As originally published on Forbes.com.
With almost 4 billion email users across the world, email marketing is a tried and true way to reach your current customers, regardless of whether your company is B2C or B2B. But what about finding new customers? Many marketers turn to paying for lists of names and email addresses collected by third-party companies that use what many would call questionable methods. Emails may be obtained by these companies through things like those fun “quizzes” we take on Facebook, ads that we find interesting enough to click and that ask for an email address, online and in-person surveys, trade show or festival attendee lists and even email harvesting where bots crawl various websites collecting users’ email addresses. Once collected, these third-party companies sell the lists to marketers.
It’s very likely that none of the people on these email lists willingly provided their information to be bought and sold by the likes of marketers. Think about the last time you received an email that you did not sign up for and your reaction when it popped into your inbox. It probably wasn’t a happy reaction, and at minimum, you were probably annoyed. Trying to reach new customers by annoying them is not the best way to grow sales, and that is only one of the reasons why you may not want to buy an email list.
Here are some others:
- It’s probably prohibited by your email marketing service provider.
Most reputable email marketing service providers expressly prohibit the use of purchased email lists. Check your provider’s terms of service before spending any money on an email list.
- It can hurt your email deliverability score.
One of the reasons why many email marketing service providers do not permit users to import and send emails through purchased lists is a reason why you should not either: When your email is marked as spam, it denigrates your overall email reputation, meaning it is less likely that future emails will land solidly in the inboxes of people who opted in to receive your emails. Instead, it may go to their spam or junk folders. This is your email deliverability score, or how likely it is your email will make it into the inboxes of your intended recipients instead of their junk or spam folders. The scores are assigned based on the successful delivery of previous emails and take into consideration emails being marked as spam, rejected email addresses, etc.
These lists also often contain outdated and inaccurate information, including email addresses that are no longer in use or that do not exist. This may not only affect your open rate and the overall quality score of your email, but your bounce rate as well. Your bounce rate is determined by the number of emails that are returned to the sender because an address is no longer valid. A high bounce rate can affect future emails and is one of the metrics factored into the score as mentioned above (rejected email addresses).
You may spend a lot of money to buy an email list that ends up damaging your chances of any future emails getting in front of paying and loyal customers just to try to get in front of new ones. If your email marketing service provider has many clients doing the same thing, they too can be marked as sending out poor quality or spam emails, causing damage to all of their customer’s efforts, even the ones that are not using purchased email lists.
- It may violate the CAN-SPAM Act.
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 provides protection for email users and guidelines for email marketers in the United States and covers quite a bit of ground. While the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t prohibit buying email lists, it places strict regulations on unsolicited emails. Violations could cost you fines of more than $43,000 per offense.
I also recommend never buying an email list because many times those lists may contain spam trap email addresses. These are emails that are used specifically to catch people who are not applying the best methods of email marketing, such as utilizing purchased email lists. When you send an email to them, it tells blacklist providers to block emails coming from that sender.
What To Do Instead
So, what can you do to grow your email list the right way? Start with your website. Have an easy-to-find and simple-to-fill-out form for people to opt into your mailing list. You can even put a link in your email signature to that form. Ask users to sign up on that same form via your social media posts.
Send quality, engaging emails that people look forward to receiving, and be sure to add a “share” or “forward” button or link to your email so that recipients can easily send it to friends and family.
Just remember that building a quality email list can take time, especially if you are starting from scratch. But as with most things in life, it is quality over quantity. People who opt in to receiving your emails want to hear more from you have a sense of brand loyalty, and they either are current customers or will be customers in the future. Don’t throw away your hard-earned connections by buying an email list and potentially damaging a great line of marketing communication.