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Why purchasing email lists is a bad idea

Posted by Sheera Eby on August 28, 2014

Successful email marketing is a goal for many companies. It is easy to see why email marketing is ramping up, with over 70% of mobile purchasing decisions being influenced by promotional emails.1 In order to achieve successful email marketing, it is necessary to have an email list
with a large number of prospective customers in the right target market. However, according to HubSpot, only 27% of marketers bought an email list this year.2

Although it might be tempting to buy a ready-made list of email addresses, purchasing email lists is generally a bad idea. The following is a list of potential problems that can be caused by purchasing email lists.


Questionable effectiveness
Of the marketers who bought an email list in 2013, just 9% said it was very effective.3 When companies collect their own email addresses for promotional usage, they have a valuable resource. In our experience, purchased email lists almost always underperform versus house-developed lists. Weak results are likely due to the fact that recipients don’t perceive themselves as having a relationship with the list sender.



Who was permission granted to in the user’s mind?
Permission is the key buzzword in successful email marketing. Getting permission to send an email removes the negativity of receiving unwanted information. The email is more likely to be opened and less likely to be considered spam. By purchasing email lists, companies bypass the necessity of asking for permission.


While the people on the list may have given permission to a company at one time to send them information, they simply may not have realized they were granting permission to any company who could purchase the email list. Even if list resellers have compiled their list through legal, permission-based means, email recipients don't perceive companies that purchase emails as having a legitimate relationship with them.


The reality is that while marketers tend to believe providing their email address is an acknowledgement by recipients that they want a relationship with the company, recipients don’t always read the fine print. Even if terms and conditions state that a list can be sold, the recipients are quick to dismiss and potentially ignore a “friendly from” that they don’t recognize.



List quality
When building a list of prospects and customers for a company, one must be patient. It takes time, sometimes even years, to build a quality list. Does it seem likely then that it would be easy to buy a high-quality list?


The majority of email lists for sale are compiled from public records, self-reported information or similar sources that may or may not have complete relevance to a list buyer. Additionally, the purchased email list may contain non-existent or email addresses that are no longer used. This can often limit the productivity of this type of list.


Purchasing email lists can damage a company's reputation through spam reports and blacklisting. The owner of a purchased email list controls the usage of the list, but may have only asked permission for additional usage when the user initially signed up or started receiving emails. Furthermore, large purchased email lists are often a red flag to email or Internet service providers when a large email deployment is sent. Unfortunately, this makes purchased email lists particularly susceptible to blacklisting. Email lists with 10% or more unknown users get only 44% of their email delivered by Internet service providers.4



Best practices for compiling an email list
Collecting email addresses for a successful email marketing campaign takes effort, creativity and time. The best avenue for this task is inbound and content marketing.


The key is providing an incentive for people to provide data that can be used as an email list. This incentive should be followed up with emails that people want to receive. The incentive is in essence a preview of the valuable content that they will receive on an ongoing basis. Content was noted as even more effective for B2B and B2C marketers, 43% of which ranked white papers or premium content as the most effective tactic to build their lists.5 Ultimately, the goal is to build a responsive list of email recipients who are truly interested in receiving information.


Email marketing facts can help marketers determine where there might be gaps in their campaign development. Marketers need to continue to optimize their email marketing efforts if they are to achieve email marketing success. Do you believe your email marketing efforts are optimized to their potential? Sign up for J&C’s email marketing assessment and determine how to leverage practical applications to ensure the success of your communications.


Topics: Email Marketing

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