Has it ever happened to you that you wanted to get somewhere, you checked a map, saw a shortcut and took it thinking it was going to save you time, when in the end all it did was to leave you deluded? You thought it would get you to where you were going quicker, but in fact it took a lot more time than the main route would have taken. It is pretty common that shortcuts end up being rougher and more complicated, both literally and figuratively.
Email marketers who want a shortcut to a large customer database often use the promising shortcut of purchased email lists. It seems at first that it’s much easier and cheaper to just pay for a list of email addresses than taking the conventional route of opt-in acquiry. Theoretically, you simply purchase the list and start sending. In reality, taking this shortcut will not only prove highly inefficient, but it might as well lead to a dead end for your e-mail marketing journey. Keep reading to find out what we base our stance on. Why is it that we think it’s such a bad idea? There are many reasons, but for the sake of space, we’ll give you our top 5.
These email addresses are most of the time harvested from various websites, forums, etc. There’s absolutely no guarantee as to their validity. A lot of the data might be out of date, or simply incorrect. Then, take into account the fact that you’re not the only one sending to these email addresses. These people are getting emails from every other marketer that purchased this list. This means by the time you get to send them your campaign, they have already been spammed by companies, and one extra email from a company they never heard of is surely not going to stir their interest. This leads us to number two.
You’re lucky if your campaign does reach the inbox of the subscribers (see no. 3 below). But even if it does, the odds of having someone interact with your campaign are very low. The subscriber doesn’t know you and your company. They will most likely delete the email or worse, mark it as spam. But even if he goes as far as to open the email, there’s a big chance he won’t be interested in the content, since he never expressed interest in your product in the first place. The fact that many list vendors advertise that the lists are “opt-in” lists is completely irrelevant, because even if the subscribers did subscribe to a campaign, that was not your campaign that they subscribed to.
There’s a very low chance that your email will land in the inbox. There are multiple factors that can cause this. A purchased list will have a high bounce rate and you’ll have a high chance of hitting spam traps. When an invalid email address gets sent to a lot, the anti-spam organizations turn it into a spam trap. Once you send to it, they will identify all your campaigns as spam and they will land in the spam folder, even those sent to legitimate opt-in subscribers. Your deliverability rate will be sinking like a rock. Worst-case scenario, your IP will be blacklisted by the ISP and blocked from sending altogether.
Here are just two examples from popular ESPs. Aweber states in their Anti-Spam Policy that if you get caught sending to a purchased list, they will “immediately terminate your account”, but in some cases they also might “charge you money if your spamming causes any interruptions in [their] ability to service other customers”, and “pursue legal action against you”. Other ESPs are also dead serious about sending to purchased lists. MailChimp states in a knowledge base article that their “compliance team will suspend and investigate any account found sending unsolicited email.” The workaround that some use is send their email through less reputable ESPs, that allow purchased lists. These ESPs are already being watched by ISPs, due to their IPs lower reputation, so there’s a high chance the deliverability of your campaign will suffer greatly.
Unsolicited email is annoying. When someone receives an unsolicited email from you, they will feel like you’re barging into their personal virtual space without their permission, and overall your business will appear unprofessional, if not shady. There’s a very low chance that someone that receives an unsolicited email from you will actually buy something from you. Reputation in the Internet world is very important. People might google your business and find complaints about your spamming among the results. Good luck removing that stain off your record.
These are our top 5 reasons why using a purchased email list is never a good idea. So if you were thinking to purchase an email list, don't! Taking the time to build a list of subscribers who want to receive emails from you will always be the better choice. The time and effort you put in will have a better return, producing a list of subscribers that are engaged and excited to receive your content.
For further reading, check out
Do I Have Permission to Email You?
Image Credit: Yuya Sekiguchi
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