Top 5 Reasons Why You Should NOT Purchase Email Lists

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Thursday, July 5th, 2012

:: Best Practices

Browsing through Quora recently, I stumbled upon a few questions with regards to purchased email lists. Every time I read such a discussion, I remain surprised that marketers still consider purchasing third-party email databases.

I know, it requires effort, time, and strategy to build a subscriber list. For a results oriented marketer, it is often very tempting to buy such a list from another source. I strongly discourage from doing so, and to support my advice I’ll give you five reasons why you should never purchase email lists:

1. Purchased lists are ineffective.

Because people listed on a purchased list have never subscribed to your emails, they are not interested in receiving them. Therefore, they will simply ignore your message as it is irrelevant to them. That’s assuming there are real and active people behind these email addresses. It is very likely that a lot of addresses available for sale are no longer valid, therefore there is no one on the other side to receive your email and get interested in your message.

2. They compromise your brand.

The goal of marketing is to associate your brand with postive emotions so that people are willing to buy from you. No one feels positively about emails they did not want to receive. There is too much email clutter these days, and any additional  undesirable email just adds to people’s frustrations. If your brand is the cause of this frustration, then it will become associated with it, resulting in lack of sales, and possibly in an increase of complaints. The times have changed, email blasting isn’t good for brands anymore. Instead, let people find you, subscribe to you, and only then treat them with your best content and offers (this is called inbound marketing).

3. They compromise your deliverability rate.

There is also a technical side to email blasts using purchased lists. Since people are not expecting your email and are likely to get frustrated with it, they will either ignore your email, unsubscribe, or hit the spam button. Using a purchased list the first two options would be actually good for you, assuming you don’t care about argument no. 2. However, it will be likely that people would consider your email as spam and let their email clients know about it. The more spam hits you get, the more a particular email client, such as Gmail, Hotmail, or AOL will treat you as a spammer, the less likely your next campaign will get to receivers’ inbox. Additionally, your entire domain might get compromised, resulting in being blacklisted by ISPs and search engines (here’s a recent article on this topic).

4. You are likely to get suspended by your ESP.

And what happens when you get a lot of spam complaints? Your spam rate goes up and your deliverability rate goes down? Well, by using your Email Service Provider’s IP address you also compromise their reputation. And no one likes their reputation being damaged, especially by someone acting irresponsibly (i.e. using purchased lists). In order for ESP’s, such as Upaknee, to maintain deliverability rates at 98%, they cannot tolerate troublemakers, and therefore it is common that if a sender’s spam rate is overtly high that sender’s services become suspended. Again, not good for your investment.

5. Might get into conflict with the law.

Yes, it is actually illegal to spam people, in Canada, the US, Europe, and Australia (and I believe in most other countries as well). The rule is simple: if I don’t give you permission to send me your email promotions and newsletters, and you do it, I can file a spam complaint to designated regulatory bodies and you might get into a lot of trouble. Not only you’d lose money on the purchased list, get banned by your ESP, but also you might be required to pay thousands of dollars in fines.

I rest my case. If you can think of any other reason why it is a bad idea to purchase email lists I encourage you to leave a comment below.

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