Buying email lists | Cheaper than email list rental?

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Why rent when you can buy outright? If you can purchase the perpetual ongoing rights to something entirely isn’t that better than a rental agreement? Surely a one-off investment has to be preferable to ongoing weekly or monthly payments? Isn’t renting always more expensive than outright purchase?

In most cases the answer to these questions would be a resounding ‘Yes’. But there is one example in particular where not only is outright purchase a terrible idea, it will undoubtedly ensure the total cost of ownership far outweighs your initial investment, making it an extremely poor choice indeed. There is one area where making a purchase will cause damage to reputation on many levels and create barriers with future business prospects.

I am of course talking about email list purchases; you should never buy an email list and think it was a wise choice.

Whatever you do, never, ever, purchase email lists.


There is a way to prospect for new business by email if that is what you want to do, but you do not want to buy an email list. It may seem a good idea at the time to purchase an email list. The nice salesman told you the list was targeted to your industry and location, they were opt-in and fully can-spam compliant, they might even give you their opt-in IP Address (this and other scams of the List Sellers uncovered in an article coming soon). You like the thought of having full control of that list instead of paying someone every time you needed to email their subscribers?

But guess what…any list you buy will be worthless and will result in numerous spam complaints that will point right back to you.  Before you think oh its just a few spam complaints, that will not really impact my business.

Lose your domain name for spamming

I have come across many business that have been booted off ISP’s for spamming, if your not organized you can lose allot of data (like your website), I have seen internet connections terminated and have even seen business lose their domain names with the registrar delisting a domain as a result of spam complaints. All this because of the use of cheap purchased email lists.

Think rationally for a second. Why would anyone willingly sell their entire list unless it was garbage? Anybody with a shred of business sense would appreciate that it is far more profitable to rent a list than sell it. If you have a mailing list of subscribers happy to receive third party offers, and actually opened those emails that you sent and responded to them, what on earth would posses you to part with that list?

Why would you trust some third party with all those email address when they might abuse them. Better let them come to you and after you vet the message to ensure it won’t annoy your subscribers and cause them to unsubscribe in droves or offend them so much they decide to mark it as spam. By renting your list you can ensure its not mail-bombed with countless garbage offers, causing what is known in the industry as ‘list fatigue’.

List purchase is a total scam and a quick way to make fast money for unscrupulous raconteurs.

There you go I said it!

Here are just a few of the many problems concerning an email list purchase:

Aged Lists – Lists are usually very old and pretty much useless

Irrelevant Email Addresses – It is likely that the list seller is offering a huge list for an inflated price. In order to populate this list there is a big chance that the seller has harvested these email addresses from other websites, without their permission. Moral repugnance aside, these addresses are likely to be from random sites that will have no interest whatsoever in what you have to offer. Email marketing only works if the recipients are targeted and relevant.

Deliverability – The list seller may claim that their list is populated with only the best ‘opt-in’ email addresses. They are lying through their teeth. If a subscriber opted in, it was to receive information from the original source and not from you. Just because they opted in once does not make this a generic green flag on their part for everyone to send them emails. Most people will add the initial sender to their trusted list but your email will be delivered to a junk folder, bounced, or rejected completely. If you continuously bombard non-compliant email addresses it will result in spam complaints and a potential blacklisting from your MSP (Mail Service Provider) or ISP (Internet Service Provider). Email list purchases are renowned for atrocious delivery ratios.

Saturation – So you bought a list and are now the proud owner of 10,000 new email addresses. Good for you. Are you aware that the list seller also sold that very same list to another 1000 people, a few of whom have sold it to 1000 more and so on? If you were the sole owner of the list you may have got away with sending the occasional unsolicited email to list members (yes, that is spam and it is what you would be doing if you do not have their permission to use their email address).  But the fact that they have suddenly started receiving masses of unwanted mail from everyone else, who bought the very same list, will be starting to annoy them ever so slightly. There is a high chance that they will soon have had enough and will marking these emails as spam. Your messages could be among these. Guess what? You now face yet another spam complaint from your MSP and ISP.

Spamtraps – There are companies that specialise in tracing unsolicited email and tracking spammers. One method of achieving this is to use cleverly located email addresses that are never visible to the human eye, but are often collected by email harvesters and scrapers. The majority of these email traps end up on the email lists available to purchase. The lists sellers may not be aware, they may not care, or they may just be malicious profiteers that enjoy ripping people off and selling infected merchandise (they probably write computer viruses in their spare time too). If you purchase a list there is every chance it will contain spamtraps.

