Marketers Beware: New Shady List Firm Surfaces
By Ken Magill
A new firm has surfaced apparently preying on unsuspecting marketers with email list deals that are most certainly too good to be true and most certainly not legitimate.
The firm appears to be related to India-based Data Champions/Sloan Marketing, a firm that has operated under dozens of aliases, at least one of which—EmailAppenders—has been accused by multiple marketers of ripping them off in bad email list deals.
What’s more, the new company is a member of the Direct Marketing Association, meaning the DMA logo displayed on a Web site is no guarantee the firm displaying it is legitimate.
The new firm is operating under the name B2B Data Group.
A Magill Report reader interacted with the B2B Data Group recently. Details of the interaction and reasons why the deal smells like five-day-old dead skunk in a heat wave are reported below.
But first, some background:
Data Champions/Sloan Marketing is best known as the likely operator of EmailAppenders, a company that disappeared in 2009 after representatives failed to show up in court to defend themselves against a lawsuit brought by Internet Retailer.
Internet Retailer sued EmailAppenders in December 2008, alleging the data service provider wrongly claimed to have Internet Retailer’s 2008 conference attendee list for sale.
EmailAppenders briefly reappeared in May 2009 operating under the URL eAppendersWeb.com and then promptly disappeared again after being identified as EmailAppenders.
New evidence indicates that if B2B Data Group isn’t EmailAppenders operating under yet another new name, the two firms are at least linked.
In paperwork obtained by The Magill Report, B2B Data Group supplied the following address: 16420 Valley View Ave., Dept. 511292, La Mirada, CA 90638.
This is the same address that was once claimed as headquarters by ListGalaxy.com. For example, ListGalaxy used the La Mirada address in a press release issued in 2008.
According to anti-spam group Spamhaus, the same people who operated EmailAppenders—Data Champions/Sloan Marketing—operated ListGalaxy.
What’s more, in B to B magazine’s online directory, ListGalaxy supplied its address as 2753 Broadway #178 in New York City. The address is that of a UPS store under some apartments.
The Broadway address is also the address EmailAppenders used.
Also, on Trade-Pals.com, ListGalaxy lists its phone number as 800-870-3107. This phone number is also claimed by ListOrbit in Houston, TX. According to Spamhaus, the same people who operated EmailAppenders.com operated ListOrbitOnline.com.
In any case, a marketer who wishes to remain anonymous recently received an email from someone claiming to be named Helen Cooper offering marketing lists from a company with an eyebrow-raising name: BM Online.
It’s difficult to imagine that executives at a company based in the U.S. would name their firm with initials that are generally understood to stand for bowel movement.
A Google search for BM Online brought back an Australian NetSuite software-and-service provider but no marketing list providers.
Cooper’s email-address construction also raised suspicions: Helen.Cooper@bmailsonline.com.
Cooper’s address construction is similar to that of other email-list sales reps who have surfaced over the years and are apparently, at least in some way, connected to Data Champions/Sloan Marketing and EmailAppenders.
For example, an email from someone claiming to be Keith Kentala at Data Champions Online pitching data services came from Keith.Kentala@psmails.com.
An email from someone claiming to be Jeff Parker representing NetSalesLists came from JeffP@psmails4.com.
A Raymond Murphy, claiming to be from EmailAppenders, sent his messages from Ramondm@psmails9.com. A B-to-B prospecting email from Andy Fischer at ListGalaxy came from Andyf@smails69.com. A prospecting message claiming to be from Lance Carter at EmailAppenders came from Lancec@smails69.com.
Is it possible that the similarities between these addresses are coincidental, and that the salespeople using them in various locations across the country are unrelated? Sure, but it seems unlikely.
In any case, after the marketer contacted by BM Online’s Helen Cooper supplied contact information, Cooper thanked the marketer with an email signed not by Helen, but by “Amber.”
The marketer then was contacted someone claiming to be Dexter Francis from B2B Data Group.
Francis’s email address was Dexterf@b2bmails.com.
Email addresses that don’t match company domain names are suspicious. It often means they can’t mail from their own domain because they’ve been blacklisted.
In a conference call, Francis claimed all of B2B Data Group’s email addresses are verified and permission based.
“We have 13 to 14 data sources, new-business filings, trade shows, conferences, magazine subscriptions and so on,” he said. “Once we gather all this information, we call each and every prospect to verify their exact contact information. Our next step is to make sure these contacts are willing to permit us to provide their information to third parties to receive information on products and services that might be beneficial to their business.”
Francis added: “We send out a lot of magazine subscriptions which give them a lot of industry information. And by giving them this information, we ask for permission to give their contact information to third parties.”
He said the B2B Data Group refreshes and cleans its file every quarter.
After the conference call, Francis offered the marketer more than 1 million records with email addresses for unlimited use for about $20 per thousand names.
Legitimate companies don’t sell lists of email names for unlimited use. Any marketer who buys email addresses for unlimited use will most likely be labeled a spammer and get their servers blocked, resulting in the being unable to send email to even their customers.
In a legitimate, permission-based email list deal, the advertiser supplies creative to the list owner who then mails the offer to the list on the advertiser’s behalf.
Also, $20 CPM is unheard of in the legitimate, permission-based B-to-B email-list business. According to list broker/manager Worldata, the average CPM for a permission-based email list of medium- to large-sized business contacts is $273.
Francis also supplied a sample file that did not inspire confidence.
In a 23-record file of executives at financial institutions and non-profits, most of the telephone numbers were general company numbers, several were customer service numbers, one was a lost-credit-card reporting number and two were out of service.
The Magill Report was able to reach one person at one of the numbers. The executive, who didn’t want to be quoted, said he never gave permission to anyone to share his email with or sell it to third parties. What is more, the executive said, the B2B Data Group record on him listed his parent company and he never uses his parent company’s name in any correspondence, electronic or otherwise.
The file also contained a record for IndyMac Bank, the Pasadena, CA savings and loan that collapsed in the 2008 mortgage meltdown and has been renamed OneWest Bank.
Emails sent to every name on the sample file drew one response from an executive who said she never gave permission to anyone to share her email address with third parties.
Two of the email addresses on the sample file bounced.
In a telephone conversation with The Magill Report, Francis said the sample file wasn’t necessarily supposed to be an accurate list.
“Those are unverified samples that are randomly pulled,” he said. “They aren’t part of our core database.” The sample list is provided “just so they know what they look like,” Francis said.
He also said he had never heard of EmailAppenders but hadn’t been on the job very long.
Meanwhile, B2B Data Group’s Web site lists no executives by name. It also has just one case study that does not refer to the client by name. In seven testimonials, only one identifies a company name.
A WhoIs lookup of the company’s URL, b2bdg.com, reveals it is registered with Denver-based Domain Site and offers no contact information beyond a P.O. box, a phone number for Domain Site and the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The owner of b2bdg.com apparently wants to remain anonymous. There may be a legitimate reason for a business-to-business domain owner to want to be anonymous, but it’s difficult to think of one.
A Direct Marketing Association representative verified that B2B Data Group joined the DMA in July, but said they could give no further information on the firm.