There are many potential drawbacks and consequences of using a purchased contact list. Find out more below.

If you're not sure why purchasing a list is a bad idea, don't worry, we'll explain. We'll also help you explore different methods for developing a list of engaged subscribers over time.

What is a purchased contact list?

Purchased lists are usually led that have been gathered from company’s who are selling their contact information. This information may have been collected from a companies contact database or scraped illegally from websites and then made available for purchase. Many email marketers believe that purchasing such a list is a great way to start building their client list - this is a mistake. Anyone purchasing a list of contacts will actually be buying their way to major delivery issues.

Why you shouldn’t purchase a list

While it may it seem tempting to purchase a list of contacts, we can’t stress enough as a professional service and email delivery experts, that purchased data is not going to give you the engagement results you’re looking for. Here’s why:

Let’s get this out of the way first, from a legal standpoint, depending on where you live, it might be illegal to purchase a list.  Make sure you are following the terms of your ESP and check the anti-spam laws applicable to you such as the CAN-SPAM Act or CASL.

Hopefully that first point is enough to deter most of your from purchasing data, however, if you need more convincing then let’s talk about delivery. Most reputable email service providers (ESP’s) explicitly prohibit sending mail to purchased data. Right away you’re setting yourself up for a challenge in finding a good provider to send with. And if you think you can sneak by the radar of any ESP, sign up and just blast out your message to the list you just purchased, we urge you to not underestimate the ability of these services to detect a bad list.

The data made available for purchase is often inaccurate, out of date or generic. You’re likely to be sending to invalid email addresses, spam traps or role addresses. All of these are going to result in a poor sending experience for both you and any recipients that actually get your email.

For those people, the ones that are real on your purchased list, it’s usually upsetting, not exciting, to receive unrecognized mail in their inbox. The odds that your unsolicited mail gets marked as spam is very high. If you’re lucky, that contact might unsubscribe - still not a useful contact for you. Even if your mail delivers and the recipient sees or opens the mail, there is no guarantee that they will have any interest in the product or service you’re offering.

There is no evidence suggesting that sending purchased or scraped data is the most cost-effective way of gaining interest in your emails/product. In contrast, if a contact has deliberately subscribed to your mail they have already shown interest in your subject matter and are more valuable to you in terms of potential future sales. In other words, 1 contact who has subscribed to your mail is more valuable and cheaper to send to than multiple contacts you have purchased who have no interest in what you’re sending.

So what do I do instead?

Building sending lists organically through social media or a website and targeting specific demographics will more efficiently bring you a return on investment. If you have a healthy number of people opting into your email list, you are more likely to develop actually engaged subscribers.

Make the process of signing up for your mail as easy as possible using a generating HTML  double opted-in web form that you can put directly on your website or social media page. Depending on what information you want to gather, you can make your form short and simple, requiring minimal information, or you may choose to add more options for getting useful details about your subscribers. More information can help you target or segment your audience with relevant information later, but you’ll need to find a good balance between getting enough information and keeping the signup process straightforward. Elastic Email’s forms are easily integrated into your website and can be the start of your list growing process.

Providing enticing offers within the opt-in form like “Sign up now receive the free amount of X” will attract more people looking for a deal on a service. Those subscribers may eventually be converted into paying customers. This method of offering a “sale” or “part-time deal” can be done across all industries and can help create demand for your product or services.

If you choose to keep your sign up process on the simple side. Elastic Email also offers a robust survey tool for free. You may choose to employ a survey, later on, to help identify what things your client base has interest in or not, it is a powerful tool that can help you obtain more detailed information on your contacts. This is a different approach to getting the information you need in order to change how you advertise or your products or services in general to a particular subset of your contacts.

Keep it real

It is important to realize purchasing contact data is not a reliable method of engaging consumers. A large list doesn’t necessarily result in a responsive list. Contacts are more likely to become customers when they are engaging with the mail you are providing. Ask yourself this - when an email arrives in your inbox that you do not recognize, how likely are you to open it and read it? If the topic, sender or subject is not familiar or even relevant, most people are probably like you and will either delete the message or mark it as spam. Building your list with reliable, time-tested methods is much more likely to result in long terms success for anyone looking to be a skilled and effective email marketer.

As always, if you have questions or comments, you can get in touch with Elastic Email’s super fast and friendly customer success team.

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