The Real Price of Purchased Email Lists

Written by | Email Marketing

Email marketing is a hugely popular and successful way for integrated marketers to reach prospects. But if you don’t have enough prospects of your own, should you consider renting or buying a third-party list? While it has its attractive qualities—instantly grow your list, make sure your list is more refined and targeted—there are also a number of drawbacks to consider, from damaging your reputation or ending up on blacklists, to even being able to use the list you just shelled out all that money to get!

You May be Unknown to Recipients
Put yourself in your customer’s place: would you like to receive emails from an organization you don’t know or do business with? Will you read their unsolicited messages? Because you don’t know the origins of the list, you don’t know if these prospects are interested in your products or services. And because you know nothing about them, you cannot properly target them, which could create a negative impression of your business—or worse, they could blacklist you (see below).

Third-Party Lists May Not Be Clean
Purchased lists are more likely to include out-of-date or bad data. The list could have been scraped off of the web by computer programs, rather than collected through opt-ins by the list company. The addresses could represent users who have no interest in your services at all. Unfortunately, many list providers do not practice good list hygiene. Smart integrated marketers will regularly scrub their in-house data to keep lists clean, removing unresponsive or outdated contacts.

Blacklisting (With a Side of CAN-SPAM Violations)
If your company or IP is unknown to subscribers, they may report you to their email service provider (ESP) as a potentially malicious sender and voila: you are blacklisted. This will affect your ability to send to some ESPs, affecting your email deliverability rate. Consider, too, that ESPs may use email addresses on these lists as spam traps or honeypots to catch potential spammers. This can lead to further headaches if you are found in violation of CAN-SPAM laws. You could be held responsible for a hefty fine of up to $16,000 per email address!

Third-Party No-Nos
In order to enforce anti-spam laws, third-party mailing platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact will not allow the use of rented/purchased lists. These companies require you to upload opt-in, permission-based lists only. Like ESPs, these platforms heavily monitor their own activity in order to maintain their reputations. If your organization stands out as problematic, they will not hesitate to bar you from their systems.

Make Your Own
With all of the potential pitfalls of renting/buying a list, it’s clear that there are distinct advantages to growing your own. While it may take some time, integrated marketers with a good list building strategy will be better able to control the growth, the audience, the list hygiene, and how the list is used, ultimately paying off in a high-performing list of users eager to read what you have to share with them.

Last modified: November 29, 2017

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