Case Studies

The Truth About Email List Rental

If you’re unfamiliar or unimpressed with the practice of email list rental here’s the lowdown on the benefits and pitfalls, as well as the key differentiating factors between renting email lists other direct marketing tactics.

What Experience Has Taught Me

Legitimate email list rental opportunities have been tarnished by the practices of less-than-stellar providers…be they those who sell email addresses or outright thieves. In my 14 years in email marketing, I’ve worked with countless list providers. Some great. Some horrid. I now know what to look for, who to go to, who to avoid, and how a campaign will likely perform. But there are few guiding principles that will help all marketers, even those inexperienced at list marketing.

On a very high level, I’ve found that the best results for business-to-consumer marketers (i.e. marketers with a consumer-facing product or service) often lie in renting true subscriber lists. That is, opt-in email lists that are derived from a single source such as a publication, association, or non-competitive product/service. They are brands that the recipient knows and often values or respects.

The practice of selecting true subscriber lists is a great choice for business-to-business marketers too; however I have also found success in using well-maintained complied B2B lists (i.e. lists which are derived from multiple sources). B2B lists are a bit different. Marketers have far more latitude. More about that later.

Key Differentiators

  • The list owner (i.e. that company that built and rents the list) will transmit the marketer’s offer.
  • The marketer pays a fee for this service, usually on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis. Costs range from a few dollars per thousand to $550/CPM, depending on the volume of the campaign, the desired demographics, and source of the list.
  • Unlike direct mail or telemarketing, the marketer never sees the list.
  • Unlike inbound marketing, it’s all about producing a valuable offer, not content.
  • The email lists that a marketer chooses is often the most important factor, followed closely by the subject line, the offer, then the copy and design.

The Upside for Marketers

For many marketers email list rental is a consistent means of growing their own subscriber lists, packing their pipelines and of course making direct sales.  Here are a few benefits.

  • Value of association (“Hey, look at us, we’re friends with the list owner!”)
  • Low cost of acquisition (compared to other direct channels)
  • It’s quick (test results and make adjustments in days, not weeks)
  • Better deliverability (Compared to purchased email lists)
  • It’s compliant (think CAN-SPAM act)

The Upside for List Owners

List owners come in many flavors such as retailers, wholesalers, event producers, associations, as well as traditional publishers and bloggers. All of which can find considerable value in email list rental too, albeit of a different sort.

  • Revenue ($1-2 per subscriber, per year is a good rule of thumb)
  • Control  (what they’ll mail, how often they’ll mail those 3rd-party offers, and who they’ll work with)
  • Easy (no sales, marketing, billing – if you work with a professional list management company).
  • Hygiene (weed out hard bounces more frequently, which helps their overall email deliverability rates)

Case in Point

Going beyond selecting the right lists, wise marketers are no longer taking the “BUY MY STUFF” approach. Instead email list rental campaigns are getting more creative, take a look at this campaign from Surfline and Rip Curl. It’s a great example of how the publisher (Surfline) provides their subscribers with direct access to exclusive offers all while reaping additional revenue from the marketer (Rip Curl) in the process.

The Future of Email List Rental

Email deliverability will continue to be a challenge for marketers who use  purchased email lists. In fact, “challenge” is probably too light of a description. And that’s a good thing because it frees up inboxs for more relevant email communications. Besides improved deliverability, legitimate email list rental provides marketers with the opportunity to earn new customers at a fair price, all while respecting the mindshare of the subscribers. But be wary, the list rental universe is often a dodgy one. Marketers and list owners alike should look first to companies that specialize in email lists that originate (and are mailed) from respectable and identifiable sources.

Still have questions? Need a recommendation? Email me at

– Scott Hardigree | Indiemark | @indiescott

Using Animation in Your Email Marketing

It’s been said that creating an HTML-based email in 2009 is like developing a web page in 1999. It’s sadly true; the coding is archaic and, compared to modern 2.0 functionally, the limitations are huge.

So when email marketers want to convey motion and visual direction they use animated GIFs. Prior to Flash, simple GIF animations were the order of the day. Nowadays the use of animated email is increasing. Why? Firstly, animated GIFs are well-supported by the major email clients and webmail interfaces, second, it helps marketers to stand out, and most importantly, they seem to work.

Stronger ROI

This recent A/B test by BlueFly found an animated email pulling in 12% more revenue than the non-animated equivalent. Likewise, this case study on Marketing Sherpa, Lake Champlain Chocolates experienced a sales increase of 49% at Christmas in relation to a campaign using animated GIFs compared with a campaign the previous year.

More Advantages

Firstly, marketers can use a relatively small amount of space to highlight multiple products, special offers, or calls-to-action, as well as increase click-through rates to hosted videos. Smart marketers can also use animation to encourage scrolling in exceptionally long (or horizontal) emails.

The Disadvantages

The most relevant compatibility issue is how animated emails render in Outlook 2007. That is, only the first frame of the animated GIFs is displayed.  So you’ll want to communicate your message in the first frame, just in case. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the size of the animated GIF (in kilobytes) can negatively affect the speed and order of which your images are displayed.

Animated Email Examples

With a solid understanding of your objectives and an experienced email designer you’ll be able to increase click-through and conversion rates using animation.