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Why you shouldn’t buy email lists

Buying email lists might seem like a worthwhile shortcut, but it may actually hinder your success in the long-term.
From lasting delivery problems to a damaged brand reputation, there are many reasons why it’s not a good idea.

It’s never a good idea to buy email lists

We all know how important email lists are. They’re the foundation of a successful email marketing strategy, and without really good mailing lists, your next email campaign is not going to be as successful as it could be.

If you’re just starting up, or branching into a new product line or market, chances are that your email list is not as large and comprehensive as you’d like it to be. You know that successful email marketing requires email addresses, and at the moment you don’t have that many. Creating a mailing list from scratch seems like a long and hard process. You look around, and you see offers from all sorts of shady characters who’d like you to purchase email lists from them.

Don’t do it!

Why it's not a good idea to buy email lists
AdvantagesDisadvantages
Immediate access to newsletter subscribersVery difficult to stay legally compliant
Lots of new contacts at onceCan lead to delivery problems
Low prices per subscriberRelevance for your subscribers is not guaranteed
Includes some more data for segmenting the listHigh levels of missing data and/or false information

Buying email lists – an overview

Despite how tempting it might seem at first, buying email lists is always a bad, bad idea!

There are lots of reasons for this. At least six of them, actually. First, it’s probably against local regulations and laws to send unsolicited messages to people who haven’t signed up for your newsletter; buying email addresses doesn’t work very well; doing so will tarnish your company’s brand; the best and most effective email vendors won’t let you use lists that you’ve purchased; if you purchase mailing lists, you’ll harm your IP’s reputation even for legitimate newsletters; and the best email address lists aren’t for sale.

If you buy email lists, you’ll pay big fines

It’s not illegal to buy email lists, but it is illegal to use those lists to send marketing messages to individuals who haven’t explicitly agreed to receive them from you. In most jurisdictions, direct marketers are required to receive the explicit consent from individuals before sending marketing material. If you decide to purchase mailing lists, even if the seller says that this has happened, you can’t be sure.

In the world of email marketing, businesses use what’s called the double opt-in registration process to build up a quality email database over time. Subscribers enter their information in an online form and click submit. They’re immediately sent a confirmation email with a unique link.

Clicking on the link confirms the address. If you buy email lists, you can never be sure that all of the email addresses on the list have gone through this process. Sending marketing materials, in that case, is against the law and can lead to hefty fines.

professional email marketing

Buying email lists doesn’t work

The key to successful marketing is relevance. The only way to stand out from the crowded field these days is to send emails to your subscribers that contain useful content geared towards their specific interests. If you decided to purchase email lists, you can’t be sure that you know anything at all about the people you’re sending messages to.

Not knowing anything about your contacts means that it isn’t possible to send relevant newsletters. By deciding to buy mailing lists, you’ve got to trust that all of the relevant details are accurate. But in reality, there’s no way you can know.

If you purchase email lists, you’re essentially sending messages to strangers. All the advantages of email marketing, including automation tools, go to waste. The addresses that you’ve bought just aren’t as useful as if you’d built up your email database organically.

Purchased lists may damage your brand reputation

Nobody likes receiving emails that they don’t want – even from sources that they know and trust. Receiving emails from a company they don’t recognize, or a newsletter that they haven’t signed up to receive, is even worse.

If you purchase mailing lists, many of the individuals on the list don’t know who you are. If they start receiving mail from you one day, they’ll associate your company and brand with unwanted, spammy emails.

For larger brands, the decision to purchase email lists can have even more negative consequences. It takes a long time to build up a brand, and just one mistake to really damage it. A quality database of email addresses is one of the most precious resources that marketers have. Deciding to buy an email list might be tempting, but it can lead to a lot more trouble than it’s worth.

grow your email contact list
improve email delivery rates

Even if you buy email lists, email vendors won’t let you use them

The best email vendors don’t let you use lists that you’ve purchased. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, email vendors don’t want to help spammers. Purchasing email lists is something that a lot of spammers to do, and legitimate email marketing providers don’t want to help spammers in any way, shape or form.

Buying mailing lists also threatens to lower the technical IP reputation of the email vendor. If an email vendor becomes known as a company that allows its customers to buy email addresses, then the delivery rates for that company’s emails could be negatively impacted.

If you purchase mailing lists, then you’ll end up using a newsletter tool that isn’t very good. You’d be starting out on the wrong foot with your digital marketing efforts, at a distinct technological and competitive disadvantage to other digital marketers who did the right thing and decided not to buy email addresses.

Buy mailing lists, harm your IP

As mentioned before, sending spammy emails can harm the reputation of the IP that you use to send your email newsletters. If you buy mailing lists and use the addresses to send newsletters, spam filters will not only flag the messages themselves, but will flag the servers that you’re using to send the messages. This means that even if you send emails using legitimate contact lists, these emails are less likely to be delivered.

Even more harmful, if you buy email lists and send unwanted messages, your company itself will be flagged as suspicious. This means that even if you stop using these lists, and decide to build your own legitimate lists, spam filters will remember you and your company.

This will have a negative impact on your delivery rates. Deciding to purchase email addresses, in other words, affects your marketing efforts both today and in the future. It is much more effective to create a mailing list the right way.

bulk email
Contact list

The best lists aren’t for sale

The best way to build email contact lists is to do it yourself. Embed registration forms on your website, give users a chance to subscribe during the checkout process, or ask your social media followers to sign up for emails. Think about it: why buy mailing lists from strangers, who have no idea who you are or what your business needs?

It’s much better to start from scratch and built up a quality email database from the very beginning. This means that you’ll have fewer subscribers at the outset, but you’ll more than make up for it in the quality of your subscribers.

You can be confident that once you start creating newsletters, fewer people will unsubscribe, fewer people will flag your newsletters as spam, and you’ll be able to build a connection with your subscribers in a meaningful, sustainable way.