Imagine this: Your company is making a big push to generate leads in Q2. Your CEO is making this a top priority, doubling your lead-gen budget. This is important, so you focus on the tried-and-true: email.

You begin with a campaign to your modest internal list, then you plunk down $15k for a big send from a vendor with a highly targeted, high-quality list.

Then ... well, then, nothing.

Your small in-house email campaign chugs along, reaching its goals, but the big rented list ends up getting about 75% of what you expected. Bummer. Serious bummer.

Sound familiar?

For many marketers, it should. According to Marketing Sherpa's 2010 B2B handbook, marketers find solo email sends to proprietary lists far more effective than emails sent to third-party lists ( you can download a free chapter of the report here ).

Effectiveness of Email Marketing Techniques 


As the chart above shows, more than 7x as many people surveyed by MarketingSherpa find in-house lists more effective than third-party lists.

Why are in-house lists more effective?

It's simple: Subscribers to your in-house list have a relationship with your company; people subscribed to third-party lists do not.

Although marketers typically talk about relationships in the frothy context of  social media , they are just as important in the context of email.

When you're sending to an in-house list, you're communicating with a group of people that was attracted to your site and your content. You're using the email to nurture that initial attraction.

When you're sending to a third-party list, the story is different. You're emailing a group of people that have some demographic quality that interests you, but that don't have any context for your content, or your business. That makes it much harder to create a relationship of value.

So what's the takeaway for smart marketers?

Focus your email effort on nurturing and building your own lists. Create content that attracts new people to your site, use calls to action and landing pages to add them to your list, then nurture those relationships via email.

If your organic list growth falls short of your goals, experiment with paid media, but avoid renting lists as much as possible. Instead, invest in paid campaigns that will drive people back to your site and build your own list.

What do you think? Do you get a better return from paid or in-house lists? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Free Download: Marketing Sherpa's 2010 B2B Handbook


A smart, well-researched report on the state of B2B social media,   Marketing Sherpa's 2010 B2B Benchmark Report  provides a quantitative look at the tactics your peers are employing in  email marketing, social media marketing, website management and more.  Download it now .


Originally published Mar 29, 2010 10:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Email Lists and Segmentation