Why Buying an Email List is a Really, Really Bad Idea

To business owners who are just starting out, purchased email list can be a tantalizing option. With just a single swipe of a credit card, thousands of emails can be yours—and if just a tiny percentage converts, you’ll have made your investment back, and then some.

Unfortunately, some things are just too good to be true, and purchased email lists are one of them. Read on to learn why purchased email lists are a waste of your money—and might even do irreparable harm to your business.

How purchased email lists are born

First, let’s take a look at how purchased email lists get created. When you see a name on an email list, it means that somewhere, somehow, someone clicked that harmless-seeming box that said, “Clicking this box means you agree to receive information and special offers from us and our partners.” Most people do this in a hurry, without thinking, in order to get to the next step of what they’re actually trying to do. “Special offers” sounds pretty good, and “our partners” sounds pretty harmless, like the website’s hosting service.

Why Buying an Email List is a Really, Really Bad Idea

Surprise! It’s endless amounts of spam.

The bottom line is that these subscribers certainly don’t want their email to end up on an email lists next to hundreds of other addresses. The truth of the matter is…

Good emails aren’t for sale

Email addresses that are for sale are being sold to hundreds of companies, not just yours. And as a result, the emails on the list have usually been, or are in the process of being, barraged with offers and deals. Any email addresses on the list that once had any value will eventually be ripped to shreds, if they haven’t been already, as the owners take tougher and tougher messages to screen out all the spam they’re suddenly receiving.

Email lists that are constructed the long, hard way—meaning, people voluntarily opt to receive the company’s emails—generally don’t get sold to these websites. Think about it–if you took the time and effort to build a good list of solid leads, would you sell it so that your competition can get its grubby hands on it? We’re willing to bet you’d guard it with your life.

At Etailpro, we keep our emails in a safe behind a portrait of this guy. We trust him.

Companies that sell the lists, lie

Companies that sell email lists know that you’re on to them, so they make all sorts of claims about their wares that aren’t necessarily true. They know that anyone considering buying an email list is new to the world of marketing, since experienced marketers already know that email lists are a waste of time, and they prey on that lack of industry knowledge. A company might call its list “opt-in”, “verified”, “clean”, “targeted”, or “real time”, but there’s nothing and no one forcing them to stand by those words. (Well, kind of. More on that below). Sure, an email list might have been opt-in at some point. For someone else. Ten years ago. But not for you.

The list you purchase might also be full of emails that no longer exist; have missing or incomplete data; or even use addresses that were harvested illegally. Which brings us to…

You could get sued

You wouldn’t know it, due to the sheer proliferation of email list companies, but harvesting email addresses from the web is actually illegal. In the U.S.,the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 states that email spammers (that would be you) can be subject to penalties of up to $16,000 for each email sent. Some people may argue that, since you purchased the list and didn’t know any better, you’re not at fault. Those people are called lawyers. Can you afford one? For months or even years?

Your mailing address and IP reputation could be harmed

So much spam gets churned out in internet-world that some companies turn a healthy profit by simply combatting it. To do this, they’ll often create a planted email address, called a honeypot, which identifies the sender as a spammer once it’s sent. If too many of your messages get marked as spam, your email service provider may close your account, fine you, or even sue you, depending on the terms of their service agreement.

Any Archer fans? No?

Unfortunately, like many other things in the digital world, getting your pristine reputation back—even once you’ve stopped using email lists—can be extremely difficult, nigh impossible. You might have to scrap your website and start all over.

Like we’re betting this guy has to.

Your actual reputation could get harmed

When all’s said and done, buying or renting an email list is kind of a dirty tactic. Your contacts don’t know you, and they opted to receive emails from another company, not yours. It’s like consenting to go on a date with a guy who then sells your date to someone else. It’s skeevy. Is that the kind of company you want to be?

Nice to meet you. Bought this date from a guy online.

And then, there are more tangible consequences, like Googling your company and discovering that the top three results are angry rants from people who are fed up with your emails. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and a number of review sites, people have no shortage of ways to communicate that they’re upset nowadays, and due to the nature of the internet, those posts tend to stick around.

So…what should I do instead?

There’s only one way to get a good, solid list of contacts that might, with time, convert into sales: the ol’ fashioned way. Just like ma and pa used to do, it’s time to get out in the fields and plant the seeds of good content through helpful guides, entertaining posts, and valuable offers. Prove to your clients that it’s worth their while to stay up to date with your company, and you’ll earn their trust and eventually, their business.

Yep, when I was a little girl, we’d get up at 4 in the morning and start writin’ blogs.

Start a genuine email marketing campaign with Etailpro

Ready to launch an email marketing campaign that really converts? Consider investing in a business that really knows what it’s doing. Throughout our years of industry experience, we’ve helped countless customers explode their revenues through savvy, intelligent email marketing. Ready to learn more? Click here for a free demo of our process.