4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy an Email List and What You Can Do Instead

Amanda Knauer Written by: Amanda Knauer

Purchased email lists: what comes to mind when you hear that phrase?

Buying an email list to generate leads might seem quite harmless. As a marketer, you are driven to deliver measurable results at a low cost. Purchasing an email list might seem like a no brainer - it’s fast, easy and affordable; what could be the harm?Now, put your consumer hat on and imagine getting loads of unwanted and irrelevant emails, filling up your inbox and wasting your time. Annoying, right?

Most marketing agencies would warn against buying email lists. At Brandmuscle, we agree, and believe that the best list is the one that grows organically. Buying email lists may seem like a shortcut but there are some negative repercussions you need to consider.

Before you buy an email list, step back and ask yourself why you want to do it. To generate leads? To create brand awareness? We guarantee that there are far more effective tactics and ways you can accomplish the goal

Buying email lists could cause your company more harm than good. Here’s why:

Your reputation is everything

People on email lists probably don’t know you and most likely do not want to know you. People will begin marking your emails as spam, making email delivery harder, not to mention what being thought of as spam does to your brand credibility. 43 percent of email recipients click the spam button just after seeing who the email was from. Do you want consumers to associate your name with the spam button? Additionally, there are other marketers out there who have purchased the exact same list; the recipients receive so many unsolicited emails, they tend to tune them out. Think about the reputation of your business. Think about your consumer.

Lists aren’t always trustworthy

Most lists include email addresses that are pulled from public websites including addresses that are false, dead or out-of-use. In fact, email marketing databases degrade about 22 percent each year as people opt-out, meaning that your purchased list is getting smaller the second you buy it. To make matters worse, the people who do open and read your emails could be people completely irrelevant to your business. Pursuing the wrong people or having an enormous “target audience” is a waste of time when you could be reaching people who would impact your business.

You may get blacklisted

Reputable email service providers (ESP) like Constant Contact do not even allow their users to send to purchased email lists, or as they prefer to call it, spam. If too many of your emails are being sent to the junk or spam folder, the ESP will catch it, preventing the emails from reaching the receiver’s inbox. In fact, one out of six emails never reaches the inbox. And, Internet service providers (ISPs) are watching too. Sending unsolicited bulk email is against the Terms of Business of all ISPs worldwide. Beware: major ISPs like Verizon have the power to block all emails coming from your address, meaning a significant number of the emails you paid for won’t ever be received and even worse, deliverability to those loyal brand fans that opted-in to receive your email communications will be impacted too. Is it worth it?

You could end up facing legal issues

If you haven’t heard of the CAN-SPAM Act or Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), take a look now:

In short, the CAN-SPAM Act regulates email that could potentially be labeled as spam and gives the US Federal Trade Commission the right to enforce it. The act provides clear guidelines as to what passes as spam; however, it’s easy to overstep the boundaries, such as using deceptive subject lines or using content in the email with a commercial message. CAN-SPAM defines commercial messages “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. And overstepping will cost you a pretty penny -- up to $16,000 in fines for each email in violation of the law.

Under CASL there are three requirements to abide by before sending a commercial electronic message (CEM): consent, identification information and an unsubscribe mechanism. Violating CASL ends in a hefty bill as well; up to $1 million for an individual and up to $10 million for businesses.

What you should do instead of buying an email list

Although quick and easy, buying an email list is not the proper way to execute email marketing. Not only is it ethically and legally wrong, it also doesn’t do much from an ROI standpoint.  Using inbound marketing to build organic lists will always deliver better results, not to mention it is legal.

There are other ways to reach your target audience and build an opt-in email list organically. Need ideas? Here are a few:

  1. Share high quality content on your social media sites, blog and website behind a form that encourages sign-ups
  2. Offer current customers incentives to spread the word by including social media share buttons or ‘email to a friend’ button in your emails.
  3. Add a link on your social media sites for followers to easily access
  4. Offer creative opt-in incentives
  5. Create a very easy way to sign up for email updates on your website (ex: lightbox popup)
  6. Ask your customers to sign up for your email newsletter at the point-of-sale

Do you have any other ideas to reach your target audience? Comment below and let us know.

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