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Why not to by an email list
Ashley GrantFeb 26, 2024 6:05:51 AM8 min read

Why is it a Bad Idea to Buy an Email List?

Buy an email list? Should you do it?

Nope! But, why? Buying an email list can seem tempting when you want to quickly grow your subscriber base. However, this unethical marketing shortcut comes with far too many risks.

“Let’s cheat our way to the top!”

- Said no reputable marketer ever.

Here’s the reality - the inbox is precious virtual real estate. It’s where we conduct so much of our digital lives. It's the gateway to connecting with friends, family, colleagues, and brands we love. So when an email from an unfamiliar sender pops up, our first instinct is to treat it with suspicion. In the best case, we just unsubscribe. In the worst case, we click “spam” and tell the email platforms that the sender is shady and should not be trusted.

The bottom line is, buying email lists to grow your subscriber base typically does more harm than good… But, rather than just continue saying it’s bad, let’s do a deep dive into why it’s so bad.

For Starters, There’s a Lack of a Targeted Audience

Targeted marketing is crucial for business success. Unfortunately, when you purchase an email list, well - it will often lack relevance to your specific audience and goals. Perhaps this is the biggest reason for why not to buy an email list.

When you buy a list, you get a random batch of email addresses without insight into subscriber interests. This shotgun approach wastes your precious resources. Blast emails to irrelevant recipients simply won't drive conversions.

Carefully built email lists on the other hand? Well, these are a lot more likely to align with your ideal customer profile. It’s best to focus on reaching people who fit your target demographic and have a genuine interest in your offerings.

Segment your outreach based on subscriber preferences. Sending the right message to the right person boosts engagement.

Buying general lists makes meaningful segmentation impossible. You end up annoying recipients who don't care about your emails.

The takeaway? Don't rely on questionable purchased lists. Invest time in understanding your best customers. Then tailor content to attract more people like them. This targeted approach helps you nurture real relationships with potential buyers. Buying lists just doesn't offer that level of insight or personalization.

Still not convinced? Okay, let’s look at another reason not to buy an email list.

Let’s Talk Poor Quality DataLets-Talk-Poor-Quality-Data-Internal-Image-15-Feb-2024

Purchased email lists often contain inaccurate or outdated subscriber information. This increases the risk of sending emails that bounce or get marked as spam.

Many of these lists for sale actually contain email addresses that are no longer active. Sending messages to defunct accounts damages your sender reputation. High bounce rates also lower email deliverability. Your messages may never even make it to the intended recipients.

If that wasn’t bad enough, bought lists may include names and contact info scraped unethically from other websites. This raises both legal and spam concerns. Even if a purchased list claims to be "opt-in," there is no way to verify these subscribers consented to your specific communications.

It’s best to protect yourself, your business, and your reputation by only collecting email addresses willingly provided to your business. Screen your list for accuracy before each send. Remove hard bounces and unsubscribes promptly.

A clean, engaged list ensures your time and resources go towards building relationships with real potential customers.

A Bit More About the Legal and Ethical Concerns

We’re doubling down on the legal and ethical concerns because we want your business to succeed. We don’t want you to get hit with fines and damage to your business’s reputation.

Sending unsolicited emails raises legal and ethical red flags. When you buy email lists, it’s much harder to make sure your email marketing practices comply with privacy laws and build trust with subscribers.

Anti-spam regulations like GDPR and CAN-SPAM require explicit opt-in consent before sending commercial emails. Purchased lists often violate opt-in laws since subscribers didn't specifically agree to receive your messages. Violations can lead to legal penalties and fines that can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars!

Beyond legal issues, purchased lists contradict principles of conscious marketing. Your subscribers are real people who deserve transparent, ethical treatment. Sending bulk emails to uninterested recipients damages recipient trust.

Focus on earning opt-in subscribers who want your emails. Be clear how their contact information will be used. Allow easy unsubscribes and honor all opt-out requests promptly. Show that user privacy matters by avoiding purchased lists.

Building an email list based on relevance and genuine permission is better for legal compliance and long-term subscriber satisfaction. Don't let legal penalties or mistrust torpedo your email marketing success.

