Should You Buy Email Lists For Marketing?

No, you shouldn't. If all you needed was an easy answer, then there you have it. If you want to understand the deeper reasons why and explore alternatives to building an email list of your own read on.

Email marketing was recently ranked the number one highest return on investment marketing strategy by US marketers in a study published by emarketer.com. Email marketing leads to big ROIs because its relatively cheap to execute and is very easy to measure. Sadly, it is also difficult to get started as most of us start with few if any contacts in our email marketing subscriber lists. The temptation to buy an email list is very high. This is especially true in the B2B space where many marketers feel like it would be impossible to construct a list on their own.

Why Its Generally A Bad Idea?

email listsAt the core of Email Marketing is deliverability. Deliverability is the term we use to describe and understand the factors that get your sent emails into the inbox of the recipient as opposed to getting caught in a server level firewall or email client junk folder. There are a myriad of factors that contribute to getting to the inbox. Chief among these is your Sender IP reputation. Your IP reputation is the reputation that the ESPs (Email Service Providers) build over time about the quality of the email you send. When you buy an email list you potentially damage your reputation in a few ways. First the ESPs consider it a red flag when they see a spike in the quantity of email being sent out from any given source. Going from sending email campaigns from 500 to 5,000 over night is a red flag that will damage your sender reputation. Also, most email lists inherently contain bad email addresses that will damage your reputation. Due to the way most lists are built they are prone to have a lot of inactive email accounts. When you send email to an inactive email account the ESPs lowers your sender reputation and this is especially damaging when you do it in bulk which is what often happens when you buy an email list. Additionally, ESPs also create fake/dead email accounts that they then submit to a lot of the list builders. They do this on purpose so that when anyone sends email to that fake account the ESP will know that the sender is SPAMing and not gathering email addresses organically.

What Are Your Alternatives?

Building an email list is difficult. Ensure that you are producing and sending out super valuable content for your target audience and beyond the valuable content consider giving additional incentives to people to opt-in. Free reports, coupons, opportunities to win something, or the like. Proactively add email addresses from online contacts but use double opt-in to allow every contact the opportunity to confirm their subscription or pass on it. Here is a blog post I prepared a few years ago that has some other specific ideas.

If You Ignore My Advice and Buy a List How Can You Mitigate The Risk?

First, slowing warm up your IP sending by only adding small portions of the list to your active subscribers over time. This gradual warm up in sending quantity will both limit the potential red flag as well as give you some immediate feedback on the quality of the list based on your bounce rate (% of inactive or bad email addresses).

Second, consider sending out “confirm your subscription” email that lets the user know that you would like to send them a lot of awesome future content and ask them to click on a link in the email to confirm their subscription. You can send out 1 or maybe 2 follow up emails reminding them to click to confirm but after a few of these invitations delete them from the list or leave them marked as inactive.

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