Email marketing is essential to a successful online marketing strategy. In fact, email marketing has an ROI of over 4300%. Unfortunately, it’s easy for new marketers to make a deadly mistake that can crush their email marketing program and company reputation: Purchasing or renting an email list.
So you are new to email marketing and have a product or service that you know people will love… If only they had some way to hear about it. You’ve heard rumors about list-building over the years so you hit Google and search for “purchase email list”. Lucky for you, there are a few exciting sponsored searches:
Goldmine! All you have to do now is swipe your credit card and you’ll have a list of “verified” and “opt-in” email addresses from “trusted” vendors. Right?
The “quick fix” of list purchasing is attractive for a new marketer but ugly for those with experience. List purchasing comes with dangerously harmful and long-lasting consequences. Before we dive into reasons why you should never buy or rent email lists, let’s get a better understanding of the three main email list acquisition options.
Email List Acquisition Options
Purchase an email list. There are hundreds of websites and companies that sell email lists. These lists generally include names, email addresses, and other personal information and are often categorized by demographic.
Rent an email list. Renting an email list is a way of “borrowing” an email list from a list provider or partner company. You send an email through a provider to a “targeted” list of email addresses that you will never see.
Build your email list organically. This is the only way to develop a healthy email marketing program. First, you must sign up with an email service provider like ExpressPigeon and then you can generate an opt-in list. An opt-in list grows as people willingly sign up to receive your emails.
I know what you’re thinking… Why don’t I just buy an “opt-in” list rather than build one myself? It’s simple: Sending spam is illegal and punishable with fines up to $16,000 per email. Still want to beat the system?
Let’s take a look at 11 reasons you should never purchase an email list…
Reason #1: For-sale lists are built through questionable collection methods.
Think about it. Reputable companies would never sell their email lists. So where do vendors acquire email addresses to generate for-sale lists?
One such method is banner ad deceit. If you’ve ever been prompted to “Win an iPad” or “Claim Your Free Vacation”, you’ve witnessed this firsthand. People who click these ads must answer a series of questions and provide detailed personal information for a “chance to win”. Unfortunately, there is usually no actual chance to win, and people who submit their information often end up on “targeted” email lists. Not exactly your ideal targets.
Another popular email address collection method is called email harvesting, where email list vendors deploy bots to crawl selected websites, social networks, and forums and store collected email addresses in a database. This database becomes, lucky for you, an email list that you can purchase. Sounds like a great list of people to email, eh?
Let’s not forget about industry events. Ever signed up for a chance to win a car or checked off a few random boxes during registration? You are truly the lucky winner! Your email address just made it onto an email list that vendors buy from industry events and sell back to email marketing newbies later on. Those little checkboxes can be so deceiving… And this trickery is amplified digitally.
List vendors collect emails through online service signups, masking them in the little checkboxes that we just mentioned but continuously forget to uncheck. Once you’ve checked a box for “updates from SHADY COMPANY and our partners”, you made it onto an email list for rent! List building vendors market these lists as “rentals”, where you pay to reach an “opt-in” list. Unfortunately, the people on the list didn’t opt-in for emails from you.
Reason #2: Purchased email lists are deceitfully advertised.
Email list vendors have mastered the game of luring in new email marketers. They are experts at making you feel like you just found the “secret” to instant email marketing success. Unfortunately, their expertise is misleading for you and doesn’t cover the negative consequences of sending emails to a purchased list. While buzzwords like “opt-in”, “targeted”, and “clean” may make you feel warm and cozy, these descriptors couldn’t be further from the truth.
Purchased email lists are never opt-in (did people really sign up for email updates from anyone that buys the list?) and they certainly are not targeted with any accuracy. The fact that vendors even mention the idea of “clean” is a giveaway to the fact that purchasing lists is a dirty game. The only way to build an opt-in, targeted, clean email list is to do it yourself.
Reason #3: Renting an email list is as shady as it sounds.
While there are a lot of companies using email to promote their partners ethically and responsibly, there are also a lot of companies renting their email lists to third parties. How do rental lists work? Companies sell the opportunity to send an email to their email list. Sounds shady, right? That’s because it is. If someone opts-in for an email from one company, do you really think they are consciously opting in to receive emails from some other company? No chance.
Reason #4: An email list has no value in itself.
Unless you’re merging email lists with a partner or acquiring a new company (send a reengagement opt-in campaign), buying a valuable email list is impossible. A good email list is so freaking valuable that nobody in their right mind would sell it and jeopardize destroying those hard-earned relationships. Think about it. An email list is only as valuable as the attention of the people on it and the relationship you have with those people.
Reason #5: People on purchased lists don’t know you.
The email addresses on a purchased list are connected to real people who are not expecting any communication from you and have no idea who you are. Even if your list is full of real people, imagine how annoyed they will be when they receive your email completely out of the blue. Not exactly a warm introduction to your company…
Reason #6: Sending emails to purchased lists will crush your Sender Score.
