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Lessons Learned on Customer List Development

Sridhar Ramanathan

By sridhar ramanathan
Posted on August 2010 in Channel Development

Bill Reed, Sam Young, and I have been running several appointment setting campaigns for numerous tech clients with surprisingly outstanding results. We use a very unique, proprietary approach called Vector, which is resulting in 65% to 75% of our completed appointments rated as “good” to “excellent”, meaning they are moving to next steps in our client’s pipeline by meeting rigorous criteria. As part of our approach, we acquire target customer prospect lists through a variety of means – name brand list vendors, custom list developers—some from offshore companies, client-provided lists from support contracts, JigSaw, Hoovers, etc. Here are some lessons learned the hard way on the offshore list folks who sell you the list (versus renting one to you).

You get what you pay for – cheapest was $0.20 per contact (e.g. email address, phone, job title, address, etc) and most expensive was $3.00 per contact (same stuff but more specific job titles delivered). We found the cost per qualified sales opportunity was optimal for leads that cost us about $1.00 per contact.

Lists are perishable goods – we saw a big difference in open rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribes between lists that were clearly kept up to date and those that weren’t. We controlled for offer, segment, and message.

Be specific on job titles – it does cost more to target a specific job title like “Director of Server Operations” than a generic one like “IT Director” but you’ll get better open and response rates.

Check at least 3 current references – I got burned by one firm which delivered the list to me after receiving their $8,000 but the list turned out to have only 1/3 of the relevant contacts that we expected, and a 43% bounce rate (bad email addresses). Shame on me for only relying on a couple references. Here are some questions you might ask your references (Jon Weiss at Access Response, had great inputs here):

  • What list did you get from the vendor?
  • Was the list you got current? How do you know?
  • Was it at least 85% deliverable meaning no more than 15% of emails bounced?
  • Did it uniformly have the detail demographics you expected?
  • Did you have to go back to them to make good on a guarantee?
  • Were they responsive to your needs even after your sent money?
  • Overall did you feel that they were a good company to do business with?

Give yourself two weeks lead time – Don’t make the mistake of leaving too little time between placing the list order and needing to do the email blast for web surveys. Some firms are on the ball and responded very quickly with good quality lists, while other firms slow way down on their responsiveness once they get their upfront money.

We’d love to hear your own war stories and victories.