What Are The Pros & Cons of Buying An Email List

Should your business purchase an email list to grow your contact database?

You got mail! When I was a young lad, I would run to my computer when I heard that sound. Yes, somebody wants to chat with me (the self-esteem of a middle schooler). How times have changed.

Now when I wake up the first thing I do is jump on the iPhone and start deleting email after email. I have also found that deleting email while running is a good use of time.

The fact of the matter is simple. We get more email than we actually need or want. Our inbox is a sacred place for our work, family, and friends. Not you Mr. SPAMMY McSpamerson.

However, I do not feel that the wise old internet has given you the entire story of buying an email list (it rarely does and I thank you, digital marketers). So I want to make sure we also know why people still take part in the once successful tactic of buying an email list.

Why Are People Still Buying An Email List

I want to preface this section by stating this. I DO NOT RECOMMEND BUYING AN EMAIL LIST (all caps, you know I am serious). I also want to ask for your forgiveness of all the small businesses out there that still buy email lists. Most of the time they do not know what they are doing or have received bad advice from a so-called marketing guru.  

So, let us look at why this is still happening.

Quick Lift In Business

When you buy an email list you are hoping for a quick lift in business. I get it starting and growing a business is one of the hardest things you will ever do.

Buying an email list is a fast way to get sales and increase revenue. “Hey, these are targeted customers in my area that need my product or service,” said the wise business owner.

I have had many clients ask me if this is a solid strategy, keep reading to get the answer.

Business Tip: Anytime you are looking for a quick lift in business, it is probably for the wrong reason. Look for long-term growth tactics and you will put your business in a much better position to succeed.

Buying an email list could give you a quick lift in sales and get your business moving in the right direction.

It Will Grow Your Email List

I want to thank the internet and all the marketing gurus out there for this one. “Grow your email list and you will grow your business. Buy my 10-week course to find out how.”

Small business owners hear the first part, “grow your email list.” The Second part goes out the window, ”I am not going to buy anything from you”. So they go out and get a real quick boost to their email list.

Job well-done marketing guru. I know you did not tell them to buy an email list, but come on man, tell them how to do this. Again, keep reading to find out how to grow your email list the right way.

Your email list is probably your third most valuable marketing asset. You are the first, your website is second, and your email list is third. Do things the right way.  

People Are Use To It

We have been getting hit with emails from the purchased list for years. Remember, “you’ve got mail”.

There is not a day that goes by when I do not get an email with the subject line, “We can help you grow your social media presence.” I do social media for a living, why do I need your help. I have to thank the last conference I attended for this hyper-targeted email.

The reality is that we are used to getting emails from purchased email lists. We just look the other way and hope they will go away. If we are really in a mood, we will hit that unsubscribe button.

The companies that sell email lists know this. That is why they are still in business. As a small business owner, it is very tempting to follow the pack and replicate what you see in your inbox every day. “It is working for them, it will work for me.”

You Can Find Your Target Market

“If you buy an email list from us, you will get access to thousands of target customers. We can target your customer by Zipcode, birthday, gender, interest, etc, etc”. Sounds great, where do I sign up?

Your target market is part of your marketing segmentation strategy, so it is worth the price of admission.

Buying an email list is a quick way to get access to the people you need to target and sell your products or services.

Small Business Do Not Know Any Better

Again, I want us all to give a pass to the local business. It is not their fault. They are given false promises and they are just trying to build their business. Again, being an entrepreneur is hard.

However, I do have a problem with your marketing consultants, agencies, and email marketing pros that send me emails every day. You should know better. You should not be sending anything to my inbox, you should be earning my business.

Again, small businesses do not know better. They are auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, etc. They are great at their trade, but not so great at my trade, marketing.

Many Small Businesses Are Still Living  In The Stone Age

Have you ever heard, “this is the way we have always done it.” Yeah, Scrooge McDuck is hard to convince to change his business habits. If it has worked in the past, it must work now.

Buying email lists have been a standard practice since the AOL and unfortunately, many companies have not adapted to the way business is done now. It is unfortunate.

Why You Should Never Buy An Email List

Okay, now that you know the other side of the story, let us look at why you would never buy an email list. I repeat, NEVER BUY AN EMAIL LIST.

Your Mom Wants A Phone Call, Not Your SPAM

Okay, your mom loves you and she would like if you picked up the phone once and awhile to have a conversation with her. She does not really want to hear from you in your emails because she happened to be on the email list you purchased.

Do not SPAM your mom anymore. She will not tell you that she gets annoyed with your emails because she loves you. Your customers might have a different take on this.

Think about what you do as soon as you get an email you do not want. You either delete it or even worse, you hit the unsubscribe button.

So do not buy an email list because you are not a SPAMMER, you are a Marketer.

Your Brand Reputation Is On The Line

You have worked for years on your brand reputation. You have treated your customers the right way, added value when possible, and helped out in the local community.

Just because you have a great brand name does not mean you can buy an email list and start blasting away.

This will hurt your brand and your brand is extremely important to your business. Do not ruin it for a quick increase in sales. It is going to do more harm than good.

Do You Really Know What You Are Getting

When you buy an email list do you really know what you are getting? Probably not.