ISP Spamtraps
The big ISP’s like Yahoo. Hotmail and others turn old unused email address into spamtraps. How long do you think that list has been touted for? They claim it was cleaned 6 month’s ago. The process used was probably second rate at best, you need to actually email the address to know if they work. Even if they did test ok 6 months ago they could be a spamtrap now. When you dont check your account for a eriod of time Y! will disable your account. At that point they will tell anyone sending email that the address does not exist anymore. You get a few chances and if you dont get the message your reputation will suffer. If you don’t try and email for months there is a likelihood that when you do send an email it will be marked as a spamtrap.

Your brand new mailing list is actually quite old, maybe years old. This means it will contain spamtraps, whatever the slick salesman tries to tell you.

More List Purchase Issues

These are just a few of the negative issues concerning an email list purchase. If you were to perform a search engine query for ‘list purchase problems’ you would continuously see the same being words mentioned in the search results:

  • Spam complaints
  • Spamhaus Listing
  • Blacklisted
  • Spamcop Listing
  • ISP or MSP ban
  • Spamtraps
  • Bounce
  • Poor deliverability
  • Unsolicited
  • Irrelevant and untargeted
  • And so forth…

Purchasing an email list will damage business reputation. That is a fact. If someone receives unsolicited email from your business they will remember this. Every time they see your business name they will associate it with spam and backhanded marketing practices.

There are no legitimate email lists to purchase. Nobody is stupid enough to sell their best asset when they could make a regular profit from rental. If an email list is reputable it will be only available for rental. Purchased list are a great way to pay money for receiving complaints. Hopefully you get the drift by now. List purchasing is bad. Don’t do it!

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emailexpert is published by Andrew Bonar, the founder of the company Deliverability which is incorporated in Australia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Deliverability has included Dotmailer, GetResponse, outreach.io, SendLane and other ESPs as clients. Having launched his first website in 1990, he went on to become the co-founder of @POBox UK in 1993, a free email address provider, possibly the first in the world. Thereafter launching Cheapnet which became the longest running privately owned ISP in Europe before launching the first privately owned online payment gateway in the UK: Ebanx. Andrew has consulted to some of the worlds biggest senders including Amazon, Mondelez and Nestle. 2012 in his role as Global Deliverability Director at Emailvision was the first time he oversaw the delivery of more than 100 Biillion messages in a single year. Since that time he has provisioned consultancy or performed leadership roles at some of Australia's most successful tech companies. Including Campaign Monitor, Freelancer.com and Kogan. With 21+ years of industry experience, Andrew is widely recognised as a leader in the field of message sending, deliverability and compliance. He currently resides in the Harbour City of Sydney and continues to serve as an independent consultant at organisations throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and the US.

11 COMMENTS

  1. i want to buy email addresses, i want to know the quantity and their cost also the mode of payment.

    Patrick

  2. Precious Content! I had been simply thinkin that there’s a good way to buy lists, your info on this subject basically switched my personal opinion on the matter. Thank you a beautiful publish.

  3. “List purchase is a total scam and a quick way to make fast money for unscrupulous raconteurs.”

    Thanks for that. I sell UK B2B Lists. ;)

    I’d appreciate when people write blogs such as these, that they realise that Linkedin.com & the World Wide Web is actually accessed and read all over the world (clues in the name) . So, please in future be a bit more specific when making such comments, as you have just branded hundreds of LEGITIMATE companies across the UK as “unscrupulous raconteurs”.

    “Purchasing an email list will damage business reputation. That is a fact. If someone receives unsolicited email from your business they will remember this. Every time they see your business name they will associate it with spam and backhanded marketing practices.

    There are no legitimate email lists to purchase. Nobody is stupid enough to sell their best asset when they could make a regular profit from rental. If an email list is reputable it will be only available for rental. Purchased list are a great way to pay money for receiving complaints. Hopefully you get the drift by now. List purchasing is bad. Don’t do it!”

    Try adding “Consumer / B2C”, “In the US”, “unlike the UK B2B market”, and “UK B2B is opt-out, not opt-in” into your blog.

    Thanks,

    Darrell
    Unscrupulous Raconteur (apparently)
    ecoAgency Ltd (Member of the DMA)

    • This sparked a long debate on LinkedIn. Whilst it is legal it will damage your reputation b2b or not.

      I offered a right of reply, the offer was never taken up. I consider the discussion closed.

  4. They say that we learn at least one new thing every day. Thanks for teaching me something on this topic today. I found your post to be very interesting.

  5. Excellent post and article. I have the very same conversation with companies on a daily basis. Look forward to reading further posts.
    If you acquire a list on outright purchase, assuming you have the IP as well, its going to be 30% useless in a year anyway. Its common sense to rent a list instead which is being cleansed on an ongoing basis.

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