on deadline when an email flashes across your screen. You don’t recognize the company or person who sent it. The subject line is meaningless. You instantly banish it to the junk folder and carry on with the task at hand.
Or your phone rings. You pick it up to hear:
“Hi, this is Ima Teleprospector calling from Irrelevant Company, and I wanted to find out when you might be purchasing Irrelevant’s Products.”
The interruption has made the Irrelevant Company even more so.
I wish I could say these scenarios are exaggerations, but they currently happen at offices everywhere … every day. Why? Because there are marketers and sales professionals still entrenched in the ’80s. They treat email like direct mail, where you:
- Buy a list
- Flood a certain ZIP or SIC code with a cleverly designed message
- Wait for the leads to pour in
In fact, a couple of weeks ago, one of the members of the B2B Lead Roundtable group on LinkedIn asked:
“I am looking for input on lead purchasing. What data should I know before I purchase a list?”
I took this question to leaders at HubSpot and ExactTarget, organizations that launched marketers into this millennium by providing tools and knowledge to use today’s marketing channels in a way they consider more effective.
Mike Volpe, CMO, HubSpot; Ellie Mirman, Head of SMB Marketing, HubSpot; and Chip House, Senior Director of Relationship Marketing, ExactTarget, agreed that no amount of data will help in a list purchase.
They have one piece of advice: Don’t do it.
Here are three reasons why (and I’m sure they could offer more, but these are enough to strike fear into the heart of any marketer):
Downside #1: You could decimate your company’s email marketing program
When you send emails and text messages without the recipient’s prior permission, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act strictly requires the email makes it clear that what the recipient is receiving is advertising. (And we all love getting email advertising, right?)
“Names on any list you purchase did not give your company explicit permission to email them,” says House. “So when you email them, it’s unsolicited spam and you run the risk of having future emails blocked by Internet Service Providers.”
House explains anti-spam organizations will seed lists with spam traps – inactive email addresses – which email deliverability experts refer to as honeypots. (Picture Winnie the Pooh’s arm, or head, getting caught in the honeypot, and you can quickly understand what these traps are meant to do.) Legitimate companies will quickly scrub these inactive addresses from their email lists after they get a bounce message, while list providers may not. And, if these addresses receive an email from your organization, it could be targeted as a spammer, irreparably damaging your future email deliverability.
Downside #2: The response rate will be nil
Mirman insists relationships are critical to email marketing success, and buying lists does not buy an instant relationship.
“There are a lot of email best practices around segmentation, behaviors and triggers; you cannot practice any of these when you buy a list,” says Mirman. At minimum, she says:
- The recipient must recognize you and your company
- The email should respond to her past engagement with your company
- It must offer, in response to that engagement, something she’ll value
Downside #3: You’ll harm your brand’s reputation and your sales results
“People don’t like getting cold calls,” says Volpe. “And you risk having your emails end up in spam filters because people don’t want emails from people to whom they have not given permission.
“In some regions of the world, like Europe, automating emails to people without their permission is against the law,” he points out.
Ultimately, when emails end up in spam and phone calls end up in voicemail or, worse yet, in a dial tone, conversion and close rates tank, resulting in an unhappy sales team.
So what’s a marketer to do when he needs leads fast?
“Names on list are not leads,” counters Volpe. “Doing marketing right, building relationships and creating love for your company requires some work. Suck it up and do your job, and please stop giving marketers a bad reputation by cutting corners.”
To give you a full look at all of your options, on a future B2B Lead Roundtable Blog, I’ll provide actionable advice to help you get started building your list. After that, we’ll look at how to purchase a list and what to do with it, if you choose to go that route.