James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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3 Ways Sales Teams Can Use Big Data

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

Why do sales organizations consistently settle for a less than 1% response rate from lead lists? There’s no other area of business where that type of ROI would be considered par for the course. Yet, for email marketing, it has become accepted and even expected. Not all email campaigns receive a less than 1% response rate like this, but for the ones who don’t have a good grasp on how to effectively use data in their email marketing, this rate is almost guaranteed.

Every Market Media
, an email centric marketing data compiler, and Founder Rick Holmes has seen firsthand how badly some people use lead lists.

By tweaking the way you use data from email lists, you can build an email campaign that achieves a much higher response rate and targets qualified leads.

Here are Rick’s three ways to use lead lists without wasting time or hurting business.

  1) Email-to-One

Email-to-one is a powerful email marketing tactic.

It’s particularly strong if your business deals with large sales numbers or operates in a niche market.

These emails are short and sweet messages intended to spark a conversation. Email-to-one is a lot more personal than emailing a generic message to a list of contacts.

The human relationship aspect of this type of email marketing is key.

That means you need to know who you’re emailing beyond their job title to ensure that they are actually a qualified buyer.

A list that provides 100 individuals with a certain job title is a good jumping off point, but then you need to whittle that list down to a more manageable list of 50 or so.

So how do you know who to cut?

Evaluate Business Fit

Throughout the sales process, you’re selling to the individual and to the company they work for.

Ultimately, the individual is a company representative that makes buying decisions, but the decisions boil down to thinking about what is best for the company as a whole.

With that in mind, does your product fit their company?

If the answer is no, there’s no point in sending a carefully crafted email to that individual.If there’s no business fit, there’s no point in a one-to-one email


Successful SDRs curate their lists by thinking about business fit first, and then use job titles to find the best point of contact at the company.

Additionally, by building your email list with the company in mind first, you can avoid issues like people ignoring emails, only to find out later that your contact isn’t even the person you need to speak to.

Job Title Usage and Limits

You might be looking to speak to IT directors, but job titles aren’t universal.

They vary depending on the organization. Joe Smith might be labeled as the IT director on your list, but he might be someone far removed from the decision makers. When in other companies, Joe is top dog.

The person you need could have a different title from what you expect, and you can’t avoid this problem no matter how well you’ve cleaned your database.

If the exact job title doesn’t match your search, or the list you purchased doesn’t have the information you need in the database, by recognizing business fit first you still know the company is a good match and deserves to be pursued further.

Then you can seek other avenues to find the person you actually need to sell to.

For example, if you’ve figured out that a company is a good business fit, but your database doesn’t contain the job title you think you need to start a conversation, you can email another high power player at the company, like the CEO, and request a referral.

Though job titles are a good place to start, you can’t build an effective list for email-to-one marketing without careful curation from a business fit perspective.

  2) Email-to-Many

Mass email marketing is the most common use for big data, but as we mentioned earlier, most people don’t have a strong execution.

If you send out 100,000 emails and only have 3 or 4 responses, it’s time to fix something. A lot of sales and marketing people accept the status quo, but it’s really not or at least, it shouldn’t be.

By following a few tips, you can make email to many a viable email marketing tactic for your company.

Start Slow

It’s a good idea to start slow with your email marketing efforts.Why you should start slow with your email marketing efforts.


You don’t need a $25,000 marketing database when you’re just starting out. It makes more sense to spend a couple hundred dollars on a list of 5,000 and build from there.

Start with 5-10% of the database that you hope to have in the future.

Having a huge pool to draw from at the beginning sounds tempting, but it’s good to note that even as you grow down the line, you will probably never use the entirety of that monster list.

It’s easier to add to the list later than to weed through a mass of information that you can’t actually use.

Clean Up Your Data

Just like with email-to-one marketing, you want to be sure to clean your list.

Clean data is important anyway, but it’s particularly crucial when dealing with email service providers. Many of these don’t like or allow third party data. If your list isn’t checked and cleared of irrelevant data or duplications, you can easily be labeled as spam.

Figure out who allows third party data and respect their policies.

Build Your HTML Creative

If your HTML creative template isn’t properly coded, it can decrease the deliverability of your emails.

Your email can’t be read if it can’t be delivered.

It’s best to have a couple of templates made so that you can do some A/B testing to find what works best in terms of open rates and click-throughs.

Leak Test the System

Email formatting isn’t the only thing that you want to test to get the best results from a mass email campaign. The type of emails you send will determine some of these tests.

For instance, are you utilizing a newsletter program that counts on an open rate or opt-in rate to determine effectiveness? Or are you offering a white paper download that requires a click-through from the email?

Experiment with a few tactics to see what generates the best response.

Measure which tactics are causing the opt-in rate or email open rate to rise? Or what makes the opt-out rate skyrocket?

Keep an eye on the metrics. They’ll help you spot problems and avoid mistakes like double-tapping your existing client list or sending a wave of emails that go straight to the spam folder.

While the email-to-one tactic will almost always have a higher response rate, it isn’t for every business.

Unless you have a high sales average that warrants the one-on-one attention from the outset, email-to-many is likely a better tactic.

Rich says anything with a lifetime value of less than $1000 probably isn’t worth the time that goes into more specialized email marketing.

Instead, use these tips to send emails to multiple prospects at once more effectively.

  3) Direct Sales Prospecting

While email marketing is less intrusive and probably a bit more welcomed by prospects, it is also easier to ignore than the more traditional tactics like cold calling.

The most important thing to remember about using data for direct sales prospecting or cold calling is that you don’t want to make your salespeople wear too many hats.

People who specialize in one thing are more effective than those who have to constantly switch gears.

If you have a salesperson who is really good at closing deals, don’t make them figure out how to craft a prospecting email. Those two jobs require different personality types – keep people in their strength zones.

It’s not effective to give marketing, closing, and coffee making to one person. That kind of juggling leads to dropped balls and missed opportunities.

When it feels like you don’t have another option and you can’t hire more people to divvy up the responsibilities, it’s time to invest in higher grade data.

Buying data with a high direct dial percentage means that you’ll spend less time on the phone trying to find the person you actually need to talk to.


Email marketing with big data has the opportunity to bring in big business. However, the way that many marketers use their lists makes the data virtually worthless.

By curating the lists based on whether it will be used in an email-to-one or email-to-many campaign, or for direct sales prospecting, you can increase the measly 1% or less response rate to something that actually gives you a worthwhile ROI.

The bottom line is that a list company will not send you a database you can drag and drop names into the “To” slot for instant one-to-one communication. They don’t know your business well enough for that.

It’s up to you and your team to trim the list to a manageable size with only the most likely targets in your final roundup.

Whichever email marketing or cold calling path you choose for your data, these tips will help.

This article is based on an interview with Rick Holmes, founder of Every Market Media. You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.