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How to Improve Quality of Email Lists, both Purchased and Home Grown

Plus: Professional Insight into Building Your Own Lists

Purchasing a list of contacts is a completely valid lead generation strategy. Marketers purchase lists when their own prospect lists are not sufficient. Whether it’s used for event recruiting or kicking-off a marketing campaign, a purchased list can enhance outcomes in the sales process. Additionally, since Inbound Marketing takes time to kick-in, the ramp-up time for a campaign to generate leads on its own might be unacceptable. While marketers view timelines quarter-to-quarter or year-to-year, salespeople usually work within a month-to-month timeframe. This difference can affect how sales supports or even funds marketing, straining a business during the shift to Inbound. The motivation to buy a list usually comes from pressure to accelerate achievement of KPIs such as web traffic, event attendance and leads in a pipeline.

Where to buy a list

We at Austin Lawrence buy lists from two kinds of sources: vendors and renters.

Vendors like NetProspex and (by Salesforce) sell lists for almost every industry. The information in these lists may only be 50 to 60 percent accurate overall, but the key pieces—names, company affiliates and emails—may be as high as 80 percent accurate. The wrong items are more likely to be less-important items such as job title, phone number and locations (less important only if you don’t want to call or send USPS mail).

Certain vertical markets have specialist vendors who do a great job of building their own databases. This type of list usually has exceptional value, as it might be that vendor’s only product or a byproduct of its deep engagement with an industry (head hunters come to mind here).

You can also rent lists from trade publishers or lead gen specialists. The per use rental of these lists guarantees you the greatest deliverability, but you pay the rental cost every time you want to reach your targets. Also keep in mind that you only get to keep addresses of the people who respond.

The more you pay for a list, the greater the likelihood that the list will be high-quality and well-maintained. This especially rings true if it’s coming from a trade publisher, since this source uses the list in a wide range of situations and sells it at a fairly high cost. You have to manage a price-quality scenario—the more you pay, the better chance that the list is going to be good.

How Do You Enhance Lists?

Instead of using an entire NetProspex or list for event recruiting, manually review and hand select anyone on the list that you know you want to reach—maybe the top ten to twenty percent of contacts. Use a virtual assistant to manually verify the names, titles, locations and (sometimes) phone numbers through LinkedIn. Usually outsourced, this service researches your contacts to ensure you have accurate and up-to-date information.

Next, turn those refined contacts over to a domestic telemarketing firm that specializes in lead generation. Telemarketing calls each number and if possible, updates the data with a good telephone number and email address.

In summary, these are the three steps you should take to get the most out of your purchased list:

  1. Buy list as well as possible.
  2. Verify data using LinkedIn.
  3. Use telemarketing to get a good phone number and email.

Bonus: Build Your Own List

One of our clients, Danielle Azzara, found that the lists she purchased were too generic, especially their titles—“I found that as much as 30 percent of purchased lists were not current by the time I got them,” she told us. She had trouble finding the right people, so she decided to start building her own list. Her team compiled a list of target accounts based on keywords and hired a vendor to manually research them on LinkedIn using a premium account. Since the vast majority of people keep up-to-date LinkedIn profiles, this method proved far more reliable than buying a list. The cost of the leads might have been higher, but Danielle said that previously, her team had spent hours and hours verifying and updating purchasing lists.

As part of an executive events provider, Danielle’s team primarily works from email addresses. Danielle uses a two-step email validation process. First, BriteVerify pings each mailbox, charging a penny per record. Roughly 50 percent of B2B mailboxes come back under an “Accept-All” status, which means that they look good but cannot be completely verified. Danielle’s team sends those “Accept-All” addresses to a second source called Oceano, which sends out generic, non-invasive business-related emails to get a more specific response on what is and isn’t accepted. Typically, ten to fifteen percent of those emails remain unvalidated, which Danielle’s team generally accepts.

Every six months, Danielle’s team takes the time to review and upkeep the list.

  1. For bounced emails, a freelancer checks the spelling or whether or not the person has changed jobs and updates the information accordingly.
  1. A contact acquisition vendor reviews a chunk of the database. Danielle usually finds that 10-12 percent of the contacts have changed companies. Emails may still be delivered to that address, but the person is no longer at the company.

Due in part to building her own list, Danielle doubled the revenue contribution associated with her team in a year.  If you decide to build your own list, keep in mind these three big takeaways from our conversation with Danielle:

  1. Increase your number of records
  2. Get the right names and titles
  3. Regularly review and update list information


To learn how lists can fit within your lead generation strategy, request your no obligation Inbound Marketing Assessment. (We also look at outbound marketing opportunities during this process.)

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