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How To Order An E-Mail List

As e-mail marketing continues to evolve, e-mail lists provide a valuable marketing channel for offers that are displayed on or entail visiting your website.

It’s a lot easier to convince a prospect to click on a link in an e-mail message to go directly to the offering site, than it is to fire up her web browser and enter a URL to find you.

Key Differences Between Postal & E-mail Lists

E-mail marketing is in many ways similar to postal direct mail, but there are some significant differences.

First and foremost, the kinds of e-mail lists you want to use — true opt-in/opt-out lists — are never, ever released by the list owner to the mailer or an outside service bureau. They are always broadcast by the owner or his contract service bureau.

This insures that the addresses remain secure and that the opt-out requests generated by each broadcast are properly captured and recorded in the source file.

Any list supplier who offers to send you his e-mail list is almost certainly not complying with CAN-SPAM requirements, the federal law that now regulates e-mail marketing communications. Use of such a list is highly likely to cause your SMTP server address to be added to numerous internet service provider ‘black lists,” resulting in a permanent block of e-mail coming from your server.

CAN-SPAM Regulations

The second big difference is that CAN-SPAM requires both you (the mailer) and the owner of the e-mail list to invite and permanently record opt-outs from each and every broadcast.

E-mail broadcast recipients may choose to opt-out of future messages from the list owner or from you (as the mailer or advertiser), or from both of you. In other words, there are three combinations of opt-outs: mailer, list owner or both mailer and list owner.

Thus, the finished message must include opt-out instructions for those recipients who choose not to receive future e-mail messages from your company. This invitation might read as follows:

If you prefer not to receive future e-mail messages from XYZ Company, please Click Here and register your preference.  You will receive one more e-mail message confirming your request.

XYZ Corporation
123 Main Street
Anytown ST 00000

Note that this opt-out message includes your company name and mailing address. A separate opt-out message from the owner of the e-mail list will also appear in the message as required by CAN-SPAM regulations.

Note also that CAN-SPAM requires that you maintain the opt-out request link for each separate message for a period of 30 days following the broadcast date and that you must remove all opt-out records within 10 days of receiving the request.

You will use this permanent file of opt-out records — your suppression list -- to screen each list used in subsequent broadcasts. To facilitate this regulatory requirement, quality list suppliers now offer to run your suppression file against their list before broadcasting.

Click here for more detailed information about the requirements of CAN-SPAM and what you must do to comply.

HTML & Text Formats

The third big difference is that not all recipients on an e-mail list can necessarily read the message you may wish to deploy. For example, recipients who have older versions of Microsoft Outlook or other e-mail client programs, especially those in large corporate environments, may only be able to read text messages. They can not see a message rendered in HTML code.

As a result, a good e-mail broadcast will deploy two separate versions of the same message — one coded in true Hype Text Markup Language (HTML) and one in text (in ASCII code), assuring that the message can be read regardless of the technical limitations of the recipient’s e-mail software.

To produce true HTML and TXT code (the kind you must have for email marketing), you will need a good HTML/Text editor, like BBEdit or TextWrangler for Macs or Homesite or NoteTab Pro for PCs. You cannot prepare collateral in M/S WORD and use the conversion application in WORD to convert it to HTML. This does not work.

E-mail Rental & Deployment Charges

And the fourth difference is that many list suppliers charge not only a fee for the rental of the list (like postal lists), but also a separate fee for the deployment of your message, along with other service fees for personalization, tracking and opt-out file suppression.

Thus, when estimating the total charges you might pay for using an e-mail list, you must be sure to look for the base rental rate, the selection charges and all of the various deployment charges, including file suppression. Your final cost will include all of these.

These key differences notwithstanding, researching and selecting e-mail lists is quite similar to working with postal lists. In fact many postal lists also have an e-mail address component facilitating multi-channel marketing and enabling you to send direct mail, e-mail and even, in some cases, phone the same prospect.


Most e-mail lists offer all of the same selections found on postal lists. These include: geographic, job function, industry, hotline or other segments which may be selected or excluded from your order, singularly or in combination.

Segment selection allows you to target portions of a list with considerable precision. It enables you to make fewer contacts, but generate the same, or even higher, response as using the entire list.

See the Segment Data portion of the list data for detailed selection descriptions, quantities and costs.

And remember: e-mail list counts change daily. This is because most good list owners periodically rotate previously mailed records out of their available universe as a precaution against e-mail overload.

