Join thousands of weekly readers and receive practical marketing advice for FREE.
MarketingSherpa's Case Studies, New Research Data, How-tos, Interviews and Articles

Enter your email below to join thousands of marketers and get FREE weekly newsletters with practical Case Studies, research and training, as well as MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.


Please refer to our Privacy Policy and About Us page for contact details.

No thanks, take me to MarketingSherpa

First Name:
Last Name:
Apr 17, 2007
How To

Email List Rental Toolkit: How to Read a Data Card + Sample Contracts

SUMMARY: Renting a permission list for the first (or even third) time can be a bit confusing. What's normal for transmission fees? How speedy is the turnaround? Should you pay extra for brand endorsement? Should you rent more names than the minimum to run a test? etc., etc.

Here's a handy toolkit from MarketingSherpa to help you (also useful for training staff). Includes two sample contracts with key legalese noted, as well as a How to Read a Data Card PDF.
This MarketingSherpa Toolkit comes in three parts, each of which you can download as separate PDFs. (Note: If you share the word about this resource, please give folks the direct hotlink to this page. It will remain good for years to come.)

Part I: How to Read a Data Card
Every list on the market has an official "data card" for shoppers to review. The data card may be available online and also may be postal mailed to you. Although data cards from different managers can look slightly different, most share similar information.

It's not everything you need to know to rent a list -- but it's enough to add the file to your "under serious consideration" pile. Discover what each part of the sometimes mysterious card means, and what critical questions you should ask in further research before making a buying decision:
How to Read a Datacard

Note: Yes, this is a real-life data card. We chose it fairly randomly and do not have an opinion as to the wonderfulness of the list it promotes.

Part II: Document of Legal Compliance
In addition to standard list rental contracts, some best-of-breed list owners and managers also distribute a Document of Compliance to elaborate on how their list gathering practices match the law and, most importantly, how they require your broadcast to be legal as well.

Laws are often shaded in gray until enough court cases define nooks and crannies of confusion. So just saying, "We obey the law and expect you to as well," is not enough. It's better to spell things out.

Most importantly, be sure to review the "Suppress File" information on page three. We recommend that no marketer or manager do rental business without agreeing to this.

Here's the PDF link:
CAN SPAM Compliance Document

Note: The Document of Legal Compliance we chose for this exhibit is a real-life document from a list manager we regard quite highly. It's extremely well worded, and we feel it could be taken as an example of best practices. That said, we're not lawyers. If you're considering signing a document or creating your own, please consult legal counsel first.

Part III: List Rental Contract
No one should ever rent you a list without requiring that you sign a contract first. Some things to be sure to look for in the fine print:

o Landing page requirements:

Is a hotlink to your privacy policy required on your landing page? It's a best practice however, in our experience many Web designers forget to put that link on landing pages or registration forms. Make sure you conform.

o Advertisement disclosure:

If the list owner wants to include language on your creative making it clear your broadcast is an ad, that's fine and dandy. Except, the word "advertisement" may be filtered by content-based filters (especially a problem for B-to-B sends.) So, you may need to negotiate to a less problematic, albeit equally clear, word.

o Suppression list:

Are you ready to hand over your Do Not Email (DNE) list for suppression purposes? If you're renting with a reputable firm you'll be required to. However, you may be able to negotiate using a third party merge/purge house to run the suppression on your behalf as an intermediary if you are extremely concerned about security. Also, be sure to check your own privacy policy wording to be sure if you need to use that third party or if you can hand over the DNE list directly.

Here's the PDF link:
List Rental Contract
(note: sample is as of April 2007)

Note: This real-life sample is one of the more thorough contracts around. Many are only one page long. Those are not bad at all -- we chose this one because we wanted you to see the full realm of contractual possibility. If your legal team is cool with this, getting them to sign off on shorter contracts will be a breeze.

More Useful links related to this article:

Companion Sherpa Tutorial on renting email lists:

List managers and brokers that assisted with this toolkit:

Bethesda List Center:


IDG List Services:

Millard Group:

See Also:

Comments about this How To

Apr 17, 2007 - John Klein of Klein Direct says:
We have been list brokers for 20+ years and I am appalled at the incompleteness and inaccuracies of most list data cards. The most significant piece of information one needs to decide whether to use a list is: EXACTLY WHAT DID THE PERSON DO IN ORDER TO BE ON THAT LIST. Actually the datacard in your example, is better than most, but - as you pointed out - no one can tell from that datacard exactly how each name got on the list, how much they spent (if anything) and how the response was generated. Unfortunately in the list industry, it is often impossible to get accurate information as to exactly how a name came to be on the list., because the list sales people often just don't know. I would say, that only about 15% of the list sources provide reliable and complete name source information...You have to know who you are dealing with, especially in email list rental. I have seen situations where the list purveyor inflates quantities actually sent on a test so you will re-order a large quantity based on the results of the test. For example, say you order 10,000 email names for a test blast. The list owner may actually send out 20,000 or 30,000 names (it doesn't cost him anything extra to do this) and when you get 2 to 3 times the response expected you have been set up to place a large order, which has no chance of matching the test results. Or, some list sources will send out better names on a test - the more recent responses, for example, but don't tell you this, so again the rollout doesn't match the test results. It's a little easier to assess postal mail lists because at least you can scan the list, and maybe get permission to phone a dozen names on the list to see if they are as represented by the list owner. What we recommend is to talk to the list sources and ignore any where you can't get specific information on how the names got their. Then test the list. If it seems anywhere near working do another test at the same amount. Then if both test are showing promise you just might have a good list to keep working with. In the list industry its Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware.

Post a Comment

Note: Comments are lightly moderated. We post all comments without editing as long as they
(a) relate to the topic at hand,
(b) do not contain offensive content, and
(c) are not overt sales pitches for your company's own products/services.

To help us prevent spam, please type the numbers
(including dashes) you see in the image below.*

Invalid entry - please re-enter

*Please Note: Your comment will not appear immediately --
article comments are approved by a moderator.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly Case Study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions

Best of the Week:
Marketing case studies and research

Chart Of The Week

B2B Marketing

Consumer Marketing

Email marketing

Inbound Marketing

SherpaStore Alerts


We value your privacy and will not rent or sell your email address. Visit our About Us page for contact details.