Why you should NEVER consider buying an email list

Thinking about buying an email list?  Don’t.

Buying an email list can seem like a quick-fix and an easy way to generate some business.  However, as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

While you will see the number of contacts jump quickly, you won’t see a similar jump in sales.  In fact, you’d be lucky to see an increase in sales at all. You might get lucky with a few, which is true in any numbers game.  However, there are much better strategies to gather contacts and create a strong email list.

In this guide, we’ll cover the top 5 reasons why you should never buy an email list and what you should do instead:

Your email service provider won’t like it

If you’re using a reputable email service provider, you won’t be allowed to use a purchased list in the first place.  Reputable email providers specifically ask where you acquired your email list, to ensure that you have the correct permissions to contact them.

You would need to be untruthful to get a purchased list through on providers such as Mailchimp.  This isn’t advisable, as if caught, it could lead to your account being suspended or permanently deleted.

When you get reported as spam by a contact on email, it gets flagged across multiple systems.  Email service providers don’t want to be connected to unsolicited email sends and will quickly act if they see a lot of spam reports.

Quantity doesn’t mean quality

Unfortunately, a lot of the claims made by email list sellers don’t turn out to be true.  Common problems with paid for lists include missing or incomplete data and out-of-date information.  More seriously, list contacts are often illegally harvested which means they never opted into any kind of email marketing.

Even if the contacts are of a decent quality, they didn’t sign up to be contacted by you.  Most people won’t recognise your name when they receive your email from a list, so you’ll quickly find your emails in the bin or the spam folder.

A qualified contact is familiar with your business and wants to know more – you will never get this from a bought email list!  5,000 new contacts aren’t worth the excel space if the list is full of people who don’t want to be contacted by you and therefore don’t engage with your emails.

You could damage your brand reputation

It’s not just your email reputation at stake when you buy email lists, your overall brand could take a hit too.

If you’ve ever looked up an email address or phone number that you don’t recognise, you’ll have seen forums of people angrily discussing companies they view as spam.  You do not want this to come up when people google your company name!

Protecting your brand reputation online is vital to building trust with your audience.  Contacts who receive unwanted emails will automatically view their experience with your company as negative and blacklist it entirely.  Sending unsolicited emails seriously isn’t worth the risk to your brand reputation.

You won’t see results

If the quality of your list isn’t good, your email performance will be negatively impacted.  Purchased lists are well known for being stuffed with contacts with outdated email addresses and bad domains.  If you’re trying to send emails to non-existent email address, you’ll see a huge increase in your email bounce rate.

Furthermore, even if your emails do make it through to an inbox – they won’t get a great reception. The one thing you can be sure of from a bought list, is that your email engagement will plummet.  People who aren’t expecting your emails will most likely delete without opening.  Even if they do open, they won’t be keen to click through as they don’t know who you are.

If people don’t trust your brand enough to click on your emails, they certainly won’t take other meaningful actions such as purchasing.

It violates GDPR regulations

Last but certainly not least, purchased lists are not GDPR compliant.  Simply adding an opt-out option to emails is no longer enough.  Under GDPR, you must have collected explicit consent from contacts to send them emails.

There is no way for bought email lists to be GDPR compliant as recipients aren’t given the option to specifically opt-in. This means that from the first initial email, you’re violating GDPR regulations.

If the performance risks aren’t enough to convince you not to buy an email list, hopefully the legal risks will.  If you’re caught, you could be hit with a large fine.  The fines aren’t an empty threat either; most recently in March 2020 Cathay Pacific were fined £500,000 for GDPR breaches.

What should I do instead?

Now that you know why you buying an email list is never a good idea; we can focus on what to do instead.  Here are our top tips to cultivate your email list organically:

  • Use content to your advantage. Start with a blog or other valuable educational content.  Videos or podcasts can work well to encourage subscribers as people are getting something in return.
  • Build valuable lead magnets. People won’t want to hand over their email address without getting something in return. Downloadable tools, webinars, eBooks, templates etc., are all good exchange offerings.
  • Make the most of your website. If you don’t have a subscriber box on your website you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity.  It gives you a chance to build value with passing traffic that would otherwise have left your site without taking any action.

You can also read our beginners guide to email marketing here for more advice.  Remember the goal is never to create the biggest email list, it’s to create the most engaged list.  Good luck and happy emailing!

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