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We all know email marketing is effective, but have you ever considered the difference between marketing to your own list or to a third party email list? Have you even considered using a third party list at all?

Why use third party email lists?

We all know email is a really effective way of marketing, with much higher response rates than most social media or online marketing.

Email can be personalised and targeted. As long as you avoid spam filters, it reaches the inbox and sits there until you do something with it. Ads in a social media feed disappear.

It’s well established that your own list will have a higher response rate than a third party list – so why use third party lists at all?

The answer is simple. It’s a great way to reach more people and to build your own list.

How do you find and choose a third party email list?

Let’s be clear about this, third party email lists are not all created equal. Most fall into one of three categories:

  • Someone emails you via your website or a LinkedIn connection actively selling a targeted, researched list. Or you search for email lists online and go to a site which offers you a mailing / contact list.
  • A reputable list broker offers you a list with an email marketing options. If you’re targeting businesses, there are also a few ‘business information’ providers like Dunn and Bradstreet whose whole business model revolves around providing data on businesses.
  • A relevant industry association, publication or website offers email marketing as one of its advertising options.

Be very careful with the first category. They may just be after a sale and not care about the results for you.

List brokers, associations and websites, on the other hand, survive because clients use their lists again and again. So they have a vested interest in you getting a good result. They may be more expensive, but they are probably going to be more effective.

Comparing different lists – an example

Once you start looking, you’ll find there are a few options. Now it’s time to work out which one is best for you.

Let’s assume you’re a marketing agency, and you want to reach out to marketing managers in mid-size and larger businesses.

Your options will include B&T and Mumbrella. Both sites serve the entire marketing community in Australia, and both have media packs you can request. Scroll through those till you find the digital options, and you’ll see that both give you a few choices to suit your budget. (These screen grabs are a couple of years old, BTW.)

third party email options - Solus EDM bandt 2018

third party email options- Mumbrella 2017

So how do you decide which is better? There’s some more information in our post on Guesstimating ROI, but the basic questions are:

  • how many of my target market will I reach? (You may need to dig through the other pages on the media kit to find out what percentage of that big number are actually in your target market.)
  • how much will it cost me per person in my target market?

You’re probably not targeting marketing managers, but the same principle applies.

If you are a small business commercial lawyer, you might want to look at the Small Business Association of Australia or Dynamic Business Magazine, or MyBusiness, or Smart Company.
Alternatively, you might want to focus on a particular industry where you have some clients already and want to expand. For construction, that could be the Master Builders Associaion or the Housing Industry Association.

I  recommend focusing on a specific niche if you can. You can target your messaging better and so get a higher response rate.

Choosing the right email option: ‘newsletter’ versus ‘solus EDM’

As you can see from the example above, when you work with a website, publication or association, you often find a whole range of different email marketing options.

  • Most have an option to include a banner in the newsletter.
  • Some have an option for an article in the newsletter.
  • And there’s usually an option for something called a Solus EDM. Which is just a fancy way of saying ‘a dedicated email promoting you and your offer alone’.

How do you choose? Obviously budget is an issue, but it’s not the only issue. As a general rule,

  • Newsletters can be quite long. Your article or ad is one of many. People skim – and when they’re in skim mode, it’s easy to ignore an image like a banner ad.
    For these reasons, newsletter inclusions tend to be better for branding than direct response.
  • A solus EDM, on the other hand, is entirely about you and your offer. Once people open it, there is nothing to distract them. (It’s a bit like a custom landing page for ads in that respect.) You are likely to get a much higher response rate. Which is why solus EDMs cost so much more!

third party email options - Solus EDM bandt 2018 - price highlighted

If you’re using third party email marketing to build your list or acquire clients, I strongly recommend the solus EDM option where possible. I’ve run campaigns where a $2000 newsletter insertion got 3 responses and a $6000 solus EDM got over 30 responses. Client value $3000 per annum upwards.

How does the process work?

List owners and providers see their list as a valuable moneymaking asset, which they want to protect. That means:

  1. They won’t share the list with you so you can send yourself. Instead, they will send on your behalf. This means the only emails you ever get to see are those of people who respond.
  2. You usually have to submit your content for approval. The list owners have two concerns – they want to be sure that you are not competing directly with you, and they want to avoid spammy emails which could drive unsubscribes.

You can see in this example how the email is promoting one business, but sent by a different one:

third party email list - marketing intelligence report

There may be specific technical requirements for the email format. Many list owners offer an additional service where they can create the email from your content.

Once your content is approved and scheduled, you’ll find you get at least one test email. This is your chance to make amendments before you approve the final send.

Then you sit back and wait. After the email’s gone, you should get a report from the provider with details of open and click rates. You’ll have your own information about actual leads generated or sales made, from your own systems.

Creating the offer for 3rd party email marketing

Since this isn’t your list, you want content that will generate a high response rate. That’s the only way you get new leads or business.

If you’re selling direct, it might be a discount or a value-add. For lead generation, you need different tools. Some of the commonest are:

  • A report or white paper. This can also act as a bit of a ‘pre-qualifier’. For example, if you offer a paper on ‘5 Things You Should Check When Choosing a Builder’ to subscribers to a home styling magazine, only those interested in building will actually download it.
    Reports are especially popular for business-to-business lead generation.
  • A survey. These can be serious (use one to generate the information for your report or paper which you offer later) or just a couple of fun, light-hearted questions. One important thing with surveys is to encourage response. Offer an incentive, either for everyone entering, or as a prize draw. (If you do a prize draw, make sure you comply with competition rules!) The obvious prizes are cash or movie vouchers, but if you can find something which is relevant to your target market, that too can help preselect good targets.

So there you have it – the beginners guide to using third party email lists. This can be a really effective way to grow your database and get new business, so if you have some budget, I’d encourage you to try it.

The keys to success? It’s all about the market and the message:

  • Choose the right list
  • Create the right offer

Researching and comparing options can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it. If you’d like to know more about what’s available for your target market, let’s talk.


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