How Should I Market to Purchased Lists?

A client asks:

“What’s the best way to market to purchased lists like ZoomInfo?  We have a debate between our marketing and sales teams on whether the best approach is marketing emails, sales outreach, or something else.  Curious as to your opinion?”

purchased lists

First, let’s dispense with the inevitable question of whether so-called “cold” lists even have a role to play in today’s marketing mix.  My response is a definitive: yes. 

Very few organizations can rely exclusively on inbound channels, particularly those companies with solutions that buyers aren’t necessarily searching for.  Outbound marketing is an imperative if your audience doesn’t know your brand, or that your type of solution exists, or that they even have a problem worth solving in the first place.

However, outbound shouldn’t translate into “spray and pray.”  Indeed, the days of marketing en masse to cold lists via marketing automation platforms (MAPs) like Marketo are behind us.  Such tactics are rarely effective, they can damage your brand, and they’re a sure-fire way to run afoul of data privacy laws (especially outside the US) or MAP license agreements, which generally prohibit marketing to anything but opt-in names.

There’s no one approach to cold lists that works for every company and every audience.  More times than not, however, the best approach is a segmented strategy that combines targeted sales outreach complemented by marketing support.  Allowing for a degree of customization that depends on brand awareness, the type of audience, sales cycle, and other variables, here’s a basic approach to build on:

First, split your list into two tiers: Tier 1 (high-potential, high-profile target accounts) and Tier 2 (everyone else).

For Tier 1 accounts, conduct targeted, personalized sales outreach, but (critically) support those efforts with marketing air cover to the same companies.  For example, import the Tier 1 list into LinkedIn and Facebook, and run content-driven ads focused on awareness and generating initial engagement.  You could expand the reach further by using the same list to run account-targeted ads via a programmatic network or content syndication

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When contacts engage with that first layer of ads, run retargeting ads across LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Display Network offering different content assets to spark additional engagement.  Segment sales outreach into cold (no engagement), lukewarm (some engagement), and warm accounts (multiple engaged contacts from within the same company).  Integrate social selling techniques (e.g. connection requests, comments, shares) into the outreach cadence and sales plays.

For Tier 2 accounts, use paid social ads (LinkedIn, Facebook), programmatic, content syndication, and content-driven (early stage) calls to action to generate initial engagement, then enter leads (those who fill out forms) into an automated nurture sequence to further qualify and educate before triggering sales follow-up.  Re-market to those who click on ads but don’t complete a form.

If the powers-that-be insist on a more aggressive approach via email, and if your MAP license agreement allows for it, consider rolling out a multi-step drip campaign (say, one email every two weeks) to a finite number of new names (say, 100 or 500) per month.  Avoid product- or brand-centric emails that simply tout your product and will only ever appeal to a small subset of active buyers.  Instead, focus on early-stage CTAs that serve to simply identify potential customers with a problem you can solve.

Underlying this general approach – marketing first, sales second – is the reality that today’s business buyers want to engage with sales how and when they choose, hence the need to generate engagement first through other channels before triggering sales outreach.

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash


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