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Pitfalls and Profits of Using Rented Lists: The Devil is in the Details - 3/31/2015 -

Pitfalls and Profits of Using Rented Lists: The Devil is in the Details

By Michelle Ashley

Is using a rented list all that bad? Whatís all the hype? Those questions may have crossed your mind while searching for ways to expand your organizationís message to a greater audience. Itís an intriguing idea really, but honestly, it falls into the get-rich-quick schemes that are plastered across most marketing landscapes. And for those who keep their lists pristine and treat each member or subscriber as an ounce of gold, the thought of using a rented list is unfathomable.

For some, however, the idea might be quite attractive; but let us warn that using rented lists is often the shortcut to email hell. You might think that is a bit of a joke, but experience has shown that if the offer (rented lists) sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Letís start with the basics: legitimate email. Thatís right, permission-based email with all the legal check marks in place. The subscriber has opted-in to receive your communications, and you send them relevant content. You engage with your subscriber, and they with you. Thatís how itís supposed to work. But with a rented list, the picture becomes oh-so-cloudy, and perhaps even a bit hot ó remember itís the shortcut to email hell.

Letís get past the smoke and mirrors of rented lists. "They said this list is 100 percent opt-in!Ē What that really means is that an individual opted-in to someoneís offer at some point and time. It does not mean that that person has opted-in to receive information from your association or organization. Remember permission-based email practices? There was probably some fine print that said something like "you have agreed to receive email from our marketing partnersÖĒ and now that email address has been sold over and over and over. Any email that once had value is now not worth much at all.

Dismal deliverability. Yes, thatís the bottom line with rented lists. It starts with excessive opt-outs and feedback loop responses, and then thereís the inevitable honey-pot address ó a strategically planted email that when harvested and emailed identifies you as a spammer. If your IP has ever ended up on a blacklist, itís most often due to a honey-pot address. Then your deliverability teamís typical first question is: "Did you use a rented list?Ē That is the number-one culprit. Before you test the waters of rented lists and burn the bottom of your soles [souls], think twice about using a rented list.

If you have a keen eye for details, you are probably saying, "Wait, you said pitfalls AND profitsÖ where are the profits?Ē Glad to see you were paying attention. The answer to that question will be forthcoming in an upcoming post featuring information on third-party emails ó the heavenly side of rented lists.

Michelle Ashley is a 25-year marketing and advertising veteran specializing in B2B, publishing, and nonprofit industries. Sheís spent the past decade at Knowledge Marketing assisting publishing clients in email marketing best practices.


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