The Letter After “CP” Matters Less than the Quality of the List

Posted by Craig Swerdloff 

Late last week Diedre Cook wrote a timely “hot vs. not” column in Email Insider. We agreed with about 99% of her list – especially her points about reputation and relevance, but disagreed with her assertion that CPM list rental is “out” and CPA list rental is “in.” Specifically her assertion that with CPA you have “nothing to lose.”

While this sounds sensible – pay for performance seems low-risk – it actually isn’t. The problem is that you get what you pay for; and many of the lists that are available for CPA advertising are often the worst ones. Quality, permission lists are expensive to build and maintain. Quality publishers do not spend a lot of time and money doing so, only to hock their lists to the first buyer. So the lists you often get lack real permission, are over mailed with irrelevant offers, have high complaint rates, and therefore can destroy an advertisers reputation. So while your media buyers are happy, the marketing team is left to contend with angry customers, and poor ISP deliverability on their most precious internal mailings. It may be that your marketing budget is only paying for the emails that generate a response, but your brand reputation is paying for the rest.

Of course, CPA can work. We do CPA with some very happy clients. But it tends to work best when there is a strong brand, a great offer and top-notch creative – a point made even better by our friend Mark Brownlow at No Man is an Iland. [http://www.email-marketing-reports.com/iland/index.htm] Of course if you have a strong brand, a great offer and top-notch creative, lots of things are going to work for you.

But, CPA is also best when you work with a reputable broker who isn’t willing to burn his list to make your number. When we see that a CPA deal isn’t going to work with our data, we work with the client and re-negotiate. Or we walk away. We won’t risk our reputation – and the reputation of our clients – to make a quick buck. But LOTS of people will, and at the end of the day, YOUR brand will suffer the consequences.

So, we’d like to suggest a quick amendment to Deidre’s list:

What’s IN: Testing a range of email list rentals tactics to arrive at a combination that works for your brand.
This means finding the right broker, targeting the list, have a strong, clear offer and creating compelling creative. Then, test each and every one of those elements until you get the response that drives high ROI for your business. It could be CPM. It could be CPA. It could be CP-something else and, most likely, it’s a combination of all of them.

Need help getting started? Download our whitepaper, “How to Get the Most Out of Third Party Email List Rental.” It includes a checklist for finding a quality vendor.

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