A Sender Score is your IP address reputation indicator. Every IP address, or email source, receives a numerical rating Sender Score on a scale of 0-100. This number, determined by a complex algorithm, is based on a variety of inputs including deliverability & spam reports.
Purchased lists are usually very high in bounce rate & spam reports and can crush your Sender Score. Not only will a lower Sender Score limit your ability to get emails into your recipients’ inboxes, it will also prevent you from working with a reputable ESP.
Reason #7: Any reputable ESP will kick you to the curb.
If you use reputable email marketing software or plan to eventually, you cannot use purchased email lists. Here at ExpressPigeon, we do not allow customers to use purchased, rented, or third party lists of any kind. We have no problem saying goodbye to paying customers that abuse our Terms of Service.
In fact, our fine to spammers is $1,000 or 60x a monthly plan, whichever is greater. We have had instances of fining people and they have fought with us through credit card charge-back system… They lost. And don’t forget that every individual you email has the right to sue you for $16,000.
So you still want to find an ESP that sends emails to purchased lists?
If you do find a shady ESP willing to send spam, you will experience low deliverability rates. There’s a reason why good ESPs won’t send to purchased lists. Maintaining our integrity allows us to stay off blacklists and keeps our IP reputation solid. Any ESP that allows spammers to send cannot possibly maintain a solid deliverability rate.
Reason #8: Purchased lists often contain spam traps.
Big ISPs recycle email addresses as spam traps, which wind up on purchased lists. The idea is that a dormant email address cannot possibly opt-in for emails so a sender to a spam trap address is sending spam. Many purchased lists contain spam traps, and once you send to them, goodbye. Your ISP may fine you and will likely kick you to the curb and you will completely trash your IP address. You will also wind up on email blacklists, or lists of spammers, all over the web.
Reason #9: Emails to purchased lists rarely make to the inbox.
Even if you’re not on a blacklist (yet), emails to purchased lists have low deliverability rates. Why? Big ISPs like Gmail and Yahoo are getting more and more advanced at tracking behavior of specific IPs and blocking unsolicited email. They block the obvious (penis enlargement emails) and have a few tricks to determine if your email is spam:
- How much time does recipient spend viewing email?
- Do they scroll down?
- Do they enable images?
- Other sneaky things.
Once your purchased list emails are marked as spam, don’t expect future emails to make it into an inbox. ISPs will flag you as a spammer, may fine you, and can block you from ever sending again.
Reason #10: You will create a negative conversation about your brand.
Even if you get a miracle list and your emails get delivered, think about the possible negative response from your recipients. Purchased lists are filled with people you don’t know. When they receive an email from your company out of the blue, what do you expect their reaction will be? Social media makes it easier than ever for people to bad mouth your brand. If you think recipients of your cold email will mark as spam or delete silently, think again.
Reason #11: Your company reputation will be crushed.
Think you had a successful run sending to purchased lists? I have bad news for you. Short-term results are possible but the long-term consequences will haunt you. Once your Sender Score nosedives and you find yourself on blacklists, it can take years before you can earn back a good reputation.
It’s clear to see that purchasing email lists is a bad deal. If those eleven reasons weren’t enough for you, let me remind you…. Cold calling and cold emailing is just plain obnoxious.
To sum it up, purchasing email lists is a bad practice. Don’t get stuck in the past and kill your company’s future. So… How can you build an email list the right way?
Build An Opt-In Email List
There are a few steps to follow to build your opt-in list:
- Sign up with an email service provider. Often referred to as an ESP, email service providers like ExpressPigeon make it easy for you to design, send, and track emails to your opt-in list.
- Create an opt-in list. Using ExpressPigeon, you can easily create a new email list and call it whatever you want. This is the database where emails are collected when new people sign up for your email subscription.
- Create an email subscription form. This process takes minutes on ExpressPigeon, and makes it possible for people to sign up for your emails.
- Add signup forms to your website and social media pages. Adding signup forms to your website is easy with ExpressPigeon, especially for WordPress users. We also offer a way to add a signup form to your Facebook page. These forms are entry points for interested blog readers or Facebook fans to sign up to receive your future email communications.
- Let customers know. Reach out to your existing customers and offer them an opportunity to opt-in to receive emails from you in the future. It’s important to explain what value you will add and why they should sign up. Think about offering existing customers a special deal for joining.
Building an email list of engaged subscribers takes time and work but with an ROI of over 4300%, it’s totally worth it. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to grow your list, stay tuned for a mammoth post on growing your list. Happy marketing!
Paul Jorgensen is a Pigeon Master at ExpressPigeon, the easiest way to send professional email. He is an artist, entrepreneur, and good friend to many. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.