Which Marketing List is the Best?

list search results

I just did a quick search on Google for marketing lists and got back 147,000,000 links!
There are lists for everything: poultry farmers, IT managers, even caulking system buyers. With all those possibilities, how do you find the right one? Look at the price? The size of the list? And does it matter?

Why is the list important?

The list accounts for 40% of your return. The wrong list will wreck your response rate, and the right one will start the money rolling in. A list of poultry farmers would be a great target for a new kind of incubator, but IT managers would toss it right in the trash.

Plan ahead

  • Check your budget (how much do you have to spend on lists, printing, mailing)
  • How many people do you need to reach to get the results you want (based on past mailings if you have them)
  • What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for leads or do you want sales?
  • What will you offer?
  • Who is your target audience?

First, check your ideal customer profile. This will considerably narrow down the selection of lists. If you want IT managers of Fortune 500 companies, you can ignore lists of yoga practitioners, racetrack operators, or new homeowners.

Types of lists

Physical lists/email lists

There are several different kinds of lists (compiled, subscriber, email, and mail order buyers). Each mailing list has a data card (like a biography), that gives you all the vital statistics about the list: how big it is, titles of the people on it, average order size, etc.). Match up the information against your current customers.

Online “lists”

A list doesn’t have to be a physical file or spreadsheet. It can be Facebook users, Fox News web site visitors, or people who click on your AdWords ad. Each has its own demographics, interests, and problems. The people visiting Fox News are likely to have different opinions, for instance, than those heading to MSNBC.

Whether it’s made out of paper or pixels, the most productive list will be one with people who fit your ideal customer profile and who have already responded to offers similar to yours. If you’re promoting an IT meeting, you’ll want people who have attended related events.

List pricing

If someone promises 1,000,000 names or visitors for $10, run (don’t walk) as fast as you can. The information will be useless. These are likely to be names that have been stolen, scraped, or obtained by subterfuge.  Don’t use them!

Legitimate list prices are calculated in $ per thousand names offline and CPM (cost per thousand views) online. Ask for click-through rates, and find out what other kinds of businesses and ads have been successful.

Choose, not by absolute price, but by the best fit with your target market. If you’re looking for new businesses, a list of recent architecture grads won’t help you, but a list from your local town hall of newly registered business names will.

Got questions about choosing a list? Ask them here.

The Truth About SalesGenie

SalesGenie is big, they’re splashy, they advertise on the Super Bowl regularly (not necessarily the best use of money for a company in danger of losing their listing on the stock exchange). But are they a good source of leads?

I’ve seen lots of people on forum after forum, suggest using SalesGenie or InfoUSA lists. One word: DON’T.

I’ve also seen customers report error rates as high as 27%! (the error rate, or returned mail, should be closer to 2 or 3%).

Their lists may look cheap, but they’re not a good value.

Remember, the list is the most important part of your mailing. It accounts for 40% of the response you get (the rest is the design, the copy, and the product offer).

SalesGenie data is compiled. That means it’s pulled from directories, web site listings, and other relatively static sources that don’t update very often. It also means that none of the people on those lists have raised their hands, saying, “Help me, I have a problem” or “I’m interested in your product.” It’s a cold contact; the least likely to do something. It’s a list of names, not a list of prospects.

This will increase your costs (more printing, more postage, more phone calls, more emails) and decrease your response.

Whether you’re mailing, or emailing, or telephoning, or placing an ad, the people you want to reach are people who have specifically requested information and messages from you or someone like you. You want prospects who have already bought something (or expressed interest in something) similar to your product, and have purchased it from a place that sells similar things in a similar fashion.

Charles and Clint

Why You Should Clean Your Email List

clean email list
This little guy has the right idea. Lists (and floors) should be cleaned regularly. If not, the floor will get dirty and look bad. The list will get dirty too.

A dirty list doesn’t show the dirt the way a floor does, but it will affect the quality of your marketing and how much money you make.

List hygiene isn’t glamorous, but a clean list means more money, a better return on your investment, and the ability to better target your audience’s needs.

Size doesn’t matter as much as quality

Why is quality important?

A dirty list means more bounces. That can get you in trouble with your email provider.  It can also mean that you get too many people unsubscribing from your list (which also makes you look bad). And those things can lead to being labeled a spammer.

A dirty list can also cost you money. Most email providers charge by your list size.  A bigger list is great if it’s clean, updated, and responsive. It’s less than ideal if you’re spending money to reach old, outdated email addresses.

Update your list regularly

If this seems daunting, it’s easier to do it in small steps. My grandmother had the world’s cleanest house. Her secret? She did a little each day, rather than all at once.

Check the names on your file on a scheduled basis.  Remind them why they signed up, what kind of information or emails they’ll get from you (particularly if you haven’t emailed them in a while.   Give them the option to confirm they want to stay on your list or to unsubscribe. Offer a small gift or report in return for a response.

Remove people who are inactive

Check your list for names that are still valid, but inactive.  If someone hasn’t opened your email in six months or more, send a friendly reminder.  If they still ignore you, remove them from your list.

Get better engagement

A smaller, more active list is better than a large, indifferent one.  You’ll get a much better idea of the topics your readers are interested in and can better target your messages.

Photo: hardeep and garminder

Six Things You Should Know Before You Rent a Mailing List

How often it’s updated (the older the list, the more out-of-date it is. You want to pay for current names (not outdated ones)

How they get the data (is it compiled, from a paid directory, from a subscriber list)

What other kinds of companies have used the list (if you’re in the electronics industry, a list used by toothpaste manufacturers may not be right for you)

The products those companies were selling (look for products and services similar to yours. If you sell seminars on HR training, look for lists used by other companies who sell HR training)


Whether they rented it again (a sign of how well it worked)


How often the list is rented (a way to tell if the list is being used too much)