Not all lists are good, and bigger isn’t always better

Keeping it clean

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Cahners Business Lists, which offers marketers 80 different e-mail lists culled from industry trade magazines, goes to great lengths to keep its permission-based lists clean and updated, said Dan Dale, e-list marketing manager at the Des Plaines, Ill., company. Cahners, which taps FloNetwork to send its campaigns on behalf of b-to-b companies, regularly cleanses its lists by deleting names of people who opt out and by conducting merge-purges of duplicate e-mail addresses found in each distribution. It also corrects common syntax errors in the e-mail addresses to reduce the number of "undeliverables." Cahners asks publishers of the trade magazines to eyeball the campaigns targeting their subscriber lists to make sure the messages are relevant to their readers, Dale said.

VerticalNet Inc., with 58 vertical trade communities online, uses in-house lists exclusively and has built them by getting visitors to opt in for newsletters, explained Suzanne Hayes, director of operations. The company, which currently has more than 617,000 subscribers to its dozens of newsletters, pays close attention to updating profiles of registered users so they can target appropriate newsletters and immediately honor opt-out requests, Hayes said.

Using licensed software from, an e-mail marketing company that sells list management tools, VerticalNet now is now able to scrub its e-mail lists to eliminate duplicate e-mail entries, catch syntax errors at the front-end, and analyze the success of its e-mail transmissions, Hayes said.

To build an exclusive e-mail list, b-to-b marketers can use a number of sources aside from people who register at a site, said David Townsend, CEO and co-founder of Innovyx Inc., a one-to-one e-mail marketing firm based in New York. Professional referrals—sometimes called viral marketing—are a good way to pass along an e-mail announcement. The best referrals are those that occur without incentives because they are more likely to get passed along to people who would care about the information, he said. And companies should make every effort to collect e-mail addresses at every point of contact within their Web site, he added.

Townsend said he tries to talk his clients out of using third-party e-mail lists, steering them instead toward strategies to collect their own names in-house. "With e-mail, it’s not about quantity," Townsend said. "Using outside lists can cause a lot of trouble for companies, so we may show them they have enough in-house e-mail addresses to get started."

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