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Telemarketing List – To Buy or Not to Buy, that is the Question

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telemarketing lists

Telemarketing List – To Buy or Not to Buy, that is the Question!

A telemarketing list is often suggested as part of the preparatory stages of most telemarketing campaigns. With specific reference to business to business (b2b) lists, as business to business is our specialty – let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of telemarketing list purchase.

Con #1: Purchase

So, this one is a no brainer. No one likes to spend more than they need to, right? Well, whether it is the best step forward or overkill – the purchase of a telemarketing list is an investment.

You really need to look at whether it is worth spending the kind of money that most telemarketing list brokers are asking these days for telemarketing lists. While some brokers offer a list rental option, which brings the price obstacle down considerable, you do then (as the client company) lose the right to the database data itself. You can rent a list form a broker, when you work via a telemarketing agency – but you only get access to the actual leads generated. The telemarketing list itself remains the property of the list broker under a rental agreement with the given telemarketing agency. So, you (as the client) still fork out the cash – but, you only get the results from the campaign. You don’t get the list.

Outright list purchase comes at a greater price, but you get a full list of contacts that is yours to keep. Outright list purchase is more common, for obvious reasons.

List brokers vary in their pricing models for telemarketing lists, but generally you are looking at about $800-$1200 per telemarketing list for anywhere from 1000-3000 leads.

Telemarketing list “purchase” must be considered a con, in that you lose money before you even start. But, as with all investment is there is a clear opportunity for strong return on investment (ROI), then the investment may well be the best choice.

Pro #1: Access

One of the difficulties that some campaigns face is access to a succession of qualified leads to call. There are many ways to gain access to a list of businesses to call, some with the business decision maker’s details and some without. Generally speaking, without a list of decision makers names and telephone numbers it is fairly tough going – and that is where a telemarketing list becomes very useful.

With a telemarketing list you gain access to vital information about your prospective target markets. You can get access to multiple decision makers are various levels of responsibility within a given business. You can gain access to specific details about your market, like annual revenue levels, employee numbers, and other more specific details that may assist your campaign efforts.

Without this level of access in your telemarketing list, you may find a much lower connection rate with decision makers, and a much lower level of qualification to your leads. If the connection rate with decision makers is low (because you don’t know their name) or the leads are not quite qualified for your requirements due to revenue level, employee numbers etc, then you can easily slip into a lower than expected ROI.

Access to a well thought out, carefully procured and shaped telemarketing list can be invaluable.

Con #2: Unknown Quality

Telemarketing lists can make or break a campaign, they really can. A tradesman doesn’t blame his tools, but a telemarketer certainly will if the list of leads they are working from are not appropriate for the underlying product or service.

If you are not vigilant in your initial list preparation, you can easily find yourself floundering through a vast number of “not interested” responses. For example, if your business only targets prospect companies with 500+ employees as a minimum and you’ve procured a list of 100+ employee sized businesses – then you will find a lot of companies that (while they may be very interested) are too small for your needs. Or if you need companies with a minimum of $1Mil turnover, and you do not stipulate that in your telemarketing list gathering process – you’re in for a long battle.

So, even when you are diligent and make sure that your narrow in on the specific target market you need (provided you actually understand your market) you can still find yourself holding a low quality telemarketing list. It may not be the telemarketing list brokers fault, or it may be – it really depends on a number of variable things. Of course list age is a biggy. In the current economic environment, businesses come and go each year – so, you really need to confirm the age of the leads and cover your self with confirmation or replacement if the leads are out of date.

But, even when the list is up to date – some telemarketing lists are just “dead”. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a given telemarketing list will just have a stale, infertile quality that you just cannot rise above. While the target market has been infiltrated, you may just be too focused and the telemarketing list may be too narrow to allow a sustainable level of vitality to nourish your return on investment.

Pro #2:Easy

Telemarketing lists are easy to procure. You just need to stumble your way through determining the best fields to filter through when you are discussing options with your telemarketing list broker. That conversation can sometimes be challenging. Even when you know your market backwards, telemarketing list brokers talk in industry codes and decision maker titles with very little flexibility in lexicon. If you don’t know the magic words, you can easily compile a lemon and be left with a sagging, unhappy campaign with no life-force.

So, they are easy if you have the cash – but without some industry savvy and the ability to think laterally about the market, and how a list broker interfaces with it via telemarketing list parameters, you can get into trouble.

But, ease is a big Pro, as most people want the cake without the baking work required to cook it. So, purchase is an easy solution to at least furnish the campaign with a large number of contacts to reach out to.

It is easier to purchase a list than it is to gather a list via publicly available data. There are scores on business directories on the web containing vast numbers of listed contacts. You can scrape data from the web with a moderate level of data gymnastics – but, you need to be aware of the implications of collecting data on the web. Many directories prohibit the collection of their data, and you may face prosecution if you do not adhere to your reponsibilities as a website user (usually outlined in the given websites terms and conditions).

Con #3:Inflexibility

Once you lock in your target market industry, employee size, revenue level, country, state, city, decision maker level etc and purchase your telemarketing list – that’s it! You have a finite universe, you are in with the fish in that pond and have nowhere else to go. If you find that the pond is too small, and actually “you were wrong” – you need bigger fish to fry – you may then need to purchase another pond to swim in.

