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List Rental, Brokers, and Event Marketing - Advice


Yesterday, a coaching client asked me if they should pay $6,500 for a ONE-TIME email to a 55,000 person list. My first piece of advice to them was, "don't rush into things & be a healthy skeptic!" If a list broker wants you to pay a lot of money to rent their list, they should be more than willing to answer every question you have for them. What follows is applicable to both online and offline list rental.

Here's my concern with list rental to market and promote events . . . Not ONE event marketer I've talked to has had ANY notable success renting a list to promote their event. Let me be straight here, that doesn't mean renting a list WON'T work to promote your event. The reasons for failure could be numerous - including mistakes made by the event organizer. As an event marketer, you need to be knowledgeable on list marketing before you ever rent or buy a list.

List Rental (Partnering) Case Study
Let me give you a little historical perspective from my own experience - For the past two years one client has used partner lists to help market their event. These partner lists are essentially list rentals, minus the obvious expense. The demographic and psycho-graphic profiles of the partner lists were an ideal match for the client's event. A total of 23,000 people came from two partner lists and accounted for approximately 10% of the total revenue. The client's HOME GROWN list of 12,000 people accounted for almost 90% of the total revenue.

Vet the List!
Before you ever consider paying to use someone else's list - Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions and vet their list. Many event marketers get duped by list size, don't do the same. List quality is much more important than list quantity. Check out "Event Marketing: Your Email List - Quality versus Quantity" for some simple list vetting questions.

Start with Testing a Small Segment of the List
You should never allow anyone to pressure you into mailing an entire list at once. You're better off paying more to test a small portion of the list. If you do anything with a list broker, start with TESTING a small segment of their list. If the test proves successful, then do another test. As you test and get favorable results, then scale up. Never get pressured into renting an entire list all at once.

Any good list broker should be happy to allow you to test. Additionally, your list broker should be a trusted adviser focused on getting you results. Here's why . . . If a list broker's database is "that good," why wouldn't they want to establish a long term relationship with you? Ultimately that means your success and more business for them.

The Ultimate Event Marketing List
Here's the bottom line, if you do decide to rent a list - please be sure to properly vet that list and start small. Test a small portion of the list, then scale up. Never jump into a list all at once.

My strong recommendation is to build your own house list of prospects and customers. In 2008, a client converted 31.0% of their 10 month old house list into paying event attendees. No list broker on planet Earth can top a smartly compiled HOUSE list.

Here are some list building articles to get you going:


Eugene Loj


Thanks for the additional insight!

You bring up a great point most event organizers don't even think about when renting an email list.

- Eugene

Erik Mintz

Great post -- I would also add that the current CAN-SPAM Act make list rentals very risky for those who use them.

Anytime you send an email to someone who doesn’t know you, you take the chance of having your emails flagged as spam. And if this happens enough times, your domain could wind up being blocked by the major ISPs, putting your ability to send future communications in jeopardy.

I agree that it makes more sense to put in the upfront time and effort to build a quality “opt-in” list. It’s really not difficult – and worth it to have the peace of mind and long-term benefits that come from building a loyal and engaged

Erik Mintz, Director, Event Marketing, Constant Contact

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