5 Reasons You Should NEVER Buy an Email List

November 20, 2014
Posted in Marketing
November 20, 2014 Daniel Burns

One of the most important factors in marketing is the email list. It helps your company get in touch with the target audience of your brand and its products or services.

On top of that, it’s also relatively low-cost, which is always a nice bonus.

Because of how valuable email lists are to the marketing efforts of companies, it’s no surprise that companies have become highly covetous of getting their hands on email lists at any cost necessary. Some even go so far as to actually buy their email lists, but that’s undesirable behavior because the cons of buying an email list far, far outweigh any of the pros.

Here’s the long and short of why buying an email list is a misjudgment:

Simply put, it hurts the credibility of your company in the eyes of leads and prospective customers. As a business, your credibility with your customers is the one thing that is the most precious and has to be guarded at all costs.

There are three ways to get your hands on email lists:

You can either buy them (don’t!), rent them (another failed idea!) or actually come up with your very own, opt-in email list (do this because it works!). I highly recommend that you generate your own email list because that’ll be the reward of actually earning the trust of prospects by coming up with very valuable content that solves a problem or answers a question for them.

If that’s not enough reason for you to generate your own list…then read on for these five reasons that should discourage you from ever buying email lists in the first place.

It’s Hard to Do

Though the desire may exist to buy an email list for marketing purposes, it can be quite challenging to get your hands on them. This is true even if you’re willing to pay a pretty penny for such a list. The bottom line is this: Any reputable email marketing vendor just won’t allow you to use a bought list. So what are you left with?

For instance, if you’re utilizing email marketing software, such as HubSpot’s email marketing software, you’ll be told to use opt-in email lists. If you think you can outsmart the system if you will, by simply choosing an email service provider that allows its customers not to use opt-in email lists, you’ve got another thing coming.

If your email service provider relies on a shared IP address, then you can expect poor deliverability from going with one that doesn’t force you to use opt-in email lists.

Here’s what happens: Everyone on the shared IP will suffer poor deliverability of emails if even just one customer has an ill-gotten email list. Talk about being made to pay for another company’s unethically obtained email list!

Your best bet would definitely be to build your own email list of leads and customers who are impressed with the high quality of your content. This way, you can easily circumvent this problem with email service providers.

It’s Not Like There Are Any Quality Email Lists for Sale


Up to a certain point, though, you can sympathize with companies who are tempted into buying email lists. After all, building out an email list for your own company from scratch is complex, difficult and something to aim for over the long term. Nonetheless, generating your very own, opt-in email list as part of your email marketing campaign is one of the best business strategies.

Companies who are considering the purchase of an email list should disabuse themselves of the delusion that there are any quality lists for sale out there. You see, I know a dirty, little secret of any service that claims to be able to sell you an email list that’s worth your time. Ready to hear it?

You see, I know a dirty, little secret of any service that claims to be able to sell you an email list that’s worth your time. Ready to hear it?


Any email list that you can purchase has already been purchased many times over. Therefore, all of the email addresses on the list have already been long worn out and spammed to the high heavens by other companies who had the same idea before you did! As a result, the vast majority of emails on a purchased list aren’t even reliable. Consider this statistic: 80% of the emails on a purchased list aren’t accurate anymore! What about the remaining 20% of those on the list, you ask? Why, they’ll just flag all of your emails as spam because they never opted in. In other words, you lose on both counts.

But wait…there’s more. Here’s the second, dirty, little secret I have for you:

Any high-quality email list just won’t be for sale because the company and individual would keep the list for themselves. They know the integrity and quality of their list would be destroyed if others got their hands on it. After all, you know that you wouldn’t sell the email addresses of your own loyal customers because you realize that they’re loyal to you because of the great content that you share with them.

It’ll Lead to Emails From Your Company Being Marked as Spam


No CMO wants the emails from his company to ever be marked as spam since that can be the death knell for a company’s email marketing efforts. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what could happen if you buy email lists. It’s all got to do with the fact that the people on purchased email lists don’t know you or your company.

All those people whose email addresses are on purchased email lists haven’t actually agreed to receive emails from your company—or anybody else’s. Much of the time, all they’ve agreed to do is receive emails from the list-purchasing company. That’s it! So when those people on a purchased list start receiving your emails instead…you can bet that they’ll just mark your emails as spam, and that’s where your troubles begin.

After your company’s emails are marked as spam, that could lead to bigger problems down the road. Eventually, your whole domain could be blacklisted for spam…there goes your attempt to have leads and prospects buy from your company! The last thing you want is for your company to be seen as a spammer since that’ll make it hard for your marketing efforts to ever recover.

It’ll Harm Your Company’s IP and Email Deliverability Reputation


This ties into the previous section about being tagged a spammer. Purchasing an email list carries with it the inherent risks of honeypots and spam traps, both of which can wreak havoc with your email deliverability reputation. Again, you never want your marketing reputation damaged by being labeled a spammer.

Honeypots are planted email addresses that will identify the sender as a spammer when it’s harvested and emailed. On the other hand, spam traps are established when an email address get hard bounces—due to being old or just invalid—yet still receives consistent traffic. Consequently, the email address will then become a spam trap that stops the return of the hard bounce notice and, instead, accepts the message, but reports the sender for spam.

Here’s where the treachery of purchasing an email list comes in. When you do so, you have no way to determine how frequently the email addresses have been emailed and whether or not they’ve been checked for hard bounces to guard you against being marked as a spammer. This simply represents way too much risk for the credibility of your company.

Another thing to think about is how hard it is to rebuild your credibility by building up your Sender Score again, in the event that you are flagged as a spammer.

It’ll Mean That You’re a Marketing Villain


You don’t want to be known as a marketing villain, do you? You’re better than that…hopefully. While no one wants his credibility hurt by being branded a villain, that’s just what can happen if you buy an email list that has email addresses of people who don’t know you or your company. Their natural reaction will be to reject you and label you a spammer, which is a loss anyway that you cut it.

To avoid becoming a marketing villain—buying an email list won’t even be worth it because you won’t even be successful in picking up more leads—you have to persuade people to opt in to your company emails. Don’t force them by sending them unwanted emails. Instead, prove to them that they should opt-in to your company emails by providing them with continually great content and useful offers. This way, you will be able to generate an opt-in list all on your own, full of people who actually want to get emails from your company!

The Takeaway: Never Buy an Email List


My mantra for this entire post has been for you to never consider buying an email list. Hey—I’m looking out for you because I know how risky buying an email list can be. Don’t try to take any shortcuts to amassing a list of people who are truly excited about your products or services and really want to keep up with news about your company! The only way you’ll ever have a reliable and useful email list is by generating an opt-in list yourself.

Of course, that takes a while and a lot of commitment, but trust me on this when I tell you: It’s infinitely preferable to buying an email list. An email list is fraught with dangers. It can rip you off by giving you a list of inaccurate email addresses, subject your IP and company reputation to a spammer’s stigma, and cause your credibility to take a monstrous hit.

My advice to you is to simply save yourself the trouble. It’s really not worth your time. Just take the time to exert some effort toward building an opt-in email list, and you’ll reap the rewards in the long term. Try creating remarkable content where your website visitors want to sign up to receive your updates.

What challenges do you have with building a quality opt-in email list? What efforts are you trying? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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