The Problem With Lists

June 20, 2011 at 7:07 AM Leave a comment

A very worthwhile post on Marketing Sherpa about third party lists appeared recently. Adam T. Sutton rightly points out that most business rely heavily on them, and shouldn’t. He also reiterates Brad Bortone’s wise words:

…effective email marketing is based on relationships. These relationships hinge on expectations, promises, and trust.

In truth, third party email lists are a piece of the puzzle, and they’re sometimes appropriate. But the core of marketing is establishing trusted relationships. Which is why, most of the time, you’re better off investing in your own database.Domesday Book

When you do use a third party list, the hardest nut to crack is profiling. A lot of marketers profile based on description (“he’s an engineer, works for a 8 billion dollar company”). Instead, you need to profile their persona – find out the problem they want to solve. Knowing their company’s annual revenue won’t get you closer to a sale.

With the right persona, you can gradually increase the relevance of your communications to the people on the third party lists, until they begin to trust you.

Until then, they’re just another name on a list.


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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at


"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters



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