How many email addresses do you have, 3,4,10? How often do you check them all? Never, that’s right.

I have an old Yahoo email that I have not checked in years, but anytime I have to fill out a form at an event, that is the email they get. I know that the event is likely going to sell that email off to any bidder with a pulse.

The point here is that you do not know what you are getting when you purchase an email list, so don’t do it.

Low Conversion Rate

As a top-notch digital marketer, I am all about the conversion rate. I believe this is a thing that even experienced marketers get wrong because they do not know how to measure it.

The conversion rate is important because we want to focus our marketing efforts on activities that are actually generating revenue. Not open rate, click-through rate, or any other rate you can throw at me, let’s talk revenue.

Emails sent through a purchased list do not have the required conversion rate to be profitable for the business. I have even heard from many clients that customers from purchased email lists are the biggest headaches.

The conversion rate is important, so make sure not to buy an email list because it will not convert at the rate you require.

The Odds Of Making It In The Inbox Are Slim

List quality is another important item when it comes to email marketing. If you do not make it into the inbox, what’s the point?

Purchased email lists typically have less than a 5% open rate. That’s right less than 5% of the emails you purchased will even open the email. Further, the same report shows that the click-through rate is less than 0.2%.

So really what are you buying? If you are going to send email, you need to make sure that you are at least getting a 20% open rate. So please stop buying email lists.

Building A Business Is About Relationships

I am a strong believer that in order to build a strong business you have to build it on strong relationships. This is one of the reasons that I believe networking is still alive and well.

When you purchase an email list there is zero relationship building. It is a 100% push of your product or service on a person that most likely does not want what you are selling.

Go about business the right way, build a strong relationship with your potential customers. This way they want what you are selling and even more important become brand advocates that promote and sell your products or services for you.

Email Is Part Of Your Holistic Marketing Plan

We believe very strongly that a holistic marketing (Tradition + Inbound = Holistic) plan is going to return the very highest return on investment.

There are better ways to drive instant revenue. From direct mail, radio, flyer campaigns, PPC, Facebook ads, etc. We complete the holistic part of email marketing, again adding value to the end user.

Companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months.

So let your holistic marketing plan do the heavy lifting for you. Not a purchased email list.

Your Email Service Provider Will Get Mad

Remember when I said your email list is your third most valuable marketing asset? Well, do not make your email service provider mad by buying an email list.

If your ESP finds out that you are purchasing an email list, they could shut you down and it is not easy to get it turned back on.

While I was in the corporate world working at a Fortune 200 company, in the email department, we changed email service providers. During this time, we started to send out millions of email per day. A standard practice for the company. The ESP shut us down until we could prove that these emails we were sending were actual subscribers.

The problem was that we started sending too many emails at once and raising a red flag. This can happen to you as well. When you add 10,000 emails to your list and load up the cannon and blast your email out, it will raise a red flag.

Make sure you take care of your email list because it is very important to your business.

You Are A Marketer, We Don’t Do That

Are you the King of Nigeria trying to get your fortune out of the country? No, and if you are please take my name off your mailing list. You are a marketer that does things the right way, a way that generates higher revenue and grows your business. You are a person that does not buy an email list, you are better than that. Enough said. 

The Best Way To Build Your Email List

I am proud of you. You are never going to buy an email list again. You are going to do this the right way. So I am going to tell you what the marketing gurus forget to tell you or try to sell you. How to grow your email list.

Get To Know Your Ideal Customer

Get to know your customer. Where do they get their information, how do they want to receive your message, where do they go for information, what are their pain points, and what questions do they have about your products or services.

Once you get to know your ideal customer you will never have to buy an email list because they will be coming to you. Now it is up to you to create the marketing message to satisfy their needs.

Blog, Blog, and Blog Some More

Now, that you have identified your ideal customer it is time to start answering their questions about your products or services while showing you are an expert in your industry.

Your blog also is the key to generating a strong email list because it gives you a couple things that buying an email list will not.

  1. Ability to be found in search engines
  2. Ability to be shared on social media
  3. Ability to show you are the leader in the industry

Blogging for business is a big deal because it gives you the platform to have a visitor turn into a lead.  

Offer Something of Value – Your Call To Action

Okay, your blog is going to drive traffic to your website and give you the chance to turn that visitor into a lead. But how?

One of the oldest marketing tricks in the book is the call to action. Tell your customer what you want them to do. With every blog post, you have the opportunity to tell your reader what you want them to do.

Most of the time you are going to give away something away from free. An ebook, white paper, checklist, etc in exchange for, are you ready for this, their contact information. Now you just created a new email subscriber that is ready to hear from you.

Business Tip: Do not go into straight sales mode yet, set up marketing automation to nurture the lead.

Your offer and call to action are very important and most companies forget this vital step. It is about capitalizing on your hard work. 

Final Thoughts…

If you can not tell I am 100% against buying an email list. Buying an email list is not a good marketing idea for your business. It is bad for business, bad for your brand, and just plain annoying.

So my PSA for the day is simple, do things better than the competition and do not buy an email list to grow your business. There is a better way to go about growing your business.   

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