We are occasionally, (OK once a week), asked to supply an impossible mailing list.
* 500 employee relations managers in Norfolk
* all the companies in Somerset which employ more than 2,000 people
* 1,000 marketing directors in Weybridge
These lists cannot exist, because there are areas of the UK where industry is concentrated and other areas where there are a handful of large companies. And it is only large companies which employ people with job titles such as employee relations manager and marketing director.
When you are considering how many companies make up your target market, bear in mind some key facts about the UK.
Two-thirds of UK companies are based in London and the South East.
The public sector is the UK’s largest employer; government departments, local councils, police forces, universities and colleges and of course the NHS.
Of the 1.4 million limited companies currently listed as ‘live’ at Companies House, just over 56% have employees.
The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills data defines a large firm as employing over 250 people. In 2013 it estimated that there are just 7,000 ‘large’ firms in the UK.
These 7,000 large firms generate £1.7bn and employ almost 10 million people between them. They are the holders of huge budgets and are excellent targets for your business. But there aren’t that many of them. And if you are based in a remote part of the country, they are few and far between.
When you are briefing your mailing list provider be careful what you ask for. If you ask a mailing list company for something unattainable, a certain type of provider will be tempted to sell you data that doesn’t suit your needs but sort of fits what you asked for.
Read more about buying mailing lists and email lists on the advice section of Electric Marketing’s website.
When you’re thinking of buying a mailing list, the first criterion is usually type of company – legal firms, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, retailers. Then you might think geography – UK wide or local? And then obviously you want to target a decision-maker so you may choose managing director/someone senior.
But you can really target your list (and therefore pay less for it by buying less data) by considering the most likely job title your target will have.
If you email the managing director, you assume that he will pass your information down to the relevant person in the company. While this is a reasonable view when targeting companies of say, under 50 people, for larger firms (and it is larger firms who have the largest budgets) you need a more targeted approach.
If you are currently dealing with smaller companies where the managing director buys your product and you wish to tap into the more generous budgets of larger companies, discuss with your team which departments in a company usually use your product and contact the managers of those departments directly.
If your typical buyers span two departments you may need to send two e-shots ie marketing software can be bought by the marketing director and the IT director working together, so email the heads of both departments.
The most senior decision maker for a function does not always have a ‘director’ job title. For example, many firms don’t have an IT guy sitting on the board; they have a Head of IT who reports in to the finance director. You can ask a mailing list company to select IT directors and where there is no IT director, then select an IT manager contact.
A word of warning on job titles; some mailing list providers offer ‘the name of the person responsible for’ marketing, HR, IT, training, facilities etc. This is not always a manager with a budget and in a small company, you might buy the email address of the director’s PA or an office manager.
If you are buying a mailing list of medium to large-sized companies and are looking for a list of say, marketing managers, be sure to check that their job titles are just that. Ask the mailing list company for a sample of the data and a preview file of the companies and job titles you are buying. If a company does not have a marketing function, it is often a clear signal that they do not run ongoing marketing campaigns. You are likely to be wasting budget chasing after a company that does not engage in marketing if you are offering marketing services.
On the other hand even large companies simply will not have the specialist job title you are looking for. Fleet managers, sponsorship managers, market research manager, travel managers, diversity managers, sustainability managers, IT security – these are all functions that may have a dedicated person or may fall into someone else’s remit. Again, ask the mailing list company to select, say diversity managers and where there is no one with that job title, select HR director or HR manager.
You can see a full list of the 121 mailing lists of job titles offered by Electric Marketing here
Now that it’s common practice for email list suppliers to offer money-back guarantees on emails which do not reach the target’s inbox, you might find yourself sifting through returned emails, wondering what sort of bounce back will get a refund and what the mailing list company will refuse.
Here are Electric Marketing’s definitions:
Hard Bounce – you have the wrong email address. Check the spelling of the person’s name, the company name, that the address has an @ and a proper ending. It is easy to type .con instead of .com. Or the person has changed their email or left the company. If you have bought the list, email your list provider with all the addresses which hard bounced and get a refund. If you’ve bought your mailing list from Electric Marketing, we’ll correct the addresses we can (we phone all the companies on your list), send you the corrected email addresses and refund you for the remainder.
Soft Bounce – your email has hit a server which is down. Your software will probably try to send it again during the next 24 hours. If it doesn’t get through, try again the following week. The soft bounce is much less common than it was 10 years ago which I put down to better performing servers and technology. But a broken server is not the fault of your list supplier, so there is no refund on this one.
Access Denied – if your email bounces back with this heading, your email has been blocked by a spam filter. Again this is not the fault of your email list supplier but you can often fix this problem by looking at the message you sent and seeing which elements triggered the spam software to give your email a high spam score.
Filters work by giving each individual message a ‘spam score’. Marked out of ten, the higher the score, the more likely your message will be put in the spam filter. You no doubt use a spam filter yourself and know that you can choose the degree to which you set your filter, high, medium or low. The inboxes which reject your e-shot have their filters set to high, which means that even emails which get a relatively low spam score will be rejected.
For advice on writing an email which will evade a high spam score, see our page on Email Deliverability but the top 5 things to remember are
1. No hyperbole. Limit use of exclamation marks, capital letters and repetition.
2.Try not put too many links in the email. This is a characteristic of spammers. Balance the number of links to the amount of text.
3.Try not use images that contain text as this also is a characteristic of spammers. Filters cannot read text in images, so the spammer will hide his FREE MONEY BACK GUARANTEE in an image. Spam filters now filter out emails with images that contain text.
4. It is best not to send the email as one big HTML image. Balance the number of images to the amount of text.
5.Try not talk about lots of money. Big prices give you a big score by the spam filter.
Of course, rules are made to be broken.
You might find that you get a better response to your email by using lots of images or lots of links. And that on balance, it is better to live with a higher percentage of returned emails in order to make more sales to the people whose filters accepted your email. Bear in mind that the person who sets their filter to the highest level might not be your best sales prospect.