Why Purchasing an Email List Can Devastate Your Email Marketing

posted this in
Content Marketing
on December 10th, 2013

Building an email marketing list is hard. It takes time and it’s a lot of work. And if your email list is not growing as quickly as you want, it can be really discouraging.

So, many businesses take a shortcut and purchase email addresses to build their list more quickly. But this method also comes with consequences, a few of which are listed below.

It’s a violation of your email service provider’s terms of use

If you use an email service provider (ESP) like Mailchimp or Constant Contact and are using purchased lists, you’re violating their terms of use. Most ESPs clearly state that purchased lists (as well as some lists from 3rd-party vendors) cannot be used.

Why? Because if they allowed you to “spam” it could hurt the reputation of everyone who uses their service. So they must have very strict rules.

Think of it like this: your ESP (MailChimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, etc.) is like a delivery driver. If you paid this delivery driver to knock on people’s doors and deliver junk to them that they didn’t want, pretty soon people would start getting wise. Word would get around and they’d recognize this delivery driver and would stop answering the door when he came. Now, even if that delivery driver has something good that asked for, it won’t get delivered because no one trusts him.

This is what can happen if ESPs allowed you to use purchased lists. Email from these lists results in higher spam complaints and more unsubscribes which tells your customer’s email account that it’s junk. Now, your email could end up in the junk folder of even the customers who like you and signed up for your list!

Plus, if you’re not abiding by their terms of use, ESPs can block your account so you can’t send any more emails to ensure that their own reputations stay positive.

You’ll get higher spam abuse complaints

When a person doesn’t know why they’re receiving an email from your business, there’s a higher chance they’ll mark your email as spam.

The standard for an acceptable spam complaint rate for most ESPs per email campaign is 0.1%. That means if you purchase a 1,000-person list and receive just 1 complaint, you’ll most likely get a warning from your email marketing provider letting you know that you’ve been reported as having a high spam rate and to stop.

If you consistently get spam complaints, your account could either be temporarily blocked or your email provider may close it indefinitely. Your email deliverability could also drop drastically and your emails will start hitting spam boxes instead of regular inboxes.

Your response rate will be much lower

You may spend hundreds of dollars and hours of your time putting together a beautiful email campaign, but your response rate will be much lower than sending to a list that’s opted in to receive your emails.

Click-through rates are much lower for emails that are sent to purchased lists because it goes back to the person not knowing who you are or not really wanting what you’re offering them.

The damage to your reputation is irreversible

If you’re sending out unsolicited email to people, it can really damage your own reputation with them as a potential customer.

If they mark your email as spam or unsubscribe from your email list, there’s a good chance they’ll never consider buying from your company later because of their first experience with your company.

A few tips for building a healthy list

Sending email marketing to a list that has requested your marketing and is interested in receiving your emails is the only way to ensure you’re keeping your spam complaints low and your response rates high.

Here are a few tips for building a healthy list:

  • Add an opt-in form to your website.
  • Invite your social media followers to sign up for your email list.
  • If you attend an event or tradeshow, have a way for people to sign up for your list.
  • If you have the email address for customers who’ve recently made a purchase, send an email inviting them to join your newsletter. (And keep in mind that purchasing from you is not the same as giving you permission to send future email promotions.)

The bottom line:

Don’t add people to your email lists unless they’ve opted in to receive information from your company. And whatever you do, don’t purchase an email marketing list. Just don’t.