Useful tips for email marketing to a purchased list


When it comes to email broadcasting specifically to purchased B2B lists, many people (beginners and experienced alike) make simple mistakes that negatively impact results.

Most of the advice you read on the internet assumes you are marketing to your internal client database rather than to a purchased list (which should be treated differently) so can overlook some important points in terms of the mechanics of sending, format/content, legislation etc. At the request of our clients we have highlighted some important things to check.

While this is not an all-inclusive list it does highlight common factors that, in our experience, are often overlooked when it comes to B2B email marketing to purchased lists.

Don't send high volumes until you have established your sender reputation

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes people who are new to bulk email list marketing make.

Most hosting companies have some sort of internal limit on daily sends, for domestic hosting companies it is generally between 2000 and 5000 emails per day. They do not necessarily advertise this as it is an internal function to monitor users and guard against their servers being used to send spam. If you go above that limit before you have built a good sender reputation then your account will be flagged up as a potential spammer and monitored.

Therefore if you are new to bulk email broadcasting (or perhaps using a new system/server) then you should start by sending smaller batches and build the volumes up gradually e.g. something like 2000 per day for the first month.

If you do try to broadcast a large volume with no sender reputation then you will be flagged as a potential spammer, and it is possible (even likely) that your account may be suspended.

Avoid words, phrases or symbols that trigger spam filters

Certain words or phrases automatically trigger spam filters, so if your subject line or content contains these trigger words then your email will likely go straight to the spam folder.

For example, words like; free, save, opportunity, no obligation, special offer, trial, dear sir, or the overuse of symbols such as the pound sign or exclamation mark! etc.

These are quite obvious triggers, however the full list of words that spam filters actively target is fairly large so you need to be very careful when producing your content (e.g. less obvious things like 'remove' or 'unsubscribe' in your footer will be picked up by spam filters).

Do a web search for 'spam trigger words' and you will get a good idea for what to avoid.

Avoid the overuse of images, coloured text, bold text and attachments

Same as the previous point re 'spam trigger words', spam filters WILL pick up on the use of lots of images (high image to text ratio), coloured and bold text, and your email will go straight to spam.

A beautifully designed, graphic-rich html email might be great for your existing customer base but will not perform well to a bought list. We have split test this on numerous occasions and a simple, relevant and personalised email performs better in the vast majority of cases (often significantly so).

Make your email relevant and personal

Assuming you have no previous relationship with the recipient then in most cases a personal and relevant email will perform better than a generic email flyer. All broadcast email applications will allow personalisation from the various data fields that you upload (much the same as a mail merge).

Good effective use of personalisation might include the recipient name, company name, business type, location, job role etc.

In terms of relevance; pitching relevant products/services at appropriate industry types, job roles or locations (possibly backed up with brief examples or case studies) will almost always perform better than a generic offering to all business types.

An example might be something like:

Hi [name],
I run a small business that supplies [my product] to [recipient business type] businesses in [county]. I would like to send [company name] our catalogue and wanted to check that you are the correct person to send this to? The address I have is: [address] etc. etc.

The example above is slightly over-egged to make the point, if your email looks like a personal email to the recipient (rather than a generic flyer) then it is far more likely to get a response.

Always protect your business domain and avoid spam complaints

By making your email relevant and personal as described above you can reduce or eliminate the chance of spam complaints.

However, regardless of how good your list or email content is, it is always a possibility that a recipient might click on the 'report as spam' button. This just goes with the territory and so to avoid any potentially blacklisting issues you should not send your broadcast from your main business email address or business website domain, it is a good idea to register a separate domain to use for your list marketing activities. This is inexpensive and relatively easy to do and you can still include your website and email address in the content.

It goes without saying that you should always include your contact details and an opt out option on any broadcast.

Avoid online hosted systems (where at all possible)

Online hosted services are cheap and convenient, however the downside is you will get a higher bounce rate / lower deliver rate. There are several reasons for this, the main one being, most online services generate a high proportion of spam/server 'rejections' (not the same as hard bounces). In fact it is thought that as many as 80% of hosted server's are blacklisted. We go into this in a bit more detail in our; which email broadcast system blog.

We tested a selection of the most popular online hosted systems and the difference in terms of delivery is significant e.g. less than 5% bounce rate on a proprietary system compared to almost 30% bounce rate using one of the most popular online systems (sending exactly the same thing to the same list).

We can recommend a couple of systems that work well for broadcasting to bought lists so feel free to contact us.

Always check your 'spam score' before sending

This ties in with earlier points regarding spam trigger words and image to text ratio etc. Most broadcast email applications have a 'spam score check' function, which analyses your subject line and content to give it a 'spam score' (the same as spam filters do). This will accurately check for things in your content that will trigger the recipient spam filter. This is invaluable as you can amend and recheck your email as many times as required before pressing send.

The higher your spam score the more likely it is your email will bounce back or worse go into the recipient's junk folder, ideally you should be aiming for a spam score of zero (or close to zero).

If you don't have this feature in your application there are several free online services that you can email your copy to determine the spam score, such as

Send your broadcast at an appropriate time

Don't send your B2B email broadcast overnight, first thing, and preferably avoid Mondays, Fridays and weekends.

Think about what you do when you arrive at work in the morning and check your in-box (especially Monday mornings). It is probable you will have many emails waiting for you. Most people will generally scan through to find relevant or important emails, and will likely disregard anything not directly relevant to the busy day ahead (i.e. your marketing email).

Ideally you want your email to arrive at a time when the recipient has fewer new emails waiting for them. The general consensus amongst marketing experts is Tuesday to Thursday, 11am to 4:30pm is the most responsive time.