Sure-fire ways to become a punchline when contacting email marketing companies

Email could very well be the best bang for your marketing buck. So you want to jump on the bandwagon right now. You’ve picked a handful of email marketing companies. You’re just about ready to drop them a line. Wait, hold on, which questions should you never ever ask? Which will unknowingly make a joke out of you?

Let’s find out!

“Can I buy your email list? Better yet, can I borrow it?”

Oh dear… OK, let me put this very nicely.

Do. Not. Ever buy an email list! Don’t even think about it. Nip those thoughts in the bud. Bad thought, go away! And always be wary of someone trying to sell you email lists.

Why? Opt-outs, undeliverables, spamtraps – the harbingers of your deliverability doom! Any email list available for sale is bound to include all of the following:

– no confirmed mailing permission
– no small number of dead addresses
– no pity, no remorse

“No pity, no remorse for whom?”. You and your business! Internet service providers will firewall you into oblivion. You’ll be swamped with spam complaints. Your mailings will be black-listed. When you put bought lists head to head with earned lists, suffice to say a purchased list will destroy your sending reputation and forever tarnish your brand.

Plus, you’ve just been made the butt of a noob joke at the ESP’s office.

What you should ask instead:

“I don’t have an email list. How can I grow it?”

There are two keywords here: “permission” and “engagement”. You need to have great content across your site to keep visitors engaged and you need a sign-up form for them to receive your email updates. State outright what you will be sending (and how often) and use confirmed opt-in so they can give you real, actionable consent.

This means starting from ground up, but you can’t grow a tree out of a dead leaf. No email marketing agency or ESP worth their salt will ever offer you an email list (or worse, their own subscriber list – if they do, run for your dear marketer life!). Other magic-bullet options (such as listbrokers) skirt the edges of the law and rarely yield the desired results. You really must do things by the book on your own. There are some really good email list growth tips on the web to get you started.

“Can I blast out a couple hundred million emails with your software?”

OK, newsflash. You’re a spammer. Even if you don’t know it. There’s no bloody way those bazillion email addresses ever gave you prior consent to mail them. Especially if you need to do it this very moment. “But…” Shhh, allow me to delete your email now.

What you should ask instead:

“I have a list with a couple hundred million emails. What can I do to follow the best practices?”

You’re still going to be given the stink eye, though most email marketing companies should be willing to help. Depending on how you acquired those addresses (please tell me you didn’t buy them!), an ESP or list hygiene service may check them, de-duplicate them and scrub your list clean of undeliverables.

Keep in mind this probably means pruning your humongous database down to a couple thousand entries, but at least you’ll be on the right track to make them count. Carefully set up a win-back “haven’t-heard-from-you” campaign to salvage those dormant subscribers. Then take the time to rekindle your relationship by regularly delivering relevant, superb contents straight to their inbox. Which leads us to…

“Guarantee that my emails hit the inbox. I want my money back if they won’t!”

Calm down. Take a deep breath. Listen to me very carefully. I’m only saying this once: Inboxes do not take well to demands from senders.

Why? Well, how would you react if someone you barely knew demanded to burst into your home anytime they pleased? Not too happy, I guess. Welcome to how Gmail,, Yahoo and the like feel about you by default.

What you should ask instead:

“How can I improve my deliverability?”

A much nicer way and something email marketing companies can actually help you with. Think of them as your personal, first-class postman, with ISPs taking the role of the doorman to a private condo complex who will only pass your message along after double-checking that:

– your envelope is properly sealed and addressed
– someone living there has asked to receive mail from you
– that person really enjoys your mailings and has been consistently opening and reading them

Your email marketing company should take care of everything envelope-wise and can also provide you with an opt-in form to ensure valid subscriptions. But whether your recipients enjoy your message is all up to what you have to say – and that’s by far what matters the most. No doorman will deliver your shiny, neatly wrapped envelope to someone who always tears it up it right to his face without a second thought. I mean, would you?

This is why engagement is key!

Yes, there are things you can do on the technical side that can put you in a better standing with ISPs. Yes, you need to be careful when designing your email. Yes, there are certification programmes you can apply for to improve deliverability. But regarding the major ISPs it all comes down to whether your emails actually connect with your subscribers. If they love you, ISPs will too. And if ISPs love you, you’ll have the highest chances of making it into the inbox.

“Can I get (another) free trial? Or another month? Or a 6-month trial? Just for testing, you know.”

Sure. Want a free cookie to go with it? My jacket perhaps? Oh wait, I know just the thing: here, please take my wallet.

What you should ask instead:

“Can I have some trial time to be really sure you’re the perfect fit for my needs?”

Now that’s a more reasonable request. Most email marketing companies will probably still say no, but they’ll at least consider it instead of simply laughing you away. As long as you provide an excellent reason as for why you need that bonus trialling time, there’s a chance you may get an extension.

If all this red tape doesn’t make too much sense to you (after all, a service with a free trial for everyone wouldn’t be taking that many overheads if you tested it just a wee longer, right?), bear in mind the email marketing company has decided to let go of highly qualified leads in favour of opening up their service to a much broader audience (such as you) while putting an extra burden on their servers and infra-structure. They are losing money for you now hoping they can recoup it later.

And there’s more! Most email marketing software providers with a free tier have a pretty complex sales CRM going, which means that any exception is bound to throw a spanner in the works. Dev folks will absolutely hate the guts out of customers who get friendly with sales and are offered a pampering perk which wrecks, say, the whole billing system. Don’t have the gall to be that fellow.

Avoid becomming a punchline when contacting email marketing companies

Email is probably the best bang for your marketing buck. Maybe you don’t have the challenges mentioned here, but what are the questions to evaluate even the best email service provider. Your needs might be clear, or not just yet. It helps to point that out, but in any case try and prevent becoming a punchline.

Ruben Alvim

About Ruben Alvim

Rúben Alvim is Content and Development Manager at E-goi. He’s also part of the Deliverability Team, breaking down thousands campaign samples a day to gauge email delivery trends and pinpoint what actually takes to make it through the inbox.

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