6 Reasons You Should Not Send Email to Purchased Lists

Do you have exciting news to share with the world? Maybe you’re launching a groundbreaking new company, product, event, or service… BIG news. You know everyone in your industry is going to be enthusiastic about it and you’re ready to get the word out now.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy An Email List

A quick tip from our founder Ken Mahar

While shouting from the rooftops is fun, you know that email marketing is a great tool to reach prospective customers. You even found a vendor who will send you an “opt in” list of industry contacts inexpensively. Or maybe you found a website where you can scrape hundreds (or thousands!) of names. All you have to do is write some copy and send emails to a purchased list.

While that sounds affordable and fast, you should reconsider sending emails to purchased lists. This strategy is fraught with land mines and will only lead you down a dark path.

Here are six reasons why you shouldn’t send emails to purchased lists.

Reason #1: SPAM Is Illegal

That list you’ve purchased did not opt in to hear from you. They opted in for some conference or webinar, or to win a bicycle at their local gym. The small print they failed to notice said they’re authorizing that company to share contacts’ information with their “affiliates,” i.e., anybody they can sell the list to. The truth is, you have no relationship, no permission, and you likely don’t even have name recognition from these people. That makes your email unsolicited commercial email, which is the definition of SPAM.

Right now, you might be thinking, “Well, if it’s illegal, how are these guys able to sell these lists?” Trust us, the lawyers at these firms cover their backsides in the fine print. Ask them if they can send your email on your behalf, and you’ll hear a lot of mumbo jumbo that means “no.” Selling you the lists is not illegal—but using them will get you in hot water.

hacker sending email to purchased lists

Reason #2: Damage to Your Brand Image

Sending emails to a purchased list can actually tarnish your brand image. If your company emails someone who didn’t ask to hear from you, you become an unwelcome visitor in their inbox. For example, it’s like having a traveling salesman show up in your living room—without having knocked on your door. That typically doesn’t make a great first impression.

If harming your brand isn’t enough to dissuade you from spamming people, there are other downsides. Read on.

Reason #3: A Frozen Email Account

If you send an email to a purchased list, you’ll be in violation of the terms of agreement with your ESP (email service provider). This will get your account frozen for ALL your email marketing activities.

Don’t believe us? Here’s what Mailchimp has to say about compliance and account suspension:

“Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and anti-spam organizations keep a close eye on Mailchimp as a sender. If they see a high rate of negative response to an email or a particular sender, they can block any Mailchimp email campaign from reaching anyone on their ISP.”

Or you can take it from Constant Contact:

“The more spam reports that we receive, the harder it is for us to deliver our mail. If mail providers see that Constant Contact mail generates high complaints, then they may decide to do any number of things. This can range from limiting the amount of mail we can deliver to them at any one time or even outright blocking Constant Contact mail altogether. As you can imagine, this has a major impact on everyone who uses our service.”

Reason #4: Blacklisted

If you’re still undeterred and are very technical, you may try setting up your own servers to do the work. “Who needs Mailchimp anyway?”

Well, the reason Mailchimp blocked your account is they’re relying on the goodwill of services like Gmail and Hotmail to deliver their clients’ messages. They’ve promised Gmail and Hotmail that they will put a stop to it when there’s a problem. If you want to go direct, then that same problem won’t be Mailchimp’s problem… Instead, it will be your problem. The IP address your mail is coming from will be added to a blacklist. Then this list will be shared widely among ISPs so that none of your mail gets delivered.

Reason #5: A Blocked Domain

In case you’re thinking you can just change your IP address every time you get caught, think again. In addition to the exact IP address you’re using for email, your domain itself will also get blocked by the ISPs if you send emails to purchased lists.

Surprisingly, there is a low threshold for the number of SPAM complaints you can suffer. According to Campaign Monitor, the industry standard is less than 0.02% (or about 1 complaint for every 5,000 emails). After that, each ISP makes their own decision to start blocking mail from your domain. This means that ALL of your email from your domain, even legitimate one-to-one emails, could get flagged as spam. Now emails to your mom are ending up in junk (and she won’t be happy about that!). You’ll spend weeks unwinding that hairball and trying to get your good name back.

Reason #6: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

If you’re still anxious to get the most from the $250 you spent on that purchased email list, it’s time to Google “sunk cost.” If that doesn’t slow you down, you could head to Upwork or Fiverr to see if someone there (who’s maybe out of the country? or just dumb?) is willing to risk their own mail servers on your behalf—though the damage to your brand is still in play. Their efforts are certain to meet the same fate listed above. Meanwhile, you now realize that you’re doing business with somebody in Estonia in an attempt to circumvent the letter and intention of the law, and you can officially call yourself a spammer. Before you do this, however, realize that the penalties for violating CAN-SPAM are up to $43,792 per email sent. In other words, don’t do it.

Hopefully by now you’re reconsidering sending emails to a purchased list. Would it be great if it worked? Yes, absolutely—and we’d be happy to take your money to execute this plan. But unfortunately, you’ll have to change strategies if you want a long-term, winning email campaign that doesn’t jeopardize your brand, your company, and yourself.

Now that you know why you should not send email to purchased lists, what should you do instead?

There are lots of strategies you can use to build your email list. You’re in luck! Fortunately, we wrote a blog post to get you started. We also help each client create an email list growth plan. If you’re interested in going that direction, the first step is to book an appointment.

We can even give you a strategy that’s legal and that works using the email list you purchased. It’s much slower and more expensive, but it actually has decent results for the diligent with the right business model. Book an appointment to find out more.

Finally, we do have a couple of “gray area” contacts that might work for you in the right circumstances. Book an appointment with us to find out more about them. If you’re convinced we can’t help you, we’ll be happy to refer you.

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