Tales from Email List Hell
After what I went through this morning, I’ve decided we need to start a thread on the topic of email list experiences from hell. I have one to get us started.
One of our clients asked about purchasing third-party email lists. We warned them that this part of the marketing industry is still in rough shape. You can find blog posts and articles everywhere with warnings. See this recent post from MarketingSherpa. We’ve experimented ourselves and gotten mediocre results, at best.
But the client insisted, purchased a list, then told us after the fact. Now the ball was in our court. We had to decide if we were willing to use our bulk mailing software service to send to this list of email addresses. The big question was…is the list clean enough that we won’t get blacklisted for using it?
So we did some research. The list vendor is Maxpro Data. They’ve been in the snail mail list business for awhile and now provide email lists, too. Their web site immediately set off warning bells. From their FAQ:
Lists are compiled from membership rosters, registrations, public records, licenses, corporate & executive registers, postal records, surveys, questionnaires, census data, student lists, birth records, voter registrations, telemarketing efforts, mail & telephone inquiries and purchase information, telephone directories, rebate coupons, subscriber order forms, warranty card registrations, entry forms, credit & financial data, SEC listings, institution information, conference/trade show/seminar attendee registrations, government records, opt-in email responses, applications, and rating & licensing boards. All information is derived from proprietary, self-reported data, or sources of public record. It is obtained legally and ethically under strict list industry rules, regulations, and guidelines.
I asked for clarification and they told me they have a research team in India that gathers names from membership rosters, license bureaus, surveys, etc. Those contacts are then sent to their verification team in the Philippines which emails or calls to verify that the info, in this case the email address, is correct. You know those random calls you get where the telemarketer simply asks you to verify your email address cuz they are “updating their database?” Whoever “they” is. Personally, I say no thanks and hang up.
Can you say HARVESTER?
It’s one thing to harvest in the snail mail world where, for better or for worse, this is standard practice. But in the world of email, this is a big no-no. There are two concerns: CAN-SPAM Act and blacklisting. Here’s how Maxpro gets around the CAN-SPAM Act. They SELL their email lists, they don’t rent them. So it’s the responsibility of the list owner — now, you, the list purchaser — to make sure you comply with the law.
But my bigger concern was blacklisting. And warning bells were going off all over. In this day and age where emarketing is the core of most marketing programs, the last thing you want is to have your domain blacklisted so NO email gets delivered. There is NO WAY our company will send a harvested list through our email service. No worries, said Maxpro. They have a mail service we can use: InfyMailing. I am NOT going to link to that service here because they created a test account for us and our firewall blocked it as a “known threat.” Aka, they were blacklisted.
In case you missed that…it’s not a good sign if your list vendor’s email service is blacklisted. I guess I should have suspected there was a problem when the salesperson used a gmail account to contact us rather than their corporate email. It very likely gets caught in spam filters.
At this point I had to laugh. I’ve never seen so many warning bells go off at once. The irony is that the client phoned about 50 people off the list and found that 49 of them were relevant contacts. Nice. But the risk of blacklisting with this email list is so high, it’s not worth the risk. Our final recommendation was to use the list as a phone contact list.
I’d like to hear good and bad email list stories. The only way we’re going to institute best practices in the industry is if we educate others on what NOT to do. This is definitely in the DON’T DO category.