List Building Guide for List Building Outsourcing

List Building Guide: How To Outsource Your List Building
Whenever you want to launch a direct marketing campaign, everything starts with List Building – building a list of “leads” – potential contacts to whom you will deliver your marketing message(s). In this List Building Guide, we will discuss ways to profitably outsource this list building process.

Whether you’re telemarketing, email marketing, contact form marketing, or social media marketing … you’ll need some type of information on who you’re going to contact. This list, or database of information, is your Lead List. The process of creating your Lead List is called “List Building“, and it comes in all shapes & sizes.

No matter what, List Building is essential to launching any successful outbound marketing campaign. You need someone to contact, and if you don’t build the right list for your offer, your marketing efforts are going to fall flat.

I’ve already written a 1200 word post on Building Better Lead Lists (w/ Action Items) … so today I am going to skip over these principles & action items – assuming that you’re already aware of them. With that pre-requisite aside, I will be able to focus this List Building Guide on how to do what most marketers & ad agencies do: OUTSOURCE your LIST BUILDING entirely!

Outsourcing Your List Building…

(… without getting ripped off in the process).

Let’s face it: list building mistakes can be costly. If you build a list of 5,000 potential leads, and then send a direct mail to them … chances are you’ve already racked up a tab of at least $5k – $7k. If it turns out that a lot of those records were inaccurate (resulting in “bounce-backs” aka undeliverable mail) … or that the list was not targeted enough to yield sustainable conversions… your entire List Building & marketing budget might have just gone to waste!

Believe me, with the metaphorical land mines littering the market-place of list building vendors, this story is all too common. People buying leads or hiring lead generation companies often get burned with little to no recourse. To better understand the world of List Building and lead list / data vendors, you’ll need to first understand a few different ways of viewing or categorizing exactly what constitutes a “Lead” and a lead list.

Types Of “Leads” for List Building

Raw Lead Data: This is basically like a categorized, tagged version of the phone book – filled with your targeted contacts’ data. There are certain types of consumer lists (like those filtered by location, household income, recent moves, homeowners, bankruptcies, etc.) that are widely available & trace back to public records. Similarly, every (legal) business has some type of tax records which are publicly available, including categorizations by SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) code, annual income, property ownership, credit history, and many other criteria sets.

There are also plentiful web resources, including the popular approach of compiling lead data from search results. In other words, if you are looking for auto mechanics in Tulsa, OK, then you can just Google “auto mechanic Tulsa, OK” and build a list from the top 10 pages of search results (filtering them as you go to be sure they are all qualified to be on your lead list).

When it comes to list building using raw lead data, we’re talking big business. I just mentioned Google as one resource. Beyond the successful search giant, we are generally in what many refer to as a “data boom” or even an “information economy” … and companies that have the ability to efficiently compile & organize vast databases of valuable consumer & business records can earn significant margins by repeatedly reselling that data. As such, you can rest assured that the biggest vendors in the industry have Lead List Building & data organization down to a science.

For some examples of top (trusted) Lead Data vendors, check out Experian, Dun & Bradstreet (aka Hoovers), InfoUSA, Zoominfo, Jigsaw, etc…

“Warm” Leads / Pre-Qualified Leads: A “Warm” or “Pre-Qualified” lead just means that someone has “self-identified” as being interested in what you’re offering. In other words, these are leads that someone else has already generated or “captured” … and now they’re reselling that lead info to you (and perhaps a few of your competitors too). Established “Warm” Lead vendors are most common in high volume financial industries like insurance & mortgage brokering, but you can find someone generating & reselling leads in almost any market if you look hard enough. The most common way this is done is via affiliate programs.

The thing about buying Warm Leads or list building using only “Pre-Qualified” leads is that it is often very difficult to know exactly what you’re getting. What you will be able to know will likely depend on the way the leads are being generated. For instance, if Warm Leads are captured via your own in-house affiliate network, you can pretty much regulate every parameter for your affiliates in their lead generation efforts. However, if the “Warm Leads” are coming from a 3rd party vendor, in general, you might not know much. Some of the most common approaches these type of independent lead generating companies use include things like funneling PPC & display ad traffic to a squeeze page … then selling you the data that gets captured on their sign-up form.

If you are thinking about buying Warm or Pre-Qualified Leads, be forewarned: a lot can go wrong … resulting in the potential for expensive mistakes. For all you know, those leads have also been resold 5 other times to 5 of your competitors … or they’ve been sitting around “cooling off” for a long while … or they’re “Pre-Qualified” on interest but not on budget or urgency. These are important items to ask about when interviewing warm lead vendors.

Depending on your industry and financial situation, finding a consistent 3rd party supplier of “Warm” / “Pre-Qualified” Leads whose leadsĀ  consistently convert … can be either difficult or prohibitively expensive … or downright impossible. If you find them, they are as good as a lifetime partner in your business – so stick with them!

If you are thinking about working with any “Warm Lead” vendors, feel free to get in touch for our opinions and feedback.

“Opt-In” Email Leads: This is basically a scam, which is why I am taking the time to single it out. I’ll admit, in some special cases, it has a small … tiny … percentage chance of working for you. Think about what it means to “Opt-In” though… similarly to a “Warm” or “Pre-Qualified” Lead, an “Opt-In” lead has probably {hopefully!} submitted a web-form somewhere along the way – “Opting In” to receive some type of marketing messages. However, in most cases when a vendor says their “Email Leads” are “Opt-In” … it means basically that someone with that email address submitted a webform somewhere at some point. What’s worse, is that sometimes these supposedly “Opt-In” lists are actually just scraped data with no Opt-In event at all – full of spamtraps & undeliverable email addresses.

If you want to build a lead list of “Opt-In” subscribers to whom you can send email marketing messages … build it yourself.

