Email Marketing to a Third-Party List

Many businesses are looking to use a third-party email list for B2B marketing, rather than their own in-house permission-based lists. On the surface, the idea almost sounds too good to be true. You purchase a large bulk list of industry-related contacts and send targeted messaging to this audience to convert into customers. You fast-track the slow process of earning inbound marketing subscribes, and jump straight into the fun part.

But wait, how are you going to convince a cold audience of contacts with no prior relationship to your business to convert? Isn’t this considered spam?! Despite the obvious “cold” nature of this type of outbound campaign, many businesses use a third-party list to grow subscribers and convert new customers.

third party list

It can be challenging to market to a third-party list for many reasons, such as:

  • Deliverability issues
  • Low open and conversion rates
  • IP Blacklisting and damaging sender score

Despite what you may have read about sending email campaigns to a purchased list, there are email service providers that do in fact let you upload a cold list. The software will clean the data to remove contacts that are not CAN-SPAM, CASL and GDPR compliant.

Once you have done your homework on which cold email marketing service is best for your audience, you can then begin to strategize on how to best engage with these contacts. Here are a few strategies to follow when taking this approach to B2B email marketing.

The challenges of a third-party email list

The main reason that this tactic is more challenging is that you are dealing with an unknown list. It’s safe to say that the quality of the third-party list is the single biggest contributing factor to a successful email campaign. This can make the difference between a campaign that converts into leads, and one that never reaches the inbox.

In general, you can expect a purchased list to perform less than half as well as your in-house opt-in list, or worse. Cases where a third-party list performs as well or better than an opt-in list are rare, so adjust your expectations accordingly. This usually just means that the opt-in email list was of a poor quality, to begin with.

cold email list

Then, of course, you need to think about how much a third-party email list will cost. An opt-in list is the result of your inbound marketing methods, so it’s hard to nail down an exact cost of acquisition. For a true return on investment, your purchased list must generate enough revenue to cover the cost of buying the data.

Avoid the temptation of purchasing a cheap third-party list. These bulk email lists typically perform terribly, as the data is unrefined and outdated. Using an email verification service on the data will help, but you likely won’t get many conversions. Rather then using a service that simply “scrapes” email addresses off of the web, invest in a third-party list that contains targeted, industry-related contacts that are guaranteed to be accurate by the data provider.

Where to buy quality email lists

When purchasing a third-party email list, you want to match the contact records with your industry as best as possible. This means taking the time to ask for a sample record from your data provider and confirming that the contact meets the criteria of your target buyer persona. A reputable data provider will provide you with a sample record, and a guarantee of accuracy.

List Quality

Ensure that your purchased list contains the full contact name of the email recipient. When key data is missing from the list, that can raise a few red flags. For example, by providing the full contact name associated with each record, you can confirm that you’re not buying multiple email address of the same person. Without the full name of the email recipients, you really have no idea who you are actually sending your campaigns to.

Avoid third-party email lists that contain a large number of generic addresses (such as These types of generic mailboxes will result in very few responses from your marketing campaigns. This is usually an indication that the email addresses were aggregated from web crawlers that scape any email address they find online.

Here are some examples of data providers I have discovered online. They all offer targeted, industry-related lists for the purposes of email marketing. These are suggestions only:

The difference between a cold and opt-in list

Matching the industry of target audience is a great start, but there’s more to it than that. Having no prior relationship with the contacts means that your messaging must speak the language of the reader and deliver useful information right out of the gate. This is where permission-based lists have the advantage because the previous relationship between the sender and user creates a more open-minded reader.

However, the relationship between the list owner and audience will vary greatly. For example, if the user signed up for the email list based on an incentive “sign up to win a prize” the ongoing relationship is certainly much weaker and less engaged. If the list has been aggregated by pulling information from a number of sources (directories, websites, social profiles), the performance will greatly rely on your ability to speak effectively to your target customer.

purchased email list

Remember to segment and test

Remember, marketing to a third-party list can be unpredictable, so you’ll need to test and optimize your campaigns often. Segment the campaign into smaller batches to test deliverability and engagement. Once you able to confirm the type of content that strikes a chord with your audience, you can roll out a larger campaign.

Helpful Resource: B2B Email Marketing Strategies (Cold List)

Be sure to use an email sending platform built for third-party lists. You can seriously damage your sender reputation if your campaign starts hitting spam traps and bad email addresses. Also, don’t send using your own IP address, because one it gets blacklisted, none of your emails will reach the inbox.

Marketing automation software such as HubSpot or Mailchimp is not the best choice when it comes to sending to a non-permission-based list. Instead, use a software that can maximize deliverability and keep your sender score intact.

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