Should You Buy An Email List?

Posted on December 12, 2014

Like virtually every business, expanding your customer base is an ever-present challenge. If you could just get more people looking at your product or service, profits would soar. Email marketing is one of the most cost efficient marketing vehicles available and when offers like "100,000 Opt In E-Mails For $100!" come into your inbox, it can be a difficult opportunity to turn down. The worst that can happen is that you are out $100, right? Well, no. A lot more can go wrong that can cost you far more than $100.

The first thing to understand is how many email address vendors operate. They sell or lease a list of "verified, opt-in email address" that you can use to introduce your product or service. How they acquire these lists are all over the board. Some scrape websites and harvest every email list that they can find using bots that crawl over every inch of a site they can get to. Some run promotions like "You're Our 1 Millionth Visitor!" where the user inputs their email address to win a prize and instead wins random emails for life from everyone that company sells their lists to. Others simply ask "Would you like to receive additional offers from our partners?" Simply put, most all email vendors build their lead lists however they can.

But why should you care? Even if you get one single sale, it probably covers the cost of the list, right? Well here are some reasons why you should look in other directions for your marketing:

Purchased Email Lists Can Harm Your Inbox

ISP and email client guidelines state that you should not be using purchased or leased lists. So when you blast off 5,000 messages to people who have never heard of you, it is very likely that you are going to get flagged as spam, have very low read rates, and have a substantial number of bounced messages. These are all triggers for the ISP filters to throw up a red flag and potentially blacklist you. What this means is that when you start emailing your regular customers you have acquired through traditional methods, your messages could be sent straight to their spam filters or not even delivered at all.

List Fatigue Limits The Number Of Actual Recipients

Email sellers operate in bulk. Selling 10,000 email addresses to a client for $99.99 sounds much better than selling 100 email addresses for $99.99. So how do they keep their numbers up? They don't pull people from their lists. People change jobs, people set up new accounts, people abandon accounts they never access. Email addresses are constantly changing. Email list buying doesn't. They continue to add but rarely subtract, which means that a good portion of those email addresses you just bought probably no longer even exist and just as many probably aren't even in use.

What Does It Say About Your Brand?

The entire point of purchasing an email list is to reach people who have never heard of you. You now know that sending out an email blast through your own email account is a bad idea, so you sign up for some throwaway account you'll never use again. That should beat the system, right? But what does it say about your brand, product, and service when your first touch point with this new group of potential customers comes from the new email account you set up ""? Do you think that even if your message somehow magically avoids the spam filters and gets to the reader at the exact moment they are looking for your exact service, that they are going to buy from you? Very unlikely.

Very Low ROI

The cost of acquiring an email list is fairly inexpensive in the scope of things, but the simple fact is that even with the low cost, it doesn't produce. One of our clients purchased an email list of 15,000 well vetted, industry specific email addresses (that is how it was sold at least) perfectly aligned with their target customer. They crafted an email template in-house and a custom landing page just for this email list with special offers and website copy they poured hours into to get just right. They sent out the blast and waited to see the new leads flood in the door. Do you want to guess how many page views that landing page they spent so long developing got? Zero. Not a single person out of the 15,000 "vetted" email addresses. And since they sent it out through a throwaway email account, they couldn't track bounce rates, open rates, or anything else from the blast. So while the cost to acquire the list was moderately inexpensive, the hours of other work going into creating new email accounts, drafting up sales offers, sending and more to get absolutely no one demonstrates the poor return on investment email buying has.

So What Should I Do?

If you want your email marketing efforts to be successful, building a healthy, organic list of opt-in recipients is virtually the only way to succeed. Include sign-up forms on your website. Stay active in social media to prove that you are a leader in your niche. Give your customers a reason to want to be on your distribution list with exciting offers and valuable information. Also, we suggest using email marketing provider so you can track click through rates, open rates, and more to continually enhance your email marketing campaigns.

Email marketing can be an amazing marketing vehicle. Growing it organically does take far more work than simply purchasing list after list of email addresses, but the benefits are infinitely greater.

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