All, Lead Generation, Marketing 101

B2B Email List Guide: Buying, Renting or Building Your List

Eric Wittlake is a digital and B2B marketer with a background in analytics and online media. Based in Portland, Oregon, he runs the media group at Babcock & Jenkins. To read his original post on email list guides, click here.

Whether you want to promote your upcoming webcast, send a multi-channel campaign, or give your telemarketing team a list of contacts to call down on, it starts with a list.

So should you rent, buy or build an email list? How much do the different options cost and when are they most appropriate? This guide will get you started.

Buying a B2B List

Historically purchased lists have had a bad reputation for quality. While it is true that quality is lower, the relatively low cost still works out well for many companies. Consider purchased lists if these points are true:

  • You have a clear plan to make use of the data throughout the year.
  • The targeting options generally available meet your needs.

Expect to pay anywhere from a $0.50 top $1.50 per contact for purchased lists, with some specialized (and much higher quality) sources costing as much as $3 per name.

Potential providers: (formerly Jigsaw), NetProspexD&B.

For more information on purchasing lists, see Buying B2B Email Marketing Data: Challenges and Recommendations.

Renting a B2B List

List rentals are still the only way to access lists from some trade publications, and these lists often support the most extensive industry-relevant selection criteria. List rentals can also reach a larger portion of a given target audience than purchased lists.

Consider list rentals if you meet the following criteria:

  • The selection criteria you need are not available through purchased lists.
  • You are working on a very targeted program and will only be using the list a couple times in the year.
  • You are promoting a one-off event, such as a webcast or local in-person event, and the additional available reach is key.
  • You don’t need access to the list itself. Most companies deploy to the list for you, you never receive an actual list of emails.

Expect to pay a premium for the extra data available through list rentals, with the cost per name ranging from about $0.15 to $0.60 for one time use.

Potential providers: Find lists yourself with a list database like NextMark or going directly to a publisher, or you can work through a list broker like MeritDirect or one of many smaller brokers.

Building a B2B List

List builds are the ultimate for targeted data. Lists are generally built with a combination of research and calling and can be built for almost any criteria.

List builds quickly become very expensive. However, in the following circumstances a list build is often worth the investment.

  • You are targeting very specific roles and/or companies.
  • You need the cleanest data possible for a program that has a very high investment per person (such as a gift or high end dimensional direct mail).
  • You need to reach a much higher percentage of prospects than you can through list purchases but will be using the data multiple times.

For a relatively broad custom built list that is telemarketing verified, expect to pay at least $5 per name. List builds with very specific target criteria can quickly exceed $20 per name.

Potential providers: ReadyContacts or ReachForce. Or if you have time on your hands, you can build a list yourself.

A Note of Caution

Before you jump into any list, make certain lists are really right for you. Lists have two distinct disadvantages versus alternative marketing options:

  • A list constricts your message to a relatively small, discrete audience. If your goals are broad communication or broad lead generation, lists are likely not your best initial investment.
  • Recipients do not expect email from you, giving lists a far lower average response rate than an opt-in list built organically over time.

Your Turn

How do you decide between buying, renting or building lists, or do you opt to only use lists built organically over time? Share your view in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Biscarotte via Flickr cc