The Trouble with Buying an Email List

I have talked often about the fine line between permission based marketing and spam. Another component of this is how you build your lists.

Many marketers see purchasing a list of names as a quick way to start out an email marketing program. One of my favorite articles from Email Marketing Reports explains why, as with most “get rich quick” schemes, this is a poor substitute for growing a list organically.

Buying v. Renting
Buying a list is different than renting a list. Renting a list is a common and widely accepted practice by email marketers. Renting a list means paying a fee to sponsor an email blast to a list of subscribers, for example, participating in a White Paper of the Day mailing. When you rent a list, you never have physical possession of the list. When you purchase a list, you are receiving a copy of the list with the assumption that you are free to use the list as often as you like.

Why Not Buy?  
It is considered a best practice to clearly inform people of what they are signing up for when they are put on a list. If you are buying a list, the people on that list have no reason to expect a message from you, and certainly haven’t given you permission to send it. These are not prospects who are interested in building relationships with you and your brand. It is likely that you will experience extremely high opt out rates with purchased lists, and in many cases recipients may even flag your message as spam.

Brownlow’s Email Marketing Reports article also points out that marketers work hard to build and nurture their lists. They want to ensure that the prospects on their list remain happy with the email program they provide and are not bombarded with spam. Therefore, as Brownlow states simply:

“Clearly, no self-respecting list owner is ever going to sell copies of their address list. Not if they want to preserve its value.”

Better safe than sorry. Start by building lists through trade shows, sponsored blasts, registration on your website or other legitimate means. You will wind up with a more valuable set of prospects and prevent problems like blacklisting, which will inevitably cause more stress in the long run.


About Adam Blitzer
Adam Blitzer is the Vice President of Marketing at Pardot and has been in the interactive marketing world for the better part of a decade.

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