If you are in the business of selling research products to life scientists then chances are good you have probably sent out promotional information or conducted market research using email. It is an efficient and cost effective way to reach lots of potential customers quickly. If you are using your customer lists to communicate new products or promote special pricing via email then you are tapping into one of your most powerful resources – the people who have already proved they are interested by buying your products. Well done.

However, your customer list may not always be the best choice for some activities for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have questions and want answers from researchers other than your customers. You know the questions I mean – like who are you – what do you want? – and why aren’t you buying from me? In that case the customer lists are not going to give you the answers you are looking for. Many turn to third party rented emial lists from vendors that offer them for anywhere from a US$50 to US$500 or more per thousand email address names. It all sounds like a great idea – and it would be except there is a great deal of difference in the quality of various life science lists when it comes to response rates and price is not necessarily a good indicator so caution is required. Some are pretty good and some are just awful. Beware of reports of high click through rates. Lets face it – “click throughs” are not all that good a measure of success. You need answers, not click throughs! A good quality list should deliver at least 1% response rates for a few hundred dollars per thousand names.

We conducted a little experiment last week and tried several rented lists for an online survey we were performing. We chose to use a “list broker” – someone that consolidates life science lists. We selected the categories we needed, paid in advance and they agreed to send our email invitations to roughly 11,000 rented names. The invite we provided offered $25 in exchange for completion of a 10-15 minute survey. When all was said and done we confirmed a total of 26 responses. Put another way that is a 0.24% response rate! That is not even one quarter of one percent! We call that an “eFail list”. If you have had similar experiences give us a call and we will compare notes.

Oh – and as a control (yes we are scientists as well as marketers here at Percepta) we sent out about 6,500 of the same invitation from the Percepta Panel, which we maintain for market research projects, and confirmed a total of 158 completed surveys which is a 2.4% response rate. CAVEAT – Percepta normally gets about 10% response rates but this project was not perfectly in our sweet spot which is why we chose to source from 3rd party lists in the first place.

The lesson here is just another version of Buyer Beware. Maintaining a quality mail list is a lot of work. People change jobs, change email addresses, sign-up even though they are not scientists. Some lists also get blacklisted which means they have been SPAMMing. All of this means your email never makes it to the researcher and then you don’t get the answers you need. Instead you get “click-through rates”. We at Percepta know it’s a big bad world and we work very hard to maintain our list and our response rates are a testament to the quality of the Percepta Panel. We only give access to the panel through our Life Science Dashboard reports and commisioned projects. We promise that if we conduct market research for your company we will give you answers and not click-through rates.

Your comments are always welcome.