This inflexibility is the trade-off compared to working with publicly available data. If you are calling from internet directories, or you can scrape (legally of course :)) data from the web – you can adjust the target market and side-step at pretty short notice. This flexibility of public data allows for a more dynamic adjustment to the campaign focus as the market knowledge takes shape throughout the campaign.

Some clients are very aware of their target market and know who to approach, while other clients are only guessing. If you are guestimating your specific target market, and you are not sure of the specific type of business that will say “yes” to your offering – discuss this at length with your campaign manager. It is vital that you either know exactly who will be attracted to your pitch, or that you ascertain that as soon as possible through the early stages of your campaign life-cycle. And if you are uncertain about these things, it may be better to gold off on your telemarketing list purchase until sufficient market intelligence has developed through the use of publicly available data.

So, outlay of funds is not the only consideration in purchasing a telemarketing list. Inflexibility may slap you hard if you are still in the phase of market testing to ascertain the actual target market as distinct from the expected target market. And the inflexibility of telemarketing list parameters will leave no prisoners when it comes to your requirements.


It is difficult to draw upon any had and fast rules to conclude the question of purchasing a telemarketing list or not. It is difficult to generalise because it really depends on each individual campaign.

As discussed above, you really need to know your market. If you don’t know your market, then you really need to know a good telemarketing campaign manager lol

If you don’t have access to either of those, then you need to do some market testing – and you’ll need to be very pragmatic about that. Though, it is very difficult to be pragmatic without the right tools and skills to apply them.

But, with that said it is generally pretty easy to make the decision – as in most cases it comes down to a number of key questions.

1.Do you want to pitch to any sized company, or is it likely that your preference will be large companies as opposed to small?

The answer to this question is sometimes (usually with inexperience in general, or inexperience with a new venture) not crystal clear. If you think your product can serve any sized company, you may be right – but in the cold, hard face of commercial reality it may only be the larger companies that actually see that truth. You can lead horses to water, it is true, but equally true is the fact that they may choose to drown in it as opposed to drink. So, if you have not tested the market waters yet, it would be suggestive of testing them with public data first (ie pick up the phone and spot test calling large and small companies and go visit some of them, have a chin wag and pick up the pieces to determine your best bet). Or you can have a chat with an experienced telemarketing campaign manager (who may well suggest testing anyway). Ultimately, it comes down to brains not brawn – and a given body of telemarketing callers will only be as strong as the wisdom behind their sails.

Also consider that “company size”, from a telemarketing list and telemarketing campaign perspective, must be viewed from the point of revenue and employee numbers. Certain business offerings will only be suited to micro businesses with less than ten employees, while other offerings will only befit large corporations with hundreds of employees, while some offerings may need ten to fifty employees. The possibilities are endless, but the reality is usually fairly constrained, and the needs usually quite clear. But sometimes you need to get into the swing to fully determine the sweet spot.

How useful is revenue size as a means of determining company size and suitability? Well, answer this as per the measured length of your piece of string – again it is different for every company. Generally, if you don’t know – don’t worry, get out and market test and you will start to see the patterns emerging. But id your product or service needs to have thirty plus users, for example, then your will not find much joy calling companies with at least “x” revenue as a target if you do not specify the employee size to be at least thirty as well. This may seem trivial, but if you do not specify this to list brokers, you may get swept through the sales conversation before you realise it.

2.Do you want to pitch to any industry vertical, or are their particular sectors (ie Tradies only, or just the Banks etc) that you need to focus on?

This can be very important, and if you don’t have market intelligence prepared for your campaign – an experience telemarketing campaign manager is invaluable.

It is usually, easy to determine with experience. There are generally some sectors that are open and some that are closed. There are some sectors where it is easy to land multiple decision makers in s string of calls and other where it is almost impossible. It all comes down to your individual product or service offering, and these factors all need to be taken into serious consideration when considering the purchase of a telemarketing list.

3. Do you need to pitch to the Managing Director, Owner, CEO or do you need to reach specific decision maker levels like CIO, CFO etc?

It is usually always the MD, CEO or owner that ultimately makes the decision (at least for micro, small and medium businesses). But sometimes you need to work your way up to that level because some roles are delegated to other personnel within a business.

This is usually only an issue for larger, more extensive and complicated businesses. With Micro, Small and sometime medium businesses the head decision maker is usually wearing a multitude of hats – delegation of financial decisions is usually the sole responsibility of the the head of the business for small and medium operations. When it comes to larger corporates, you usually need to pitch into the relevant title holder (for which there are often multiple possible titles for similar roles). If, for example, you have a high end virtual IT product or service, it will often pay to approach the IT manager, Chief Information Officer (CIO), or Information Communications Technology (ICT) Head – when considering larger corporations. But if you are pitching to tradies, it is usually the sole trader operator with a credit card in his or her back pocket.

So, do your homework. Know Thyself, know your market, and know the context of a telemarketing list campaign. When you have knowledge and experience you can apply wisdom. Without them, well, your campaign will likely be more of a market knowledge garnishing endeavor (which is often not a bad thing).

But, most business in the current climate cannot second guess these decisions. If the return on investment is not there, the campaign will lack longevity and so too may the business itself.

Seasoned operators understand that the key to success is knowledge, experience and applied wisdom. And that vital formula is the lynch pin holding the whole affair together, determining the ultimate return on investment.

Are you ready for solid success, or are you still learning? Well, you win some, and you lose some – but you should always learn some, even when the ROI is handsome.


Justin Laju is the Principal at Appointment Setter.

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