To generate the greatest return on any email marketing campaign, a quality email list is a prerequisite.
On outbound marketing campaigns of all kinds, lead quality is directly related to quality of the data which produced that lead.
You will be aware yourself (or your sales staff will have made you aware) of the frustration in trying to convert poor quality leads.
B2B email data quality, in addition to the relevance of the message you’re delivering your audience, will be the major determining factor on whether your email marketing campaign delivers the return on investment you want for your company.
More Than Words is a quality email list supplier – we offer a comprehensive UK B2B email database service to clients as well as school emails and public sector email addresses.
In this article, we cover how to find the best place to buy email lists including:
- the five major quality checkpoints to ask a supplier about before you purchase,
- the issue of quality versus quantity in business email addresses,
- what you need to know about personalised email addresses and generic email addresses,
- the underestimated factor of how email content quality affects return on investment – why getting the message right is just as important, and
- how you can compare any current B2B email data quote you have against More Than Words.
More Than Words note – please note that we do not sell B2C email databases nor do we recommend any other supplier of B2C email databases. We would not recommend to any company that it buy a cosnumer email list where the data is passed on to you so that you carry out the campaigns in-house or via a third-party supplier.
How to determine whether you’re being offered a quality email list
The lead quantity versus lead quality issue is a major one for UK businesses since the introduction of GDPR in 2018.
Although the UK is no longer a part of the European Union, GDPR legislation still applies in the UK and there is unlikely to be much (or any) deviation from the legislation following the completion of trade talks during 2020.
The seven questions that we would recommend that, before you buy an email database, you ask:
- How precise and segmented is the data?
- How often does your potential supplier update the database?
- Is your supplier GDPR compliant?
- How long is your data usage license?
- Is the price they’re offering the database at realistic?
- Does the person who you’re dealing with at the supplier sound like they are experienced and knowledgeable?
- Will the company send out the emails for you?
1. How segmented is the data? Ask for a sample.
As a minimum, a quality email list should contain the following fields:
- name of the business
- contact names
- job title for the contact
- email address for the contact
- address including town, county, and postcode
- telephone number
- number of employees
- company registration number (and incorporation date)
- turnover band
- company net worth
- profitable or loss-making
- profit percent change
- sales volume increase or decrease
- premise type description
- branch count
For schools and public sector databases, there will be a different set of fields you should expect as a minimum.
If not, the chances are that the supplier is trying to resell an out-of-date DFS database gained through a freedom or information request.
When speaking with a potential supplier, you should make sure that you buy a targeted email list with no more data than you need.
Be as precise as possible as you can be when describing your target audience because imprecision leads to:
- targeting businesses with no real interest in your product or service and
- unnecessary cost which will reduce the profitability of your campaigns using the data.
You should also ask for a sample.
Please be aware that most data providers (including More Than Words) will supply you with a generic sample so that you can see how the database looks and the general overall quality of information.
Most data providers will refuse to send you a sample of 25-50 records for a variety of different reasons the main one of which is that it will not have been licensed by the data owner.
More Than Words note – a field refers to the contents of a cell on a spreadsheet. A quality email list is supplied as a spreadsheet. On most databases, there will not be full coverage in each field – in other words, in the “turnover band” column, there may be lots of companies for which the data supplier does not share an indication of a company’s particular turnover.
More Than Words buying advice – in some cases, the vast majority of fields may be empty according to how easily collectable the information is. If a field is of particular importance to you, ask your supplier to tell you how many records contain the specific information you need and make a judgement on whether you want their database based upon their answer.
2. What are your potential supplier’s update cycles and accuracy guarantees?
Businesses are far likely to move than homeowners.
They’re also prone to their owners closing them down or being placed into administration or receivership.
Decision makers within larger businesses also regularly change as companies change in size and as they promote internally and recruit.
As a result, the accuracy of a database will change over time.
Some suppliers claim that their database “decays” to a rate of around 2.5% a month while others claim 70.3% per annum.
Our experience is closer to the first figure – equivalent to 30% per annum.
When checking with a potential supplier, you should aim for a minimum update cycle of 4-6 months.
Given average decay rates, this means that around 10-15% of some of the fields of your data will be inaccurate when you purchase it.