It’s Not Worth the High Risk of Spam ComplaintsIts-Not-Worth-the-High-Risk-of-Spam-Complaints-Internal-Image-15-Feb-2024

As we’ve mentioned ad nauseam at this point, emailing purchased lists significantly increases the chances of being marked as spam. Again, this damages your sender reputation and email deliverability.

Recipients on purchased email lists won't recognize you or recall opting in. Getting unexpected messages means they're a lot more likely to click "spam". Each complaint negatively impacts your domain and IP reputations with major email providers.

Too many spam reports lead to blacklisting by ISPs like Gmail or Outlook. This means your messages automatically go to spam folders or get blocked entirely. You lose the ability to reliably reach target inboxes.

Avoid this fate by only emailing engaged subscribers who signed up through your website or promotions. Warm contacts who recognize your brand are much less likely to report your messages as spam. It makes for a much better correspondence experience for both parties.

Potential Damage to Brand Reputation

Buying email lists can hurt your brand reputation and credibility. Many consumers have a negative perception of companies that use purchased lists for marketing.

Recipients see bulk unsolicited emails as a sign of desperation or spammy tactics. This erodes brand trust, especially for companies trying to portray a professional image.

In addition, purchased lists often have associations with low-quality businesses or outright scams. Email recipients may unfairly lump your brand into this negative category.

Protect your reputation with an email marketing strategy based on relevance and consent. Take the time to build a loyal subscriber base who actually want to hear from you. Segment and personalize messages to show recipients they matter.

The better way is to prioritize organic list growth and personalized outreach to reinforce your brand's professionalism. Don't let questionable email practices undermine your image.

What’s the Point in Purchasing Lists? Just Do it the Right Way

The biggest flaw of purchased email lists is simple - they don't drive results. Sending bulk messages to unengaged subscribers wastes time and hurts conversion rates.

Recipients on bought lists did not opt-in to your messages. With no existing interest or relationship, they ignore your content. Low open and click-through rates follow.

Compare this to segmented outreach to subscribers who signed up on your website. Warm contacts who want your emails are far more likely to engage and convert.

Avoid wasting resources emailing irrelevant purchased lists. Instead, focus on attracting and retaining high-quality subscribers who care about your brand. Nurture these contacts by aligning email content to their preferences.

The takeaway? Targeted outreach to engaged subscribers delivers conversions. Purchased lists contain contacts indifferent to your business. Don't expect positive ROI from emailing uninterested people. Spend your time building organic, high-converting email lists.

Alternatives to Buying Email Lists

I think we’ve made the point that you should avoid buying lists. So what should you do? Instead, focus on organic tactics to build your subscriber list.

Offer lead magnets like discounts, webinars, and free tools in exchange for email signups. Promote these opt-in offers on your website, social channels, and paid ads.

Make it easy for visitors to subscribe on your site. Use pop-ups and subscription boxes to capture emails for blog, newsletter, or promotion updates.

Incentivize sharing with referral programs. Existing subscribers can send emails to friends interested in your brand for rewards.

Import contacts from your CRM who have purchased before and may want future offers. Past customers are more likely to open and click your emails.

Curate social media connections into segmented lists based on demographics and interests relevant to your products. Turn followers into engaged subscribers.

Closing Thoughts

Buying email lists may seem like a quick shortcut for subscriber growth. But the risks outweigh any perceived benefits. Purchased lists lack targeted relevance and contain low-quality data. Sending unsolicited emails also raises legal and spam issues. Most importantly, bought lists simply don't drive engagement or conversions.

Instead of wasting money on ineffective purchased lists, invest in organic list building. Offer lead magnets in exchange for opt-ins. Curate social media connections. Incentivize referrals. Then nurture subscriber relationships with targeted, personalized content. This conscious approach helps you earn loyal followers who want to hear from you.

We recommend you focus on attracting and engaging high-quality subscribers through ethical practices. Building an organic list takes more work upfront but drives results over the long term. Don't jeopardize your sender reputation and brand image with purchased lists. The smart way to grow your email marketing is by providing value to subscribers who willingly signed up.

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