Why purchased lists don’t work (and how to get emails without wasting money)

When you run a small business or startup, every penny counts. To get money coming in the door quickly, some SMBs give in to anxiety and buy an email list. Unfortunately, it’s almost always a waste of resources.

The simple truth is that if your business is legitimate, your lists should be, too. As we’ll see, buying in bulk could be a deathblow to your business, especially if you’re a new brand.

By and large, purchasing email addresses is a dirty business. Here’s how to wash your hands of it and build a real email list that actually works.

Effectiveness & Cost

There’s a reason why bonafide email marketers unanimously discourage buying email lists: they don’t work.

For starters, you’re paying an exorbitant amount for what you get. Which is to say, a whole lot of nothing.

Engagement rates from purchased lists are extremely low. That’s partly because so many of the addresses are inactive or undeliverable, and partly because numerous other companies have purchased the same lists with the same recipients. In the best case scenario, a customer has already tuned you out. Worst case, you could end up paying far more in fines and legal fees if your unsolicited emails violate GDPR or the CAN-SPAM Act. (More on this in the next section.)

Meaning, prefabricated email lists aren’t just ineffective and costly. Purchasing an email list can seriously harm your business and its reputation.

Privacy & Compliance

Under the 2008 data privacy act General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), recipients have to explicitly opt-in to receive your emails for the messages you send to be in compliance. Therefore, purchasing email subscribers directly violates GDPR consent rules, and the consequences can be severe.

OneAffiniti campaigns follow GDPR as the gold standard for data privacy and protection. When it comes to maintaining a compliant mailing list, we set the bar high.

We use Campaign Monitor as our third-party email service provider to manage lists and schedule campaigns. Campaign Monitor has an ultra low 0.2% threshold for email addresses that bounce back or get marked as spam by a user. That works out to about one undeliverable or “spam” email per ever 5000 sent. If your account is flagged with a high spam rate, Campaign Monitor will automatically shut down your account and you will no longer be able to use our services.

What to do instead

No business wants their marketing messages to go from email to junk mail before a recipient ever makes it through the subject line. That’s why it’s important to understand you have better options to grow an email list organically.

Though building a strong subscriber database will take time, you can start strong by:

  • Creating dynamic content like special offers and promotions, lead generating eBooks or infographics and thought leadership pieces.
  • Adding subscribe forms to marketing materials, lead magnets and your website to turn visitors and readers into email subscribers.
  • Promoting your brand across budget-friendly channels like webinars and social media.

We get it. Everyone has to start somewhere. But for the last time for the folks in the back, buying an email list simply doesn’t work. The more you invest in an authentic email list, the quicker you’ll turn first-time recipients into repeat customers.

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