4 Questions You MUST Ask Before You Open Your Wallet
By Andrew Mallory
[Ed. note: Andrew Mallory is one of our top Internet Entrepreneur Club experts.
A subscriber named Tony recently wrote us to ask if buying targeted email lists is a good way to drive traffic to a site.
(A “targeted email list” is a list of email addresses belonging to people who are likely to buy your product.)
Here’s the short answer: Yes… sometimes.
But before you decide to buy, there are four very important questions you need to answer:
Question #1. Is the list vendor legitimate?
Do some careful research to make sure the vendor is a reputable company. I’m sure you know, there are a lot of scammers out there!
You can check out what the Better Business Bureau has to say about the company at www.bbbonline.org.
If you don’t find anything there, go to a search engine like Google and type in phrases like:
- (company name) + fraud
- (company name) + rip-off
- (company name) + scam
You’ll quickly find out if anyone has ever had an unpleasant experience with them.
(That’s the great thing about the Internet… There are lots of scammers out there, but there’s just as many people who will point their fingers and cry, “Foul!”)
If you don’t come across any complaints, chances are they’re legitimate.
Question #2: Is the list actually targeted?
Imagine you’re a real estate agent. Which email list would you rather buy:
1. A list of people who recently visited a mortgage broker in your area, inquiring about a first-time home owner’s loan
— or —
2. A list of random names pulled from phone books all over the world?
The first option, obviously! It’s made up of people who are very likely to buy your services. It’s an extremely targeted list.
If you’re thinking about buying a list, make sure it’s targeted to your particular market. Contact the vendor directly and ask them exactly how they got the names on the list. Don’t settle for anything less than full disclosure.
Question #3: Did the people on the list give the vendor permission to share their addresses?
This is another question you should ask the vendor. If the people on the list haven’t given their permission — watch out! Sooner than later (and probably sooner), someone will report you as a spammer — and that’ll get your email address blocked by the major ISPs.
Same goes if the list includes a lot of “dead” email addresses (ones that people don’t use anymore). Unused email addresses are often used as “spam traps,” and companies who send to them get labeled as spammers.
That’s something you definitely want to avoid. Getting yourself removed from a spam list involves jumping through a lot of hoops — and wasting a lot of time in the process.
Question #4: Is this really the best way to spend my advertising dollars?
In certain circumstances, the answer to that is going to be “yes.” For example, if you sell hospital equipment, then a list of hospital administrators’ email addresses is probably worth GOLD to you.
In most cases however, I would recommend you explore other free and cheap traffic sources — especially if you’re just starting out. Email lists can cost you hundreds — or thousands — of dollars.
The following options are often much cheaper and more effective:
- Co-registration: Works great if you have a newsletter. Arrange a deal with another company, so people who subscribe to their newsletters are given the option of subscribing to yours as well.
- Blogging: Drive traffic to your blog via the search engines and offer a free report full of valuable information to people who opt in to your list.
- Forums: Hang out in forums that are popular with your target market. Let people know you have a free report that’s full of information they’ll find useful, and include a link to your opt-in page in your signature.
- Buy advertising space in other people’s newsletters: Just make sure they have a large list and target the same market you do. (Offering a complementary — NOT competitive — product, of course.)
If you offer the right price you could even ask them to mail a special promotion to their list on your behalf. And the great thing is, there’s no chance you’ll be accused of spamming — because you won’t be the one mailing them!
One last piece of advice. If you do buy an email list, remember that the people on the list don’t know you from Adam. They’re not expecting an email from you. They might even have forgotten they gave the list vendor permission to share their address.
You should probably not hit them with a hard promotion the first time you mail them. It takes a while for most people to feel comfortable enough to make a buying decision. Help them get to know you — and trust you — before you start selling to them.
Finally, make sure you send them an eye-catching email that captures their interest and speaks to their needs in a friendly, personal tone — and above all, doesn’t read like spam!