Written by: Barbara Pfeiffer, The Partner Marketing Group

Marketing lists are necessary for promoting anything you have to offer your clients but deciding between building your own list or buying an existing list is often difficult. If you are inexperienced at building your own lists, the task can seem daunting and overwhelming so buying a list might be your first instinct; but is it worth it? Buying lists is easy and fast, but can also be expensive and ineffective, so which should you do?

It’s always better to build.

Building your own list means the people in your list have given explicit permission to make connections with them, which means your list will outperform any list you could possibly buy. Your engagement rates will be higher, which means a higher marketing ROI. Plus – purchased lists can run into legal issues for non-compliance with CAN-SPAM laws.

How should you build?

No two companies are identical so approaches should be individualized, but here are some basic steps you should take:

  • Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to bring people to you
  • Have a strong product or offer
  • Identify all touchpoints with a detailed plan on how to collect information from each
  • Work with third parties and partners to target your preferred industries with sponsored sending, joint webinars, online publications, etc.
  • Perform a conversion audit on your website; how many various offers do you have, and how valuable are they?

What if you have to buy?

Building is always better than buying. But with that being said, purchasing lists can sometimes be necessary to expand into supplemental markets, so here is what you should know about buying a marketing list…

They can get you banned.

Many email platforms and marketing automation systems prohibit the use of purchased lists, so if you use the list and receive complaints, and cannot provide proof it was not purchased, they will ban you from using their platform.

They can cost you penalties.

If many subscribers complain, you could end up paying fines under the CAN-SPAM laws. To avoid this, use your first email to the new list to introduce yourself and offer an easy way to opt out, and provide a high-value offer to entice them to stay. Do NOT sell in the first email.

They require homework.

If you do need to buy a list, make sure you ask all the questions upfront you need to know from your broker, such as:

  • Do you use data validation?
  • How often are the lists updated?
  • What is your deliverability guarantee?

A good list broker will be happy to address your concerns before buying data.

Building versus buying can end up being a costly and time-consuming decision, so make sure you know the full benefits and opportunities of each. For more information on building your own lists, and what to expect when buying a list, visit our resources page to download our Marketing Lists 101 guide. If you would like to talk to a consultant for help with your lists, contact our experts with any questions.

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