Sending email marketing messages to purchased email lists is a notoriously dangerous practice. Sure, you can achieve quick reach, but it can make a permanent impact on your sender reputation and deliverability. The solution? Marketers have found long-term success in building and mailing first-generation lists.
Purchased List Problems
To truly understand the value of first-generation data, we must first know the pitfalls of purchased email lists and all that works against you.
When you purchase a list, it’s highly likely that the same list has been sold over and over and over to other mailers. You should expect that the list subscribers have been bombarded over and over and over with irrelevant content that they or their ISP has flagged as “spam.” Before you’ve even sent your first message to the list — ISPs, whose interest lies in protecting the users (your bought subscribers), have already noted that messages to your collective list are probably spam. Regardless of your financial investment, there’s very little guarantee your message will ever reach an inbox.
Let’s say you ignore the warnings and send a message to a purchased list anyway. The spam reports by the user and spam flags by the ISP are measured and assigned to your IP. If there are too many, your entire IP address can be blocked from sending messages. For this reason, even though it’s against most terms to use a purchased list, many email service providers will also watch your list performance to ensure that open and click-through rates perform at industry standards. If they don’t, and you are putting the ESP’s IP at risk, you can be stopped from sending all together.
All of that collective data — spam reports, performance, etc. — results in one thing: your sender reputation. A purchased list can quickly make it difficult for you to send messages with any success, and once your sender reputation is damaged, it’s difficult to get back on track.
Control Your Data and Send with Safety
Owning first-generation data means you’ve collected subscribers via subscription — so they know what they’re signed up for and they’ve opted in to receiving your mailings. Typically, first-generation data is collected via a website or form, but could also be gathered at a trade show, in a meeting, at the end of a retail transaction and so on. The collector is most often the sender — and because the subscribers know what type of information they’ll receive, the results are often improved exponentially.
When users have opted in to your list, it’s dramatically less likely that they’re report your content and marketing messages as spam — helping you to avoid ISP filters and flags. Their acceptance of your email messages improves your sender reputation with each delivery, making it easier for you to reach inboxes and engage subscribers consistently.
Because you know what type of content the subscribers expect, monetizing first-generation data is also easier and more successful. You can choose to send offer categories that align with the topics or vertical of the content you typically deliver. This alignment in interests drives open and click-through rates, ultimately improving PPCs and increasing your return.
Building a List with First-Generation Data
To get started building an email list of first-generation data, you should look first to your website or blog. Consider adding a very simple form to “Join our newsletter” or “Get our updates.” Keep in mind that wherever your form appears, it’s likely that your subscriber will expect similar content to be delivered to their inbox. These things should align so that you are sending exactly what your subscriber is expecting.
Adding email subscription to a form completion or transaction is also an excellent opportunity to build your list with first-generation data. Offer users a simple check box to subscribe to your list with the address they’ve already provided on the page. You could provide details about the type of content that will be delivered so they know what to expect, or add data to the users when they’re added to your database so that you only send the most relevant messages to them.
Regardless of the creative way in which you choose to collect first-generation data for your email list, know that the time investment in building a list that caters to the content you’d like to send is much more efficient than cleaning up the trouble caused by mailing to a purchased list. Closely consider the implications, especially if data monetization is your ultimate goal.
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