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Buying mailing lists and sales leads - tips and traps 

Chasing leads can be very time consuming - that's where buying leads can seem very attractive, but probably one of the biggest minefields in marketing is where and how to purchase email lists. 

Buying a list of leads is something you need to consider very carefully as the wrong purchase can not only be a waste of money, but land you in very hot water.

List rental vs. list buying

There's an important distinction to be made between buying a list and renting one - and it will impact on price. When you rent a list, you never get to see the email addresses - the list owner mails out on your behalf and you'll be charged each time you do so. When you purchase a list, you receive all the details. 

Buy lists and sales leads!
Buy mailing lists

Since 1972, InfoUSA has been providing the
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Pssst. wanna buy a cheap list?

Just about every day I get unsolicited emails offering email lists of all types and demographics, sometimes millions of addresses - and as cheap as chips. If you get unsolicited offers and the company or individual offering them doesn't have a demonstrated history of list brokering, don't waste your money; because many of the email addresses will not be in the demographics claimed, many will be dead addresses and there's likely to be quite a few spam trap addresses among them.

What's a spam trap?

Unscrupulous parties touting themselves as being "list brokers" usually use automated means to collect email addresses. Either they purchase them from spammers or they use harvesting programs to scan sites for email addresses then dump them in a database. 

Some companies bury email addresses in the source code of their pages which aren't visible to humans viewing the page, but are picked up by harvesters. That way, a company knows any email coming into that address is spam; and they then take further action. This further action may included contacting your web host with a spam complaint, which can endanger your account. In more extreme cases, the company may also take further legal action.

Reputable list brokers

While there's many good list *rental* services around, companies that will sell you details are very few and far between. 

For B2B (business to business) leads, the only company I've come across with reasonable rates is InfoUSA. Founded in 1972, InfoUSA has over 14 million USA and Canadian businesses in their database that are 100% phone verified and updated monthly. However, they don't provide email addresses - but there is a way around it.

InfoUSA has some excellent features for narrowing down your targets, therefore reducing costs. Using their wizard, you can zero in on specific categories, company sizes, no. of staff .. and the important one - site URL. With that information, you can visit a site, further gauge its suitability for your campaign and grab the email address. It certainly beats trawling through search engines and directories for results and will save you a ton of time; plus turn up a stack more leads.

If that still seems to time consuming, InfoUSA does offer a list rental service whereby they will send mailouts on your behalf. 

For B2C email lists (business to consumer), there are a few respected companies around, including InfoUSA who have over 200 million records, but the records again won't have email addresses - just postal details and phone numbers for mail and phone canvassing.

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Using purchased lists.

It's always wise to check local laws regarding unsolicited commercial email before forking out for a list and using it. If you're in the USA, consult the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 which basically:

- bans false or misleading header information. 
- prohibits deceptive subject lines. 
- requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. 
- requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender's physical postal address.

Special care and expectations

Because you'll be approaching people and businesses that may have never heard from you before, give careful thought to your campaign as you may only get one shot. It's a lot more challenging to sell to someone who doesn't know your company and products and they are far more likely to opt out of any communication you send.

Don't expect the same sort of positive response from a bought list as you do your in house lists. Also, no matter how good a list is, there will always be some dead records as businesses change contact details (or wind up operations) quite often - expect the dead record rate to be up to 10%.

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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