Why You Should Never Buy an Email List

And how to build your own. 

When you first get started with email marketing, it can be very tempting to just buy an email list. After all, you just need to buy the list and start sending off marketing emails. That sounds like a profitable shortcut.

Unfortunately, there’s always a catch with shortcuts in marketing. Any time you save by not building your list organically will cause other harm to your business. It can damage your brand reputation, your email reputation, and your bottom line. Yes, technically you’re saving time, but it’s a dangerous road for your business to be on.

Our email list could be the most powerful asset your business has, but if you buy that list, you put your profitability in jeopardy. 

There’s a Few Good Reasons You Should Never Buy an Email List

If you’re sitting in front of your computer and you receive a marketing email from a brand you’ve never heard of, what are you going to do?

Either, you’ll open it out of curiosity – which is what they’re hoping for.

Or you’ll delete it, because you don’t trust it, and you’ll know they got your email address in an unsavoury way.

Either way, you’ll probably be a bit irritated that your email address is apparently being sold. And you probably won’t trust the brand that bought it. 

This kind of thing is almost like door-to-door sales. Going door to door is not a technique used by many businesses anymore, because they know how irritating it can be. Nobody likes having a stranger ring their doorbell to talk to them about a product they don’t care about. 

The same principle applies to email marketing. When you buy an email list, you’re knocking on the door of someone who doesn’t know you and probably doesn’t care about what you have to say.

Let’s take a look at some of the other reasons you should never buy an email list. 

1. You won’t get qualified contacts

Most people don’t just buy  a list of random email addresses. No. Most companies who sell email lists will tell you that they’re targeted – email addresses from people in your specific demographic. 

While that sounds great, even if they’re from your demographic, they won’t be qualified contacts

Qualified leads are people who are familiar with your business, and have shown an active interest in learning more about what you have to offer. They have both the capacity and the desire to purchase from you, even if it isn’t right away. 

You don’t get that when you buy an email list – no matter how targeted it is. People in a list you purchase probably don’t know about your brand, and there’s nothing to say they would be suitable prospects.

Of course, you could get lucky. But the same is true with any numbers game. 

If you build your email list organically, you’ll have a much healthier, stronger and more valuable list – full of people who are actually interested in your business.

2. You’ll increase the chances of getting marked as spam

Spam is literally a four-letter word in the world of marketing. If your emails are marked as spam too often, email clients will begin to divert all of your mails to spam folders. This is something you don’t want. Of course, if you’re landing in people’s spam folders, your open-rate is going to plummet. People won’t see your mail at all.

No one likes spam. If you’re sending spam mails, it shows that you don’t care about consumers’ rights or desires, and that you only care about selling more product. You don’t want that reputation for your business. 

When you buy an email list, many people won’t recognise your brand when it lands in their inbox. That means a lot of them will be marking your mails as spam. 

3. Your contacts won’t be exclusive

When you buy an email list, you’re not getting the exclusive rights to those emails. Of course, we’re not saying that people only sign up to one brand, but the people who sell email lists make their money by selling the same contacts over and over again. That means the people on those lists often find themselves inundated with unwanted marketing messages. 

Some of those people may even close those email accounts and move on to a new one, just because they don’t want to be spammed anymore. Some might have email addresses which they use exclusively for marketing content. Again, this will dramatically decrease both your deliverability and open rates. 

Deliverability, open rates and click-through rates aren’t just vanity metrics. Many email automation platforms use these metrics to decide whether a sender is legit, and if the metrics fall too low, they can be banned from sending out mass communications. This is something you don’t want to happen. 

4. The engagement rate will probably be low

Like most other email marketing metrics, engagement is extremely important. Even if 80% of people open your email, that means nothing if only 0.1% engage with it. 

Ideally, you want people to act on your email’s content. Whether that means clicking through to read an article or making use of a discount, you want people to be engaging. 

When you buy an email list, it’s almost guaranteed that your engagement rate will be low. Wouldn’t you rather have each of your 500 subscribers reading and clicking through on your emails, than only 2% of your 500,000 “subscribers”? Keep this in mind. When you buy an email list, you’re not buying subscribers – you’re buying contact information. There’s no guarantee that the people you’re talking to have any interest in what you have to say. 

