Why Not Use Purchased Lists?

September 23, 2023 by Gerald Marshall


9 Reasons to Avoid Purchased Email Lists Like the Plague

If you want a surefire way to undo all of the hard work you’ve put into building a solid sender reputation, if you want to smear that reputation and get labeled a spammer, if you want to annoy thousands of people with a simple click of the mouse and do irreparable damage to your brand, then by all means, buy an email list!

Think a purchased list isn’t such a bad thing? I mean, heck, if purchased lists were so bad, you wouldn’t be able to buy them, right? Riiiiiight….

Wrong! Just because you can buy a list does not mean you should. And just because you can buy a list does not mean you’re not going to pay a price for doing so should you choose to email to it—not a one-time price, mind you, but a price you’ll have to pay over and over and over again.

Still not convinced? OK then, let’s delve into nine reasons why you should never, ever buy an email list…

Reason 1: Lack of quality
Hey, you get what you pay for, and even if you pay a lot for that list, you bought a list. You didn’t put any effort into getting those email addresses. You took the easy way out. And you get crap as a result. These lists are built using nefarious practices. No one willingly said, “Yes, please put my email address on that list that you’re going to sell over and over again to companies I don’t want to hear from.” Ever.

Reason 2: It’s illegal
Yes, if you’re emailing anyone in Canada whose name is on that list, you’re breaking the law according to Canada’s Anti Spam Law (CASL).

Reason 3: You’re violating ESP policies
If you send to a purchased list, you’re probably violating polices you agreed to when you signed up with your current email service provider (ESP). They don’t want you sending to a purchased list because you’re going to hurt their deliverability and that of their other clients if you do so. And besides: You said you wouldn’t, remember?

Reason 4: It’s soooooo bad for your brand!
Chances are, your send to a bought list is going to lead to a lot of bounces, both hard and soft. So a lot of those poor people won’t even see your emails in their inbox. However, those that do will have nothing but ill will for your brand. I don’t care what you’re selling: Show up uninvited in the inbox, and you’re getting that relationship off to a very bad start—if any start at all.

Reason 5: It’s bad for your deliverability and sender reputation
Do you know how you damage your deliverability? You send to people who unsubscribe or report you as spam. You send to email addresses that are no longer valid. You send to spam traps. Basically you put out a brightly lit neon sign that tells the ISPs that you’re a bad guy and not to be trusted. And trust you they won’t. You send to a bunch of people who don’t know you, bad email addresses and spam traps, and the ISPs will flag your emails and stop letting them through—even to your own subscribers. Good-bye, deliverability that you worked so hard for! Good riddance, sender reputation! Hello, trouble and tribulation.

Reason 6: Seriously, it’s not going to do you any good, at all
Why are you tempted to buy a list to begin with? To increase your sales and revenue? Well, that’s probably not going to happen. Think about it as a consumer for a minute: All of a sudden, you start getting emails you didn’t sign up for from a brand you don’t recognize and these emails are trying to sell you stuff. Are you going to be open to these sales emails or annoyed by them? Right. And even if you do get a few buyers out of your bogus efforts, they won’t be quality ones. A purchased email list does not a loyal customer base make!

Reason 7: Consider the company you’ll keep
So you want to join the ranks of the sleazy and underhanded email marketers? Because guess what, you just did. You didn’t think you’d be the only one buying that list, did you? No, that wouldn’t make any kind of economic sense for the one selling the list. That person or business is going to sell and resell and resell that list as many times as possible to make the most money possible. Hmmmm… kind of sounds like the mindset of the person buying the list, doesn’t it? Then you’re also lumping yourself in with all of the other marketers who bought that list. Yes, those people. Congrats. Now you’re one of them.

Reason 8: You’ll be a spammer
You kind of saw that coming with reason #7, right? You don’t get to buy an email list and then sleep well at night. The only kind of legitimate email list is one you build yourself, carefully and conscientiously, with quality top of mind and quantity merely an incidental bonus. Anything else is beneath you as a marketer. Anything even remotely related to buying a list is spamming. Period.

Reason 9: It’s just plain lazy and bad form
Why do marketers buy email lists anyway? I mean, really, why? I can’t understand that mindset. We know, all of us, what best practices are. We have all kinds of articles and blog posts telling us how to build a quality list. We know that a quality email list will outperform a purchased one—or a low quality one built for quantity only. Yet still, there is that temptation for a quick fix…I guess. But the reality is, buying an email list to market to is just plain lazy and bad form.

Buying an email list is never, ever a good idea, under any circumstances. You’ll set your email marketing program back years if you send to a purchased list—all for a quick fix and bunch of sales that probably won’t happen anyway.

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