Minimum Order Requirements & Quantities

Like postal lists, e-mail lists typically have a minimum order quantity requirement. If the quantity you wish to order is less than the supplier's minimum order size, you will be charged as though you had taken the minimum order. Check the Minimum Order section of the list data for details.

And remember: e-mail list counts change daily. This is because most good list owners periodically rotate previously mailed records out of their available universe as a precaution against e-mail overload.

Sample Message

And like postal list suppliers, most e-mail list owners require that a complete sample of the e-mail message, including the Subject Line text, the message and any artwork to be broadcast in the e-mail be submitted with your order for review and approval.

In fact many e-mail list suppliers will not even process a list order that is not accompanied by the finished, ready-to-broadcast HTML and text versions of the message. Avoid delays by having complete and final messages with working links ready to go before you begin ordering e-mail lists.

The HTML message must be exactly that — an HTML file -- not a PDF, not a Zip file, not a piece of artwork in some format other than HTML. And all artwork and images that will display in the HTML message must be included in the HTML coding. Images cannot be hosted on a server somewhere else. And needless to say, you cannot broadcast a message with an attachment of any kind.

There are other options available in e-mail broadcasts that may improve response. For example, you can often specify the wording that will appear in the From: line of the e-mail message header though this feature is limited to company name only — no individual names — and is subject to last minute change by the list owner.

Some e-mail lists offer personalization, requiring that you include the word Dear (or some other term of address) in your message at the location in which it should appear. The list manager will insert the personalization coding when she prepares the test message broadcast.

Opt-Out Suppression

As previously mentioned, all quality e-mail list suppliers have the capability to suppress addresses in the list you have ordered from the opt-out suppression file you maintain and provide for that purpose. Some suppliers can suppress other records identified by specific domain names, often for an extra charge.

Message Testing

Before the actual broadcast, all suppliers will deploy one or more tests of your message to you and a small number of other e-mail addresses you provide for this purpose. Thus, you will want to provide each supplier with a list of two or three e-mail addresses on your staff for this purpose.

And since different e-mail client software often displays the same message differently, it’s a good idea to include e-mail addresses at locations separate from your office to see how the message is displayed by different systems.

Remember to thoroughly review these test messages, checking to be sure that all links work properly, that art work is displayed as intended and that the message is free of spelling and grammatical errors.

Notify your account representative of any problems as soon as possible after receiving and reviewing the test. And be sure to double-check everything. Most suppliers allow only a couple of free tests, after which they impose a charge.


E-mail message deployment can usually be arranged fairly quickly — often within a few days or a week of ordering — and most suppliers can arrange to deploy on a specific day.

Given the volume of e-mail received by the average business executive, a good timing strategy is to request deployment on a day likely to reduce competition for your prospect’s attention. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday are generally considered to be good times to deploy.

Response Tracking

The majority of results from your broadcast will occur within 12 to 72 hours of deployment. Most list suppliers can provide tracking services that report the total number of deployed messages, click-throughs to your site and message openings. Some suppliers charge extra for this service.

It’s a good strategy for you, the mailer, to create a separate, unique landing page for the link from your message in order to segregate and tally landings from the broadcast. A separate landing page for each separate broadcast enables you to test different lists, as well as various elements of your promotion effort (From: and Subject: lines, copy, offers, etc.) and compare results across the entire campaign.

Final Ordering Considerations

Unlike a postal mailing, which requires coordination with several different suppliers (artist, copy writer, list supplier, printer, service bureau, lettershop, post office, etc.), an e-mail broadcast combines audience targeting (lists) with message delivery in a single supplier.

Therefore it is vitally important that you be prepared to deliver the following items at the time you place your list order: 

  1. A finished, working e-mail message in HTML and text (ASCII) versions, carefully proofed and containing working links and all artwork/images that will display in the HTML version
  2. Copy for the e-mail Subject: line and From: line
  3. A broadcast date preference with optional dates
  4. A copy of your suppression file
  5. A list of other URL’s you wish to suppress
  6. A list of test/seed e-mail addresses

Having all of these together and ready for delivery will greatly increase the speed and precision of the broadcast. This insures that the message is deployed exactly as designed and on the preferred schedule.

Your account representative will be able to assist you with the many technical requirements of e-mail list selection and deployment. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.

She will also settle payment terms with you when you are ready to place your order. Payment is accepted by check, Visa, American Express or MasterCard.







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