How to Extend Your Reach and Get More Leads with Paid Email Programs

Email Marketing


Paid email programs, or sponsored emails sent out to high-quality targets on your behalf, are a great addition to any integrated lead generation strategy. They extend your reach, attract your target audience, and increase the size of your database.

But there are many potential pitfalls with paid email programs—in particular, selecting a reputable paid email vendor and getting a good return on your investment. Here’s how to get the most out of your email programs, and to avoid potential hazards.

For more information about paid email programs and other lead generation strategies, make sure to download our brand new Definitive Guide to Lead Generation!

Gain Trust

First, ask yourself: which organizations in your industry are known for relevant news or particularly engaging commentary? Check to see if those companies offer sponsored email programs. If you are sending emails out through a well-respected organization in your space, they probably have an organically grown list that speaks directly to your audience. The beauty of paid email sends through a reputable vendor is that their audience already trusts them, and may even look forward to their communication. Therefore, your affiliation gives you credibility.

As an example, take a look at this recent email Marketo sent out through Content Marketing Institute. It contains a Marketo content marketing asset that appeals to CMI’s audience, and it is branded with the Marketo logo, making it clear who the content is from.

paid email marketo CMI

Targeted Sends

Most organizations that offer paid email programs allow you to target subscribers based on the following criteria:

  • Audience: Who are you trying to reach? Target based on title, industry, and other demographic criteria.
  • Topics: What topics are your audience interested in? Many vendors allow you to target based on topics that leads have engaged with in the past.
  • Region: If you are doing a geo-targeted campaign, have your vendor segment based on location.

As you write copy for your paid email program, be aware that the recipients may or may not know who your company is, so branding and clarity are critical, as shown in the example above. Focus on bold, eye-catching visuals, a very clear call-to-action, and concise copy.

Vendor Selection

There are many factors to take into consideration when selecting a paid email vendor. Choose a vendor that is well respected and trusted. If you pick a company people associate with spam, they will in turn associate you with spam.

To avoid this pitfall, here are some steps I recommend you take:

  • Check out a vendor’s media kit: Most vendors will have a media kit on their website. Read through the kit to determine list demographics, program offerings, and payment terms.
  • Get on the phone: Go over program details, success metrics, and payment. Plus, starting to establish a relationship makes negotiating even easier.
  • Ask about data replenishing: You want to know how large the vendor database is and how they replenish their database. Do they clean their database frequently, verifying that their list still wants to receive communications? Keep your eye on the percentage of new names in a vendor’s system.
  • Determine pricing model: Some vendors price based on cost-per-lead, others price based on cost-per-thousand individual sends (or CPM).
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate: Be very clear about the metrics and goals you are trying to hit. Negotiate with your vendors based on expected outcome.

Getting the Cost Down

Paid email programs can be pricey, but there are low-risk ways to try a new channel. Consider splitting the cost with a good partner in exchange for lead sharing. If you’ve co-created a content asset, you could find a vendor whose database is relevant to both partners. Note: if you plan to share leads, make sure you include the proper verbiage on your landing pages.

Also consider trades. You might be working with a vendor that has a similar target audience to yours. What if you send out an email on their behalf, and they send out an email on your behalf? You can often cut costs by trading.

Key Best Practices Before and After Your Send

After you negotiate with your vendor and are ready to do a send, keep the following in mind:

  • Have a backup plan. If you thought your email would generate 500 new leads, but you received 200, have a plan to fill in the gap. If a technical problem was to blame, some vendors will let you negotiate a make-up send.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the same content multiple times. Every time you do a send, even to the same database, only a small percentage of people actually download/read the asset you include. While you should never send the same email twice, you can re-send an asset in a new context.
  • Don’t send to dupes. Particularly if you are using a vendor who has a similar database to your own, you want to prevent simultaneous sends to the same people. Consider using a third-party service like Optizmo to prevent duplicates. Send Optizmo your list and your vendor’s list, and Optizmo will send back one concise list.
  • Ask for a make-up drop. Sometimes your send just doesn’t go as well as expected. Be aggressive and ask that the vendor re-send your email.
  • Evaluate over time. Be sure to revisit your program a few months later—your success numbers may have changed.

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