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  • Writer's pictureAdeleine Whitten

The case against purchased lists

As an email marketing professional, I tell everyone that the best way to promote your business is with a good email marketing strategy. But as a consumer, there is nothing I hate more than getting a bunch of emails. Weird, right?

But believe it or not, there is a method to my madness. Let’s do a quick exercise, shall we?

Pick up your phone and go to your mail app. Now do a quick scroll to take in all of the different marketing emails you’ve received in the past few days. Maybe the majority of items in your personal inbox are left unopened and unread. Maybe you’re a serial email deleter and are currently staring at a blank screen. Or maybe you’re like me and open everything (I really can’t stand that pesky red notification) but only actually look at the emails that interest you.

Whatever your style is, consider which of those emails you actually read (or even, gasp!, click on) – what do they have in common?

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. The product, service, or company interest me

  2. The content within the email is informative and/or entertaining

  3. I actually signed up for this mailing list, hoping to start receiving their content

Does yours look somewhat similar?

When you purchase a list of email addresses from a third party, your company becomes just another piece of spam in somebody’s inbox. You don’t know your audience’s backgrounds, needs, or whether or not your product or service can solve their problems. You are essentially putting all of your email marketing efforts into selling to people who don’t want to be sold to. It’s also worth mentioning that purchased lists can be in violation of your Email Service Provider’s user agreement or even the law.

And this can hurt not only the public perception of your company, but also how email clients (like Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) see your domain. In fact, purchased lists often lead to high bounce rates which can result in your company’s domain being flagged as spam. So that precious newsletter you spent hours designing and testing? Won’t even make it to an inbox. And even years down the line, when purchased lists are a thing of the past for you, that reputation you earned can still affect your deliverability rates.

In layman’s terms: your potential customers won’t trust you, and Outlook will send you straight to the junk folder.

Think of it this way: how many times have you received an email from a company you’ve never heard of – much less given your email address to – and thought yes, this is a business I trust with my credit card info. If that number is more than zero, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

So, now what? You have this business you want to start promoting, but your subscriber list is empty. And while purchasing a list of addresses can seem tempting at this stage, the best strategy is to start creating content to attract customers whose needs fit your target audience.

Hubspot said it best: While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.

One solid lead on your subscriber list that made the decision to receive your emails will make you a whole lot more money than the hundreds of purchased addresses that won’t look at your newsletter longer than the time it takes to hit delete.

So don’t start your business off on the wrong foot. Don’t purchase a list. But if you do, make sure I’m not on it, because I am definitely not interested in whatever you’re selling.

Adeleine Whitten | Professional, kind of

is a marketer by day and writer by night, weekend, and sometimes lunch break. You can often find her with a good book or in the Taco Bell drive-thru.

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