A lot of my clients come to me asking how to quickly grow their email list, and want to know if they can buy an email list rather than build one from scratch. My answer? Yeah, you can buy an email list, but that doesn’t mean you should.

It’s an all too familiar feeling for marketers: maybe you’ve just started with a new company or closed a new freelance client; specifically, a company or client that is just starting to build an email list from the ground up. You’re faced with the daunting, uphill, and tedious task of growing said list from zero to hero. Oh, and they want it done, like, yesterday. No pressure.

Sometimes, desperation can motivate irrrational behavoir. Sometimes, you think, it’s okay to take a short cut to produce, at surface level, the results your client wants. Optics, baby. The short cut in question: can’t you just buy an email list, rather than grow it organically?

Yeah, you can buy an email list. You can specify key demographics and characteristics that the contacts on that list must meet, and you can select for psychographic information, too. But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Here’s why.

Seven Reasons You Should Never Buy Your Email List

  1. You violate the rules of consent under The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under this act, you must have explicit consent from your contacts to send them emails. Explicit, in this case, means the checkbox a person must click to opt in to an email subscription isn’t pre-checked when they see it on your website. And when you buy your email lists, the people on it haven’t been given this option — making you non-compliant with GDPR before you send your first email.
  2. Reputable email marketing services don’t let you send emails to lists you’ve bought. If you’re using email marketing software now or plan to in the future, you’ll find that reputable companies will insist that you use opt-in email lists. Why waste your time on sending out a campaign that won’t even get to your contacts’ inbox?
  3. Good email address lists aren’t for sale. Unless your company is in the middle of a merger or acquisition, you’re not going to come across a high-quality email list you can purchase. If it’s for sale, it means the email addresses on it have already been deemed non-responsive or unqualified for marketing outreach.
  4. People on a purchased or rented list don’t actually know you. Even if the opt-in process includes language like, “Opt in to receive information from us, or offers from other companies we think you might enjoy,” the fact is the recipient doesn’t recall having a prior relationship with you, specifically. This makes it highly likely for the recipients to mark you as “spam” when you arrive in their inboxes. Hey, if they don’t recognize you or remember opting in to communications from you … can you blame them?
  5. You’ll harm your email deliverability and IP reputation. If you purchase a list, you have no way of confirming how often those email addresses have been emailed, whether the email addresses on that list have been scrubbed for hard bounces to prevent identifying you as a spammer, or from where those email addresses originated. Are you really willing to risk not only your email deliverability, but also the reputation of your IP address and your company?
  6. You can come across as annoying. How do you like it when you get an email in your inbox from a company you’ve never heard of? I bet that’s not the kind of company you want to buy from or work for. Enough said.
  7. Your email service provider can penalize you. Buying email lists doesn’t just damage your deliverability and brand reputation — it can also put your email account at risk. Email clients like Gmail, Yahoo!, and Outlook don’t want to be associated with accounts that recipients repeatedly flag as spam.

Generating your own list of email contacts who have opted in to receive content from you doesn’t just comply with legal regulation and protect your brand reputation. It also presents you with opportunities to grow this list through genuine relationships with new customers.

The contacts on your email list have to be actively engaged with your content. They should be earnestly interested in that content, too. Your email list should be comprised of contacts that have opted in to receive content from you, because those are the contacts that have raised their hand and said “Tell me more!” Sharing targeted and thoughtful content with these high quality contacts will allow you to nurture a genuine relationship and increase the odds that those contacts might convert to customers.

Remember, content is king, but community should never be ignored. Create real relationships with real contacts, build a quality email list, and nurture that list as you would water a vegetable garden. Then, sit back and watch it grow.

We’ll be sharing some of our best practices for growing your opt-in email list, the right way, over the next few weeks. If this is a pain point for you, consider joining our updates list and get these articles delivered right to your inbox.

What are your best practices when building your email list?

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