Choosing an Email List Provider

Recently a reader sent us the following questions:

I have seriously considered an email campaign. But I have three overwhelming concerns:

#1: Finding a legitimate company that will do an email campaign that will not get me in trouble.

#2: I must get this at a reasonable price and with a guarantee of success for my money.

#3: Possibly a free or reduced cost trial run to prove to me that their lists are good and that I won't get flamed with negative responses from irate recipients.

The problem is that everyone on the 'Net promises the world with no proof to back them up. Can you help?

1. Finding a legitimate email list provider:

You are right to be cautious about this, as there are many unscrupulous businesses offering email lists. Many claim to be opt-in mailers when in fact they are spammers. Here are some suggestions for finding a reliable supplier:

  • Before using anyone's services, call the company. Make sure that you talk with an actual human being. Find out the source of their lists and ask how they are compiled. Make sure that the recipients on their lists have given explicit permission to receive email advertising of the type you are planning to send.
  • Avoid anyone who says they are in the "bulk email" business or anyone who says their lists are compiled from public sources -- this means the addresses have been harvested using spammers' extraction programs. Another red flag: extremely low prices, such as a million addresses for $199.

Our Marketers' Market ( can help you locate suppliers of email lists.

2. Reasonable price and a guarantee of success:

In this area you need to be realistic. After all, this is your business and your product. Advertising is part of the cost of doing business, and the burden is on you to bear that cost. This is a reality of business. That said, here are a few things you can do:

  • Dicker on price. The list owner's rate card is only a starting point. Often an advertiser can get a lower price just by asking.
  • Shop around. If List A's price is 10 cents per name but List B quoted 7 cents a name for a comparable list, maybe List A will come down to 6 cents to get your business.
  • Look for CPA (cost per action or cost per acquisition) advertising media. Under this model, you only pay for recipients who respond to your advertising, such as by clicking through to your Web site. CPA deals are much harder to find than regular straight advertising, but it can be done.
  • Ask the list owner if they will be willing to review your creative (email ad copy, design, Web site) and make suggestions on how you can be more successful getting a response from their audience. Generally speaking, the supplier will want to help you to be successful, because that means you're going to come back to buy more advertising.
  • Try email newsletter advertising. I'm astonished at how many advertisers ignore this superb advertising medium. It's much less expensive than commercial opt-in lists but can give you access to a targeted, responsive audience. Using our site (, you can send a request-for-proposal to 168 newsletter publishers, or find them through our directory.

3. Doing a trial run:

I always recommend testing with any kind of direct response advertising. Many list owners will let you try mailing to a smaller sample to test the response. If the response rate is promising, you can roll out to the whole list with more confidence. The burden will still be on you to pay the cost of the advertising, but your risk is reduced because you're making a smaller buy. What constitutes a smaller sample will depend on your marketing plan and the size of the list. A sample could easily fall anywhere between 5,000 and 100,000 names.

Again, I urge you to be realistic about this matter of advertising. It's an unavoidable cost of doing business. You're going to have a very hard time convincing anyone else to share that cost. Many promising businesses (and their products) simply never get off the ground because they don't put in the time, effort, and money necessary to promote the product.

Understanding the request form...

  • What are you selling: Most email campaigns are selling a product or service. Name that product and/or service in this field. (for example: security services, accounting software)
  • Target Market: Name here who you see as the market or potential buyers of your product/service. (for example: home owners, accountants)
  • Size of your mailing: How many emails do you plan to send -- this will affect your potential revenue and cost. (for example: 100,000 to 250,000)
  • Your Time Frame: When do you plan to do your mailing? (for example: mailing within one month)
  • Campaign Details: Give a more complete description of what you are planning. (for example: I plan to do 3 sequential mailings to homeowners in New Jersey in order to sell a new security system.)
If you are looking for a list or marketing services please fill out the form below and you will receive proposals pertaining to your project.
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