Advice to Prospective (List) Vendors

Topic: e-mail marketing lists

Issue: I get requests all the time from senior managers about how we can grow our e-mail database. Most of our data comes from our existing customers. There are a few ways we could create interest in doing business with us, but that is for another blog post.

Today, I got a sales rep of a list reseller company all worked up, hostile and offended, just from asking a few basic questions about their company. Preliminary research about their company showed that they manage two websites, one is registered in the UK and the other is registered in Ireland. It has one sales office in San Francisco and a data center in India. There is zero information about their company on either website, why wouldn't I think it's a subsidiary of a larger company? Mid-conversation I realized that the company had no identity and they were completely unaware of what differentiated themselves from other list firms.

What did I ask?

What process do you use to verify your e-mail marketing data?
What is your pricing like, could you give me an example?
Tell me about your company.
How long have you been in business?
How large is your company?

What I didn't get to ask was:

How often do you scrub your database?
What's the recency of your data?
What's your policy on opt-outs?
Is your company a member of the DMA (Direct Marketing Association)?

They probably started off with good intentions, but there's nothing on their website to suggest that they are CAN-SPAM compliant or value the integrity of their data. Heck, they offer e-mail lists for purchase. Standard practice is that qualified industry e-mail lists are for rent. Any prudent marketing firm knows that the database is the lifeblood of the company. A good list company will manage their relationships really well, be it a business buying a list to target prospective customers, or managing a publication's subscriber list.

It doesn't matter what position you hold within a company. When a stranger greets you at any random place: the mall, a party, a corporate event, a wedding, the park, or standing in line at the local deli, you need to be able to give good details about your company, who you are, what products/services your group is responsible for, and be proud of it in some way enough to generate interest about your company. After all, if you aren't interested in your own employer, why should anyone else be?

And, you can never lose your cool because once you do, you may never get that customer back.

Conclusion: When I was asking for specifics about the company, we got disconnected. Sure, that happens a lot if you're using a VoIP connection. While we were disconnected, the rep took the time to send me an e-mail with sample records of what their data looks like. The first file that I opened had a sample record of someone from my own company. Hey, that looks cool right? This is where I would have had my "data recency" question answered.

The contact name listed, supposedly an EVP of audit services, wasn't an employee anymore since they didn't show up on our intranet employee directory. Out of curiousity, I looked up the telephone number that was associated with that contact record. Guess what it came back as? Admin mail services. Yeah, I can see how *cough* accurate this data is.

One record does not make or break a company. But having erroneous data of the company you're trying to sell to is an inexcusable mistake.
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