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Using Email Lists

Email lists are simply a list or database of emails that have been assembled together through various means, such as a customer list, newsletter sign-up, magazine subscription, or some other collection method. When used in market research, lists are typically bought or supplied by an end client. Unlike with the use of empaneled respondents, lists tend to have lower response rates and lose their value rather quickly as emails age. Market researchers who rely on lists to fill sample needs are putting their email sender reputation at risk and will need to proceed with caution to keep response rates high.

1:  Purchased Email Lists


Email lists that have value are never for sale; doing so immediately devalues them. Purchased lists are usually full of dead emails and spam traps and may have been assembled using illegal methods. Use of such lists will, at best, result in destroying your sender reputation and ensure that response rates are forever low. Worse, you may find yourself in legal trouble if the list was created by illegal means.

2:  Client-Supplied Lists

Often it is necessary to contact respondents on behalf of end clients. To prevent sullying your sender reputation, there are several questions you will want to ask before agreeing to use your client's list:

  • How were the emails collected?
  • Was there a single or double opt-in process? Did the opt-in process include agreeing to be contacted by third party vendors?
  • How old is the list?
  • How often is the list used? Lists that have not been used within the past month may be suspect.
  • Is the list cleaned regularly?
  • If it is not possible to use a sender domain associated with the end client, will respondents be notified in advance that they will be contacted from another domain?

If it is suspected that the answer to any of the questions above is less than exemplary, proceed with caution. Ideally, it would be best for the end client to manage the invitation process as that typically results in higher response rates. If this is not an option, you will want to consider cleaning and/or testing the list before the full launch in order to protect your own sender reputation.

3:  Testing and Cleaning Lists

If you are asked to send to a list that you believe may be unclean or did not go through an opt-in process that included agreeing to be contacted by third parties, you will want to clean or test the list before blasting out invitations to all respondents.

3.1:  Cleaning Lists

This can be done manually or through a service. Manual cleaning simply reviewing the list for badly formatted emails, duplicates, etc. and removing anything you feel may be invalid or old.

If you seriously doubt the integrity of the list you have, it may be worthwhile to utilize a cleaning service. Lists are scrubbed based on format, use of bad words, comparison against known spam traps, etc. You can also have the email list contacted as part of the service, including an opt-in process. Any bounces or opt-outs will also be scrubbed from the list. If you are interested in such a service, please contact your account manager.

3.2:  Testing Lists

To test a list, send a soft launch out to a very small sample of respondents and pay close attention to the bounce and spam rates. Anything over 5% is considered very high and could result in blacklisting of your sender IP and/or domain. If the bounce and spam rates are under 5%, proceed with caution. You will still want to parse out invitations into batches of 5000 or less and you will want to keep a close eye on bounce and spam rates should they get out of control.

3.3:  Steve Jobs

Kinesis has received numerous SPAM COP complaints over the years from emails sent to Steve Jobs. There are many variations of this email address, such as,,, or, but no matter which variant is used, it always results in a SPAM COP report. Not only is Steve Jobs not signing up to receive email from various marketers and brands, he is also deceased. Any list with a variant of his email on it will need to be thoroughly cleaned and tested before use.

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