Most of the inaccuracies will be kept to the contact name, contact job title, and email address fields.
3. Is it legal to buy email lists which aren’t compliant with GDPR?
Following the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, most of the available and previously-legitimate B2B email lists of UK companies more than halved in size.
The reason for this is that data on sole traders and partnerships was now considered to be personal data and not business data.
Data owners now must take extra precautions to ensure that each of the records contained on their lists are limited companies, public limited companies, and limited liability partnerships.
You are permitted to send to these email addresses without requiring prior consent as “marketing” is considered as a legitimate reason for uninvited contact to body corporates (as long as the email is advertising a product or service which benefits the business and not the person).
Ask any data owner or broker that you’re dealing with for additional assurances that sole traders and partnerships are not included on their databases.
If you do send to one accidentally and you can prove that you took all reasonable steps to purchase only compliant data, you will likely be let off with a warning from the ICO on the first occasions.
However, as with any government department, you should not expect leniency for a breach of the regulations.
4. How long is your data usage licence?
Businesses have their own individual buying cycles for products and services – in other words, you will catch some companies when they’re ready to make a purchase with an email broadcast although the vast majority of the companies you contact will not be in the market at that time.
For each email broadcast you carry out, it’s reasonable to anticipate that between 3-5% of recipients will be in the market.
This does not mean that the 95-97% of emails you send to companies not ready to buy right now are wasted.
B2B purchases are far more considered than B2C purchases – they often involve multiple decision-makers and influencers with a company.
They are spending the company’s money and a wrong purchasing decision is likely not only to cost the business itself but the decision-makers’ career prospects (assuming that they’re not a shareholding director).
The greater the number of times a decision-maker sees your emails, the better they understand your business, what you do, and what you’re capable of delivering for them.
A good supplier will sell you their quality email list with 12 months’ usage.
You will normally be restricted to one email per month – that’s enough though because, if you’re not already a supplier to a company, sending more often will likely be viewed as spam.
5. Could the database be compiled for the price they’re asking?
Compiling and telephone-verifying databases requires considerable technical and labour resources.
This is why, in an economy as large as the UK, there are only 2 or 3 true data owners who have achieved the critical mass required to be able to update millions of records every year.
Compliance requirements as a result of GDPR has made the process even more costly and complex.
If you are offered a quarter of a million email addresses for £100, the company which is claiming to have compiled this data would have to sell tens of thousands of copies to cover their research and maintenance costs.
At any one time in the UK, there are probably fewer than 50,000 companies which purchase data on a regular basis and the competition for those 50,000 companies is fiercely fought between list owners and list brokers.
The lower the price of the data you’re offered, the more likely it is to be an illegal copy of an older database (probably 2-3 years old or even older) and the higher the likelihood that it will not be a quality email list.
Given the decay rate of B2B data, the majority of the information on these databases is unlikely to be correct and it will almost certainly contain sole trader and partnership information (which is illegal under GDPR).
There are free email lists for marketing to businesses in the UK but we strongly suggest you avoid them at all costs.
6. Does the rep who’s trying to sell to you sound like they understand marketing?
The B2B and B2C database industries have been plagued for years by poor quality data suppliers selling what they describe as a quality email list to clients for next to nothing.
More often than not, the companies selling these databases will be one-person operations.
While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a one-person operation, you should be wary if, when asking basic data and marketing questions, the quality of the answers you’re given is less than convincing.
Most companies which purchase data require outside assistance to use them independently – sorting through databases and sending out via email platforms for the highest delivery rate is complicated.
Do you think that the person you are speaking with could help you or do they have a colleague who you could talk to before making the purchase who could help you?
Within most email marketing companies, More Than Words included, the management and the staff have worked for years for other businesses in the sector and they have learned how to email market successfully over time.
The experience of the people you’re dealing with will often have a direct consequence over how profitable or otherwise the campaigns you run are.
7. Will the company send out email addresses for me and report back?
When you purchase an email database, you will almost certainly need help from your supplier on how to send the emails so that it reaches as many different recipients as possible.
If done wrongly, a database with a 90% accuracy level will only reach 20% of inboxes depending on the method of delivery and the servers used in that delivery.
As well as the sending mechanism, the servers from which email campaigns are sent have their own “trust” level.
