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3 Ways Not to Build Your Database

More is always better, right? We can agree that more of some things are better…more chocolate, more sunshine, more dogs (or cats). But when it comes to your email marketing database – more is not always better and you should focus on quality over quantity.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Maybe you’re just starting with email marketing and looking to grow your database, or you have an established email program and looking to add a new target audience. There are a lot of great ways to attract and expand the right audience. While these three methods are surefire ways to bring in leads, are they the right leads? Here are three wrong ways to grow your email marketing database.

#1 Buying or Renting a List

I think of buying or renting an email marketing list as a get rich fast scheme…in most cases, they don’t work! Sure, it’s a quick way to increase your segment size but they’re unlikely to engage with your unsolicited emails – even if the list captures your target market.


  • List brokerage companies have strict usage and length terms and, in most instances, these go against your own company policies and your marketing automation platform terms of service. Some platforms monitor each upload and evaluate the overall quality of the list. You don’t want to receive this type of communication from your marketing automation platform compliance team.
  • For example, SharpSpring notifies users that every list upload is evaluated by a third-party verification service. If 45 percent or more of the list contains contacts with email addresses deemed invalid, toxic, or purchased, SharpSpring does not allow your import to continue.
  • Your email deliverability and IP reputation is like your credit score. One wrong move and you could severely damage your creditability. It takes time to rebuild this reputation. If you have a unique sending IP address and an unsolicited email is sent, you could damage future sends for months. That means emails going to the SPAM folder or not landing in the inbox at all.
  • If you’re like me, you try to protect your identity on the web. You don’t quickly give out your email address. Email addresses for true, hard-working individuals who your company is trying to reach, aren’t for sale!  

Try this instead: Find where your audience is and give them an opportunity to connect with you. For example, exhibit at trade shows and digitally collect and track your leads.

#2 Using Long Forms

You’ve worked hard to get people to your website. So, when they do finally decide to convert, you might be tempted to get all of the information that you can from them. However, long forms will not always provide you with the benefit that you’re hoping for.


    • Your long form may be a deterrent for a potentially qualified new lead. Think of information as a currency. Ask only for the information you need and what is fair for the information you’re delivering. For example, if you are giving away a one-page infographic, you’d ask for minimum information. At the next engagement point, you can continue to expand the relationship and gather more information.
    • Ask yourself, are you going to use the data? Why ask if you won’t use it. Forget about the “what ifs” and think about your current database structure and content development strategy. Would knowing that extra bit of information about a contact make a difference in how or what you communicate to the contact in the moment?

Try this instead: Use short forms to capture data and ensure they are connected to your marketing automation platform so you can start nurturing relationships.

Let’s Talk Form Strategy

#3 Focusing on the Numbers

You want to collect as many online opt-ins as possible, but when looking at your marketing database, success is measured by the quality of the contacts in your database, not the quantity. Quality contacts who have explicitly opted into your communications are more likely to engage and act on the material you send them.


  • How you go about your opt-in strategy is key. If you use the same approach across channels, you run the risk of capturing unqualified leads or leads that may require more in-depth vetting.
  • A one size fits all approach can affect how audiences perceive your brand and they may not find you relevant. If your message doesn’t resonate, your target audience will move on to the next.
  • As you’re planning to grow your database, consider a communication strategy. Who do you want to reach? What’s your message? How will you measure success? Setting a SMART goal that is tangible and measurable will allow you to build the strategy that fills your database with the right contacts.

Try this instead: Identify your audience and run targeted opt-in campaigns on social that align with your audience.  

Quality vs. Quantity

Remember that when it comes to your marketing database, quality should be your motto. Building your list the right way can help you connect (and nurture) the audience you’re looking for. They will appreciate it too, when you genuinely take into account their needs. And we’re not saying that you can’t have both. It can be done, but it takes a well-thought out strategy. See how our partners at Caterpillar did just that.

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