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Buying email lists doesn’t guarantee improved results

If an email list produces good open rates and lead generation, it's likely not for sale. When a company makes an email list available for purchase, it's probably because it doesn't produce good results and isn't a viable email marketing outlet.

Hermes passing the box with envelopes to Hera



When your business is just starting out, you want to feel as if you’re doing all you can to grow your customer base. Stories like Harry's gathering 100,000 email signups in one week are inspiring, but they can pressure you to frantically check how to grow a contact list overnight.

Buying email lists might seem like the quickest guarantee to a booming email audience of all the digital marketing growth hacks you might come across. But buying customers can’t help you build a strong relationship with them. Think of it this way: Would you buy friends? You’d rather nurture your friendship by sharing memories, private jokes, common interests, and trust. The key to thriving customer relationships is time and effort.

5 reasons why you shouldn’t buy email lists

1. Harms your reputation

Imagine you've bought an email list and have all these email addresses at your fingertips. But these potential customers have likely had their addresses mined from the web by spambots and are probably already being bombarded by other buyers. Even if they haven't put filters in place, it won't take much for them to send your email flying straight from the inbox into the spam folder.

Purchasable email marketing lists are also likely to include spam traps, which are email addresses set up by internet service providers (ISPs) to catch spammers. There are many types of spam traps, but they typically fall into two main categories – recycled spam traps and pure spam traps. A recycled spam trap is an email address repurposed after a long period of inactivity, whereas a pure spam trap is an address created by the ISP.

However they’re generated, spam complaints can significantly damage your sender reputation. Initially, your deliverability will be affected, and when your reputation drops below a certain threshold, you may have to face the consequences, such as your IP address being blocked or even a lawsuit.

Another consequence is the damage to your company's reputation. Web forums and social media networks are the perfect vectors for transmitting the deadly message that you’re a spammer. To paraphrase the old adage, it takes a lot of work to build a reputation and only a few unhappy customers to jeopardize it.

2. Penalty

If you purchase an email list that ends up damaging your sender reputation, your company may receive a penalty. Email clients like Outlook and Gmail want to curb any association with senders with messages regularly marked as spam. Some email service providers, like AWeber, immediately close an account if they believe you're sending spam emails.

3. Unfamiliar email list members

The people who belong to purchased email lists didn't interact with you when they originally joined. When they initially chose to opt in to receive communications, it was from another company, making your messages look like unsolicited emails. Because of this, there's a good chance those recipients send your email marketing messages to the spam folder.

4. Unavailable quality email lists

If an email list produces good open rates and lead generation, it's likely not for sale. When a company makes an email list available for purchase, it's probably because it doesn't produce good results and isn't a viable email marketing outlet.

It's possible that in the past, an email list for sale produced solid results but now contains addresses regularly spammed that don't represent good leads for your company.

5. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) breach

A majority of email marketers globally have to provide an easy method within their emails for recipients to unsubscribe from future communications.

The GDPR, which is a regulation of a European Union law of data privacy, aims to increase data protection in Europe. It views the opt-in process as a significant issue and believes purchased email lists have no way of complying with that. The GDPR imposes regulations on several areas concerning customer data, like on websites, social media channels, or emails. The especially significant part of the regulation is that it monitors anyone who sends emails to Europeans, not only people who live there.

Because the GDPR requires explicit consent from recipients, including an opt-out in a message won't meet the regulations. Whoever sends an email marketing campaign must be the original party with who the addressee initially chose to opt in, not the purchaser of an email list.

How to build an email list

When your company sends an email marketing newsletter or other promotions, you must have your email list’s consent. Otherwise, those messages will likely end up in the spam folder, hurting future email deliverability and open rates. Enticing people to opt in to become a part of your email list ensures your messages reach genuinely interested parties and offer the best chance at lead generation. Here are five tips for effective email list building:

1. Identify your audience

Offers that appeal to your email contacts’ particular needs and interests create the best opportunities for a great conversion rate. So, making opt-in offers as relevant as possible increases the likelihood of obtaining new subscribers. By targeting specific audience members, you can tailor pop-ups to include unique information and organically build your email list.

2. Create high-quality content

One of the most important tips for building an email list is creating opt-in offers that people are eager to sign up for. That's because unappealing offers may cause potential subscribers to look elsewhere, and you'll miss out on future conversions. Coming up with an offer that's just right may take time, but once it's ready, it's essential to get it in front of your target audience.

3. Use social media

Your company's social media accounts are an excellent avenue to connect with new customers and convince them to sign up. On Twitter, you can report new product releases and news and add a call-to-action (CTA) for people to opt in to future communications. You can also add a link in your company bio for people to subscribe.

4. Place widgets on your company website

Placing widgets at strategic locations across your website attracts users' attention and keeps them aware of signup options. You can also implement a pop-up window to generate even more attention from website visitors.

5. Add a CTA to your email signature

Obtaining new subscribers involves placing offers in front of users wherever you can. Positioning an opt-in CTA in your signature or a link to current content gives those you already know a way to receive regular communications.

Organic relationships involve effort

There are many ways to grow your customer base organically, some quicker than others, but ultimately there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Always test, track, and compare your campaigns to improve engagement. An excellent first step you should always consider is promoting your email program through all your marketing channels. Here’s a list of channels to capitalize on:

  • Social media: Encourage social media followers to subscribe using Twitter lead gen cards. Add a signup button to your Facebook page and CTAs to your YouTube videos.

  • Website: Add opt-in widgets to your blog pieces, and provide subscribers access to exclusive resources, such as a free ebook.

  • Newsletter: Consider emphasizing the number of your email newsletter’s subscribers on your website, blog, and landing pages.

  • Offline: Ensure that your print materials, including pamphlets and business cards, draw attention to your email program and the benefits of subscribing.

You can even have your email list grow itself. Make your emails shareable with referral incentives, cross-pollination with social media, and quality content. Readers typically share interesting and valuable content, driving wider exposure to your brand through word-of-mouth.

Buying a list of emails may seem like an easy shortcut, but your customer base can grow just as quickly using these organic methods. The hard work will pay off in the long run, as you're building a relationship with your customer based on understanding, mutual interest, and most importantly, trust. And that's definitely the way to avoid turbulence on your journey to long-term success.

Don’t forget to share your tips and tricks for building an organic customer base with the Mailjet community!

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