Should I build or rent my e-mail lists?

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Answer: If I had a dime for every time someone asked this question, I’d be rich. Rented lists are never going to be as effective as your own house list. Additionally, rented lists can lead to serious deliverability issues and brand damage. After all, if you're like most people, you quickly trash or mark unrecognized e-mail as spam.

The best list is one you create yourself. It takes time, but the payoff is worth it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when pumping up your e-mail list:

  • Promote viral forwards. Enabling readers to forward the original e-mail message to a colleague or friend is a way to spur acquisition and drive response rates. Be sure to display the forward-to-a-colleague option in a prominent area. Once the message is forwarded, provide the new recipient with the ability to subscribe.
  • Use lists from different divisions. The best lists always come from within your company. Start by snooping around your sales departments. They may not have “lists” but instead a stack of customer business cards—the foundation for a terrific house.
  • Make them want to join. People like content that’s easy, free and beneficial. Entice potential subscribers by offering a free report or by clearly stating how they would benefit by subscribing. Also, make sure the sign-up process is smooth and easy. Test it often and keep it simple.
  • Partner with other businesses. Partnering with an affiliate will provide e-mail users the opportunity to opt-in to your e-mail communications while subscribing to their other favorite industry sites. This includes industry publications to which you could submit an article. Remember to include a link in your article for potential subscribers.

You wouldn’t cross the street without looking both ways, so don’t throw your company into oncoming traffic with rented e-mail lists.

Tricia Robinson is VP-marketing and strategy at Premiere Global Services (, an outsource provider of business process solutions.

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