Republicans have a long history of renting and sharing direct-mail lists. Now, that tradition has extended to email lists rented either from conservative publishers or other candidates.
But in the rush to take advantage of new emails, I’ve seen and heard about my share of bad experiences. Here’s where many campaigns tend to go wrong.
1. You don’t find an experienced partner
Navigating the list rental business is confusing. Through my experience, I’ve identified more than 200 different lists you can rent, dozens of brokers who’re part of the transaction and even more idiosyncrasies with the publishers who’ve put themselves into the business. If your organization isn’t working with an experienced partner, or broker then you’re paying significantly higher rates or renting the wrong lists.
Clients often choose to hire their direct-mail fundraising vendor for this work. I understand the logic, but direct-mail fundraising and email fundraising are two very different things. Work with an email expert, not someone who just claims to be.
2. You don’t demand transparency
Unfortunately, many buyers never follow up with list owners to get reports on delivery. If they did, they might find out they overpaid because the list under delivered or emails never reached the inbox.
Moreover, they don’t demand transparency from their brokers about their relationship with the list owners. Many brokers are simply recommending the lists that they make the most money on — not the ones that most benefit the client.
3. You don’t read the fine print
You know that long insertion order that you received from the list owner and broker? The one you didn’t read? You should have. Some brokers have included terms that prohibit you from working directly with list owners they introduce and restrict the use of the list you develop from the rentals or even grant them ownership of any names that they identify for your campaign. In no circumstances should you ever grant a list broker ownership over your donor file only for recommending lists to you.
4. You don’t get creative
You need to be creative in the copy you write in order to inspire an army of $25-dollar donors to give. Your copy needs to be provocative, passionate and demonstrate urgency. Work with a broker or consultant that’ll help you inspire more small-dollar donors.
Make sure you also find a broker who has the relationships and leverage to help you be creative in your agreements with list owners. Consider revenue-sharing arrangements, risk-free pricing, or geo-targeted emails for smaller candidates. The right creative partner will work with you to make sure your solicitation is successful.
5. You aren’t ready to keep spending when it works
One of the wonderful benefits of email fundraising is its ability to scale up quickly and take advantage of your moment in the news. If you’ve had a major breakthrough or have gotten a lot of national attention, you should be prepared to spend.
That attention can lead to fundraising results, but your window for taking advantage may only last for two-three days. Many campaigns fail because they aren’t prepared to keep spending when they’re hot. Don’t make that mistake. I’ve had clients who’ve spent as much as $500,000 in a 24-hour period on email lists in order to maximize the benefit of their moment in the sun.
Avoid these mistakes and you’ll go a long way to making sure your list-rental campaign works effectively.
Kurt Luidhardt is the vice president of The Prosper Group, a digital marketing firm, and the co-owner of Mustard Seed Media, a list management and brokering company.