The trust level is built over months and years based upon the number of bounce backs, the number of unsubscribes, and the number of reports sent to an ISP objecting to the delivery of an email.
Many email database providers (including More Than Words) will send out the first few email campaigns for you.
After a few days, you should receive a report showing you which recipients opened the email and clicked through to your website.
From your supplier’s reports, you will be able to see whether what you’ve bought was actually a high quality email list or not.
Email content quality vs quantity – why it’s better to be short and sweet in expression
As well as data quality, the quality of your email is a significant factor in the success or otherwise of any campaign that you run.
There are two ways that an email server judges the quality of any message you send:
- the content of your email
- the design and technical specifications of your email.
Decision makers within companies do not like receiving email advertisements (or any advertisements) which are not applicable to them.
This is why making sure that you only buy email data where there is a very high likelihood of your product or service being of interest to them.
When composing your email, you should make the process of understanding the message that you’re trying to convey as simple and direct as possible.
Ideally, you should have an idea of the pressures that your targets are working under, what they want to achieve professionally from their role, and the issues and pain points preventing them from doing so.
You should have a clear and compelling subject line and, when the recipient opens your email, the main message should be conveyed in the headline and in the sub-headlines used.
You should only include images when it adds to the understanding of the story you’re trying to tell – preferably your own images and not stock photo images.
Your email must get straight to the point and, towards the bottom of the email, there should be a clear call to action directing receipients on how they can get in touch with you.
More Than Words tip – ask one of our account managers about our email marketing copywriting service if you already have a list you want to use.
Email design appearance and technical specifications
More than half of all business emails are now seen first on mobile phone.
If your email design does not display correctly within 3 seconds of a recipient opening it, then the chances are that it may be deleted in as little as three seconds.
In addition, mobile users check their emails three times more than on other devices.
That’s why three quarters of companies now optimise their emails for mobile phones.
Ideally, your mobile optimised email should encourage a call direct from a receipient’s handset or a clickthrough to your mobile optimised website.
The amount of coding and the size of the images used in your emails directly affects the quality of the user experience.
You should never include attachments and you should design your email to be read, digested, and understood within 8 seconds with a view to getting a response from the companies you send them to.
Quality email list – the design factor
In addition to whether you’ve actually purchased a quality email list or not, a deciding factor in the success of your campaign will be what you actually send to the recipients.
As we’ve just discussed, the quality of your email content and the way it is coded must both meet recipient expectations and conform to the latest technical standards.
Quality email list, best quality design – the best results
If you send professional, well-written, responsive email campaigns to a well-selected audience using the highest quality data, responses will rise through the 12 months of your campaign with most emails being delivered to recipients’ inboxes.
- Direct enquiries – 1st place out of the 4 options
- Opens and clickthroughs – 1st place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to inbox – 1st place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to junk box – 4th place out of the 4 options
- Unsubscribes and spam complaints – 4th place out of the 4 options
Quality email list, poor quality design – results depressed by bad email design
Campaigns run to the highest quality data but with a poor quality design will likely perform worse than data run with poor quality and a good design.
Think of it like search engine optimisation – it’s a good investment for any company to increase its search engine rankings to get people to click through but, if the page they land on is unprepossessing and unengaging, the number of enquiries you’re likely to get will fall.
These types of campaign may also be sent more to recipients’ junk boxes particularly if the coding of the design is poor.
The lack of a strong message will annoy recipients too making them more likely to unsubscribe and to complain to their ISP.
- Direct enquiries – 3rd place out of the 4 options
- Opens and clickthroughs – 3rd place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to inbox – 3rd place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to junk box – 2nd place out of the 4 options
- Unsubscribes and spam complaints – 2nd place out of the 4 options
Poor quality data, best quality design – results improved by good email design
Surprisingly, data of a lower quality (accuracy and relevance) may attract better response rates than sending to a quality database with a poor design.
However, if the data is of a substantially lower quality, then this will probably not be the outcome.
Your website and email server may be under threat if enough people complain to their ISPs.
Even if your email server is not blocked, its trust level is likely to fall significantly affecting normal emails in and out of your business.
There may also be repercussions from breaches of the GDPR legislation.
