How to Develop Successful Email Databases

What is the most effective method and/or resource to procure a targeted listserv for a successful e-mail blast?

Susan, Vice President, Hoffmann & Associates, LLC


By Jennifer Manocchio

There are two ways to measure the success of an email campaign.  First, how “healthy” is your list.  If you receive a number of complaints (verbal or electronic), a high number of bounces and unsubscribes, your list needs a closer look.  The most detrimental consequence of a bad list is your IP address getting blacklisted by an email client (AOL, AT&T, etc.) or an email distribution service shutting down your account.

Secondly, evaluating the open rate, click through rate and response to your call to action (e.g. sale, sign up form, registering for an event), will give you a good indication of your success.  Benchmark open and click through rates are available; however, they vary by target audience and industry.  Two recent reports are available to help you identify benchmarks by industry – MailerMailer and Epsilon.

Developing or Purchasing a List

There are a few methods, depending on your target audience, you can use to create a list.

1.  Build your own:  This is the most effective and safest way to communicate with your customers and prospects assuming that everyone on your list has given permission (either on your web site, in written form or verbally).  Otherwise you can end up with complaints and high bounce and unsubscribe rates.

2.  Purchase a list from a list company: Purchasing a list may seem like an easy way to target thousands of contacts.  However, you need to ensure it is a credible company selling the list, the contacts on the list have opted-in and the company  you are purchasing the list from will guarantee a high delivery rate (or provide a refund for outdated contacts).  You also want to ensure the lists are for actual people, not addresses like

You are certainly taking a risk purchasing a list and while list providers will assure you these contacts have “opted-in” they haven’t necessarily opted-in to receive information from you.  Therefore, you risk complaints, high bounce rates, high unsubcribe rates, as well as low open and click through rates.

3.  Use an existing e-newsletter list: Web sites that offer e-newsletters (like Web MD), trade associations, consumer and trade magazines typically allow you to pay for access to their email database.  Most of these groups protect their members and will not sell you the list, but they will send a prepared email to their database and provide tracking reports.  This method can be effective if the database is targeting your key prospects.

When using this method, consider a strategy (sign up form, etc.) that allows you to collect contact information and encourage recipients to opt-in to your email database.  Otherwise, you will need to continue to pay for access each time.

Permission based email databases are always the most effective method.  It will ensure you are not spamming, will increase your credibility among  customers and prospects, increase loyalty and increase brand awareness.


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Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.