5. Bought email lists can have a negative impact on brand awareness and reputation

While someone who receives an unsolicited mail from a brand may not open the mail or click on any links, they will probably remember the brand’s name. That’s not something you want. Obviously, being known as a brand who buys email lists can hurt brand awareness and reputation.

Think about the junk mail fliers you get stuffed in your post box. You might avoid those businesses only because of how annoying the junk mail is. The same principle applies to email marketing. Consumers who have a negative first experience with your brand, like receiving unwanted emails, may not want to do business with you further down the line simply because they don’t like your tactics.

How to Build Your Own, Valuable Email List

Buy an Email List
Buy an Email List

You don’t need to buy an email list in order to market your business successfully. You probably shouldn’t. While it does sound like a profitable shortcut in the short-term, the harm definitely outweighs the good. 

A better strategy is to build your own email list from the ground up. Not only will the list be more ethical, it will be more valuable to your business. Convert your current site visitors with amazing offers, keep them coming back for more with awesome emails, and make sure to clean your email list regularly so your deliverability remains high.

Here are a few tips for building a valuable email list the right way.

Understand Your Target Audience

When you start building your email list, make sure you really know who you’re trying to target. If your target demographic is college graduates between the ages of 22 and 40, make sure your brand messaging appeals to them. Be as specific as possible.

If you have products that span many psychographics, create content and lead magnets for each one. You can have multiple lead magnets on your site, each of which can appeal to a different target demographic.

Once you know your target audience, create separate email lists for each one. After all, people may not be interested in everything your company has to offer. Make sure they’re only receiving content and offers which are valuable to them. Segmenting your list will therefore help improve deliverability and engagement.

Building lists is also made easier by creating buyer personas. Once you’ve created your buyer personas, you can create an email marketing strategy for each. This way, you can maintain your brand voice and general cohesion throughout your marketing materials. 

Create Unique Offers and Great Content

We’ve said it once, and we’ll continue saying it until we go out of business. Content is king. The content on your site is a major part of building a valuable email list. Make sure it’s highly targeted to your specific audience, and make sure that it’s useful.

If you’re new to creating content, start with a blog or some other type of educational content. Create articles and videos or podcasts, and other media that provides actionable tips or advice. Don’t just repeat what your competitors are doing. Make sure that your content is bigger and better.

The same goes for your offers and lead magnets. People don’t want to hand over their email addresses for nothing. They are going to want something in return, whether it’s a whitepaper, ebook, toolkit or instructional video.

Create Valuable Lead Magnets

Each of your audience segments deserves their own lead magnet and offer. For those who don’t remember, your lead magnet will be the valuable gift you’re offering for free, such as an ebook. The offer is just you phrase your headline and call to action.

For example, let’s say you run a business that sells mattresses. Some of your customers might want memory foam, while others want coil mattresses. Some of your customers are getting ready for their first college apartments; others are elderly.

You need ways to appeal to all of those audiences. Create lead magnets about sleeping habits, sleeping positions, affordability on a tight budget, easing back pain while sleeping, and more. Target them to your buyer personas and create captivating offers.

Questions can be a good way to appeal to curiosity:

  • What does your sleeping position say about you? Download this free illustrated guide to find out!
  • Waking up every morning with back pain? This video teaches you how to sleep pain-free.
  • Confused by the different types of mattresses? Check out our detailed consumer guide.

The first sentence is the headlines while the second is the call to action. Play with different wording and design until you get the right combinations.

Final Thoughts

There is absolutely no reason to buy an email list. Not only can it harm your brand, reduce your email deliverability, and get your messages flagged as spam, it’s also not as profitable as organic list building. 

Email marketing is just as valuable to today’s businesses as it was 10 years ago, and all you need to do to succeed is focus on attracting traffic and converting prospects into leads. If you’ve already bought an email list, you should start scrubbing it.

This is the only way to protect your brand and continue delivering a fantastic experience for your prospects, leads, and customers.