Depending on your industry, and the track record of your email marketing collateral (the messages / newsletters / calls-to-action / landing pages / etc), it can be a very profitable choice to simply call your lead list and ask them if you can send them emails!

If this doesn’t make sense, it is still worthwhile to build your “Opt-In” list for email marketing in-house, via:

  • Online advertising & an email sign-up form,
  • Asking permission during POS transactions,
  • Even making receiving email a condition of doing business with you.

Beyond these permission-based approaches – any other form of email marketing that involves sending outbound commercial email to people who haven’t directly given you explicit permission to do so can run afoul of anti-spam legislation, and will definitely put your email servers at significant risk of black-listing – destroying deliverability for ALL email you send, not just marketing messages.

Sure, it might cost a little bit more to build it in-house than simply buying an “Opt-In” Email List … but it will save you from a lot of headaches later on.

If someone can prove me wrong with a real, verified “Opt-In” Email Lead List vendor in the comment sections, that isn’t full of bounce-backs & spam traps, and that produces decent open & click-thru rates, then I will buy you any list off their site (up to $200).

If you’ve been scammed by one of these so called “Opt-In” Email Lead List vendors … feel free to also expose the frauds below.

Building Your List: Get Started On The Right Foot

Now that you have some idea of the types of leads you may be pursuing, you can get started on the right foot when it comes to actually buying or building your list. In most cases, your first choice, or at least your first step, when it comes to list building will be buying / compiling raw lead data. You have to start somewhere, and if you don’t have an easy, ready-made source to purchase Pre-Qualified, Warm Leads … then you are stuck doing your own lead generation. To generate leads, you have two choices: inbound advertising (PPC ads, SEO, TV & radio, print ads, etc) vs. outbound marketing (email marketing, telemarketing, direct mail, etc). If you plan to go outbound … you need a list!

The first major criteria you’ll need to consider is whether you’re marketing to CONSUMERS or BUSINESSES. Hopefully this one shouldn’t take too much thought … but every other step on in might add some greater difficulties & deeper thinking. Let’s look at specific criteria for each instance:

Building Your CONSUMER List

When it comes to consumer lists, depending on where you’re getting the data, you’ll probably have a lot of potential options. Some of the most common criteria to consider for your CONSUMER lists are:

  • Geographic area (their location) … which you can go as broad as nations and as precise as limited ZIP codes
  • Demographics (age, gender, income, etc)
  • Home ownership / renters (and length of residence)

These are just the general criteria. Another great potential option for building a consumer list is selecting some type of specialized list (often from magazine & catalog publishers selling their subscriber data, or something similar). These include things like:

  • Wealthy / high net-worth individuals
  • Stocks and Bond Investors
  • Bad credit / bankruptcy
  • Recent movers / new home owners
  • Diet, Weight Loss, and Health
  • Real Estate Investors
  • Golfers
  • Sportsmen / sport afficianados
  • Boat Owners
  • Much, much more …

As mentioned, data is big business. The only limitation to building a specialized list is the practicality (i.e. – time & cost) associated with building it. Ideally, someone else already has the data you need, and you can simply purchase it (at what will be hopefully a reasonable price for your purposes). Consumer list building is an incredibly powerful tool to leverage into your business processes. The better you are at building lists, the more efficient & effective your outbound marketing campaigns can be.

Building Your BUSINESS List

In many ways, your BUSINESS List Building efforts will be quite similar to consumer list building – as at the end of the day you are always looking for the direct contact information of targeted individuals. Whether you are contacting them at home, as a private individual, or whether you are contacting them at their place of business, based on their role in a particular organization … in either case you want to communicate directly to the decision makers who can say YES to your offer.

When it comes to BUSINESS Lists, there are several overlapping criteria with your typical consumer list … but also significantly more options, including:

  • Geographic area (their location) … which you can go as broad as nations and as precise as limited ZIP codes
  • Company SIC (Standard Industry Classification) and / or NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code
  • Company annual revenue
  • Number of employees
  • Job title
  • Company credit rating
  • Company real estate holdings (if any)
  • Company shares (volume & price) – if company is public

Also, one of the most powerful tools when list building for business contacts are the Company Keyword(s) (a specific word that appears in the Company Name), and the Industry Keyword(s) (specific words that appear somewhere in a sub-category of the industry description / SIC / NAICS codes). Using these keywords can yield extremely targeted results – so if you have a very specific offer for a very specific audience, you can spend extra time honing in during the list building phase to save a TON of money later on during the outbound marketing phase.

Getting Ready To Outsource The Rest…

When it comes right down to it, you can potentially outsource the entire list building process, from start to finish, to the point where you just tell your list building service provider the type of clients you want & let them do the rest. However, unless you are dealing with a consummate expert (who will probably be charging premium rates), this is the most risky way to go about it. Think about it: who knows the type of clients you need better than you?

If you are going to build a list, which ultimately will serve as the backbone of your (significantly more expensive) outbound marketing efforts, you want that list to be as targeted and accurate as possible. You want to specifically define the exact characteristics of your target client as specifically as you can, to be sure that the list you get is composed of as many of these types of decision makers as possible. And if you leave this in the hands of a 3rd party … who has no vested interest in the success of your marketing campaigns … and no experience working on the front-lines in your unique company … you are bound to get less than ideal results!

That’s why outsourcing your list building needs to be a collaborative process … where you work closely with the list building service provider to hone in on the right target audience and build the best quality list money can buy!

If you take the time to review this article, study the different types of leads, take into account the 4 Principles (and Action Items) from my Building Better Lead Lists article, and come prepared with at least some semblance of your own thoughtfully defined set of list building criteria … then you are ready to outsource the rest. You will be a great client to work with for your lead list building service provider, and you will guarantee the best possible results for your collaborative list building efforts.

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