Why I Would Not Recommend Buying Email Marketing Lists


Why You Shouldn’t Buy Email Marketing Lists

One thing I’ve learned working in direct marketing is that purchased data will never perform as well as data collected in-house. Many data corps will disagree with me on this, because it’s their job to do so. Not the case. Doesn’t matter if it’s direct mail data, email data, ect.

There’s many reasons why opted-in lists perform better than purchased data. Primarily because those that opt-in are familiar with the brand and want to receive communications from that brand.

Here’s all the reasons why you should never purchase email marketing lists.


CAN-SPAM Compliance / Honeypot Emails

Okay, so on CAN-SPAM, technically a recipient doesn’t have to opt-in in order to be mailed to. They just need to be provided a method of opting-out. This is something a lot of people get wrong with the CAN-SPAM Act. That being said, mailing to recipients that haven’t opted-in is a horrible practice, and most email marketing platforms won’t even allow for it.

That being said, you still need to worry about Honeypot Emails. A honeypot trap is where an old email (think Gmail, Hotmail emails, ect) get used to identify spammers and those scraping the internet to compile email lists. Because this email address has been inactive for so long, nobody is going to be actively sending to that address.

Getting caught emailing to honeypot emails can ruin your sender reputation and deliverability with that particular email client. And that’s not good.

This is also a talking point for purging inactive emails within your list, but that’s a whole other topic.


You Don’t Know The List Quality

When purchasing an email marketing list, you don’t know the quality of the list. Sure, the list seller might provide you with metrics associated with the data, but even that might not be accurate. More-so, if you’re purchasing a list of recipients with certain demographics / psychographics, those are even more difficult to verify.

This is really important. If you’re buying a list of sports fans within a specific area, those people better be sports fans AND be located within a specific area, or they’re hitting the spam button for sure. Not only is that not effective marketing, but it’ll also hurt your email deliverability.


Purchased Data Could Destroy *ALL* Your Deliverability

This is really, really important. Not only is there a risk of bounces from the purchased data itself, but there’s the chance the brokered data could destroy the deliverability of your future campaigns. I mentioned honeypots earlier, and that’s the worst-case scenario.

Another more likely scenario is that there’s a bunch of bounces, and the recipients that do receive the emails don’t know your brand and hits the spam button. Bounces, spam complaints and other negative user-metrics are all criteria the email clients use when determining inbox vs spam box placement.

The horrible negative user-metrics that are almost guaranteed with purchased email lists will likely negatively impact the deliverability of all your future campaigns.


The Recipients Don’t Know Your Brand

This one is very important. You could have the highest quality marketing list ever. The demographics, psychographics could be perfect. You can have the best campaign and the best copy ever. You can do everything right, and most the time purchased data will still under-perform.

That is because the recipients are not familiar with your brand, products or services. They don’t know who you are, whether you’re even legitimate or whether you’re providing quality services. It’s the same reason cold calling isn’t as effective as following up with a nurtured lead.

If you do not have rapport with the recipients, your campaigns will under-perform. Even if some recipients in the list is familiar with your brand, they’ll still under-perform, as an opted-in list has indicated interest, to where purchased recipients haven’t.


Most Email Marketing Platforms Don’t Allow It

I mentioned this in the section about CAN-SPAM / Honeypots, but it’s worth making a section on it as well. Most email marketing platforms don’t allow for purchased mailing lists. You’re able to upload databases, but they always ask where the data was collected from.

Most ESPs also have quality guidelines. This is to ensure that their shared IPs maintain good deliverability. When an ESP sees a client with high bounce and spam rates, they’ll restrict or suspend that account. This is because those negative user-metrics are negatively impacting the deliverability of all the mailers on that particular IP address. An ESP is not going to destroy all their mailers deliverability due to the bad practices of a handful of mailers.


Doing It The Right Away: Buying Campaigns

If you’re looking to send an email announcement to a qualified email list that you don’t own, there is a right way to go about it. That’s partnering with another company to send to their list. Find companies, bloggers and other entities in the same industry vertical as you and ask how much it’d cost to send a message to their email list.

The reason this is effective, is because you know that the recipients are in the same vertical as you, and the marketer with the data has built up a rapport with their recipients. Them sharing this amazing new company or product also works as an endorsement from the company you’re purchasing the campaign from.

In order for this to work effectively, the marketer should be familiar with your brand and product, and it should be something they’d feel would be of value to their recipients. If your brand or products suck, the marketer could kill their rapport by sharing the faulty brand with their recipients. But we all know you make awesome products, so nothing to worry about, right?

Making friends with other marketers in your industry has tons of advantages. The opportunity to tap into their recipients is just one of them. So go out there and make some friends in your industry! And don’t purchase email mailing lists!