- Direct enquiries – 2nd place out of the 4 options
- Opens and clickthroughs – 2nd place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to inbox – 2nd place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to junk box – 3rd place out of the 4 options
- Unsubscribes and spam complaints – 3rd place out of the 4 options
Poor quality data, poor quality design – worst results
If you use substandard data and the quality of your email design is poor, then there is a very high chance that both your website and your ISP may be taken down and that you will run fowl of the GDPR legislation.
It may take weeks or months for your business to recover from this outcome.
- Direct enquiries – 4th place out of the 4 options
- Opens and clickthroughs – 4th place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to inbox – 4th place out of the 4 options
- Delivered to junk box – 4th place out of the 4 options
- Unsubscribes and spam complaints – 4th place out of the 4 options
Our quality email list – what you need to know
As marketers, we’re aware of the intrinsic added value that quality delivers over quantity in business.
Our assessment on social media quality versus quantity determines whether we still follow a company or an individual on LinkedIn or we decide that we’ve had enough of being spammed by them constantly in our timeline.
Likewise, there aren’t many sales team managers who have not learned the difference through experience in quality vs quantity in the workplace.
It’s much better to have one team of quality telesales reps than it is to have three teams of less talented individuals who need constant training and supervision.
What about our answers to the questions we recommend earlier on this article that you ask suppliers?
And what would our answers be?
How precise and segmented is the data?
More Than Words’ B2B email database contains all of the fields listed earlier in this article.
On specialist B2B data sets (please enquire for more information), additional fields may be available.
As with all B2B databases, not every field has information in it.
On some segments of the database, there may be very little information.
The data which tends to have the highest number of fields filled in are contact data and line of business data.
Fields which tend to be less populated are financial data.
Before you complete a purchase with us, please ask us to let you know the level of coverage within a particular field if that field is of particular importance to your marketing campaign.
How often does your potential supplier update the database?
We are a data broker and not a data owner.
We work with all of the UK’s major list owners and they each have their own rolling cycle of data updates. We can vouch that what we sell you will be a high quality email list.
With some suppliers, the entire database is refreshed every three months and, with others, the refresh cycle may be nine months on average for a particular record.
We offer the following accuracy guarantee levels on our databases:
- 98% address accuracy
- 91% telephone accuracy
- 85% email address accuracy
We do not offer accuracy guarantees (in common with the rest of our industry) on any other fields on the database.
Some of the data fields may be modelled. No updates are provided during the 12 months of the licence – they are available for an additional fee upon request.
Is your supplier GDPR compliant?
Yes. All of the data we provide to customers from our media partners is fully GDPR compliant.
How long is your data usage licence?
We licence the data for 12 months after purchase.
You can use the email data contained on your database once per calendar month. After the end of the 12 months, you are still permitted to contact:
- companies on the database which have either bought from you,
- companies which have expressed an interest in your products or services, and
- companies which have subscribed to receive further emails from you.
Usage of the data outside the 12 month licence fee or excessive usage of the email data will require you to purchase the database again.
Please ask for rollover rates and terms when you speak with us.
Where possible, we will advise you that your 12 months are coming to an end or that you are using the email data too frequently.
Is the price they’re offering the database at realistic?
More Than Words is a competitively-priced supplier of data to thousands of UK companies.
Our pricing policy is aimed at reducing cost-related barriers of entry to companies which want to use email marketing to grow their customer base and revenues.
We have to pay for and licence every single record of data that each client purchases from us subject to a floor set by our suppliers.
The prices we charge allow our customers to benefit from the highest level of profitability by offering the lowest realistic costs and they allow More Than Words and our media partners to continue to trade profitably.
Does the person who you’re dealing with at the supplier sound like they are experienced and knowledgeable?
There are four sales reps at More Than Words – Clare, Lisa, Andy, and Scott – who have, between them, 27 years in helping customers achieve the most out of email marketing.
Each of our reps is very knowledgeable about email marketing specifically and direct marketing in general and they look forward to answering your questions and sharing their ideas with you.
Will the company send out the emails for you?
Yes. In addition to offering a comprehensive UK B2B email database service as well as school emails and public sector email addresses, we also provide:
Please click on the links to find out more. Alternatively, click for our email marketing campaigns homepage.
Get in touch with us by calling us on 0330 010 8300 or click here to speak with our marketing databases team.