Buying vs. Renting E-mail Lists: The Answer Lies in Loyalty

A recent strategy session introduced a common question marketers face: Is it better to buy or rent e-mail lists for digital direct response and database-building efforts? Let’s agree that budgets, industries and business needs are different, but there are some consistent rules of thumb on this issue.

It’s widely accepted that one of the benefits to purchasing an e-mail list for either b2b or direct-to-consumer efforts is the control factor. You can now manipulate and mold the data you own. Segmentation marketing and appending data is easier as you convert these list contacts to qualified leads. All of this, though, comes at a price.

Renting an e-mail list can cost as little as 10% of the expense of purchasing a similar file. There’s also the safety factor. Rented lists are generally better protected and monitored to avoid overuse. Rental companies are more interested in protecting their valued data. This keeps the lists cleaner and hopefully increases response rates. You can see which way I lean…

What’s important, though, is if you are going to rent a list, make sure it’s “branded” by a trusted industry source.  The key is to focus on what’s relevant to the prospect.  As Dave Scott, CEO of online marketing startup Marketfish, observes, “When you rent a list, your message comes directly from another brand. The most respected brands are the ones that are going to inspire the best click-and-open rates.” 

Be sure to partner with a credible industry source that has developed a protected customer file. For example, if you rent a list from The Wall Street Journal, their branding will remain visible as the email distributor and help get your foot in the door.  It’s a fact that customers are more inclined to open e-mails from companies and brands they recognize.

In the end, it’s all about respecting privacy and trust. If done properly, e-mail marketing can still be a viable lead-generation.  I simply believe that brand loyalty is at the foundation. Let us know your thoughts on the subject.