Why we don't buy email lists

You’re fired up to start sending exceptional email marketing campaigns, but you’ve got a really small email subscriber list. No problem, you’ll just buy one right? Wrong. Something that comes up a lot through our interactions with new clients is whether or not we offer email subscriber list selling services. We don’t and we don’t ever recommend that our clients buy subscribers lists. You may be thinking to yourself, well that doesn’t seem smart, wouldn’t you want to encourage clients to have big databases of subscribers to send to? Well, yes, we’d like all our clients to achieve growth and get a great return on their investment, but in the right way to set them up for continued success.

We’re always looking to help you grow and succeed, but we want to give you the best guidance and support and that’s why we don’t recommend buying email subscriber lists.

First let’s clarify our position on what we consider “bought lists”:

  1. Buying a list from an email list provider. Usually the offer is punted as a highly targeted list where you can pick and choose from certain demographics to get a segmented list that suits your needs.
  2. Renting a list (yes, this is a real service that some companies provide). Usually this means working with a company to send your email campaigns where you never own or even see the email addresses you are sending to.
  3. Getting an opt-in list for “free” from someone. This type of list is one where the list owner legitimately got subscribers to opt-in to their subscription list. This is all good and well, BUT doesn’t mean the subscriber chose to opt-in to receive communication from YOUR business.

Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s delve into why buying lists are never a good idea.

It’s illegal to send to these lists:

If you're bound by the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (or GDPR) as set out by the EU, buying lists goes against the act. Therefore you’d be in breach of the requirements set out to comply. Buying a list would also be in contravention of the CAN SPAM act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003) which came into effect in 2003.

Not complying with these acts could lead to hefty fines and frankly can cause immeasurable brand reputation damage.

Poor email performance

Sending to a bought list can lead to really bad email performance. Firstly, you’ll find that your unsubscribe figures will be sky high. The reason being that people did not consent to receive emails from you in the first place and therefore don’t want to be on your list. While you might believe the additional exposure is worth the unsubscribes, you could lose a customer for life that would otherwise have been interested in your service. You could be buying a list that contains a lot of bad domains or outdated email addresses, meaning you would see a lot of bounces when sending out your campaign. Sending emails to “cold-subscribers” (subscribers who have never heard from you before) would also lead to low click-through rates.

Spam central (spam complaints)

We hate spam, it causes a lot of headaches in our world, but if you’re buying a list you’ll be damaging your sender reputation. Sender reputation is really important as it can affect whether your email lands in someone’s inbox or in their Spam folder. Landing in spam folders is where email campaigns go to die as people are less likely to check their spam folders daily. A drop in engagement sends bad signals to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo, which doesn’t help you get straight into your subscriber’s inbox.

We don’t allow people to send with us from bought lists:

Why? Well it negatively affects our sender reputation and therefore can have negative effects on our other clients. When you sign up with Mail Blaze, there is a formal review process where we verify your account. If found to have bought a list, we will also suspend accounts and revoke your access to the platform for violating our terms.

List quality - you don’t always get what you pay for

If you’re buying an email list there are no guarantees you’ll get what you paid for.

  • You don’t know how old the list is and how long ago the subscribers were obtained
  • You may be paying for outdated domain names and email addresses
  • You could be paying for subscribers that aren’t within your target market
  • The list you are buying could have been obtained illegally, which means you’re opening yourself up to undue risk
  • You will be wasting your hard-earned money that could be better spent elsewhere to further your growth.

Brand reputation

Do you like receiving emails from companies you’ve never interacted with? How does your view of the company change when this happens? If you don’t like receiving unsolicited emails, you shouldn’t be sending these out yourself. Your brand image can be badly damaged by sending email campaigns to subscribers who never made the choice to receive communication from you. The repercussions can be far reaching as word of these activities can spread far and wide.

So, I shouldn’t buy a list - what should I do?

Accept that organic growth for your list is part of the thrill of email marketing. That list building is a journey - not a sprint. Start building a list by employing some tactics that are centred around building an engaged audience. It’s easier than you think.

If you’d like to learn where to start, read more about Tactics you can use to build your email marketing list on our page.


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