“Too often the shortcut, the line of least resistance, is responsible for evanescent and unsatisfactory success.”
– Louis Binstock

Keep this quote in mind the next time you start thinking about buying an email list. The temptation can be great, especially if you are new to email marketing, but resist. The truth is that purchasing (and renting) email lists can do some irreparable damage to your business. While email marketing is essential to a successful online marketing strategy, taking a shortcut when it comes to list building will set you up for failure before you even get started. Here are just a few reasons why buying an email list is a terrible idea.

You’re not allowed!

Growing up, there was a short period of time I thought it was pretty cool to break the rules. But I quickly found out that when you break the rules, you get caught. When you get caught, there are consequences, and the consequences are never good. As I got older, I realized that those rules were put in place for my own good: to protect me; to keep me from harm; to stop me from doing something stupid.

You may not realize it (because who reads the fine print anyway?), but sending to a purchased email list is a major violation of the terms and conditions of most any reputable marketing software, including SnapRetail. Doing so could cause you to have your account suspended or even cancelled.

While the rule may seem trivial, ultimately it is for your own good and our way of protecting you from some of the other negative consequences that come as a result of list buying. Not to mention, it is illegal in Canada, and although it isn’t technically against the law in the US, too many spam complaints can stir up some legal turmoil.

You’ll destroy your reputation!

Building a good reputation with a positive brand identity isn’t something you can do overnight, but destroying it is. And it’s as simple to do as sending an unsolicited email to a purchased list. Tick off the right people, and you can guarantee they’ll take to the internet to share their negative opinions of you. Even a small handful of these reviews can turn away an otherwise receptive customer.

But, that’s not the only reputation you need to worry about. Consider the repercussions for your Sender Score, which is an indicator used by email service providers to determine an email sender’s trustworthiness. This score is impacted by deliverability, spam complaints, bounce rates and more. The lower your score, the more likely your message will be filtered by consumer’s email provider. It can take months, sometimes years, to build your sender score back up and regain your trustworthiness.

You’ll get trapped in a sticky situation with a low quality list!

Email list providers promise you the world: double or triple opt-in lists, high deliverability, accurate data. Don’t believe them. The truth is nobody out there is selling high quality opt-in lists, no one. Those with quality lists have worked too hard at building it that they aren’t willing to sell it. That’s the kind of list you want, and that’s the kind of list you have to build yourself.

Aside from the fact that you won’t get what you pay for, these lists contain out-dated information and expired email addresses. Sending to these old email addresses can land you in a sticky situation. When email addresses are no longer in use, companies dedicated to combating email SPAM use these old email addresses to catch spammers by turning them into honeypots and spam traps — yikes!

A honeypot is an email address specifically used to identify those who email it as a spammer. Similarly, a spam trap is created when an email address that is no longer in use hard bounces, yet it still continues to receive email sends. Instead of hard bouncing, the email will accept your message and report it as spam. Either case is no good, and purchased lists contain tons of both.

You’ll fall on deaf ears!

Do you remember the story of the little boy who cried wolf? Imagine that the people who are unfortunate enough to be on a purchased email list are the people in the village. Then, imagine that the little boy crying wolf is every single naughty company that has ever purchased the list, and they are all crying out, “Hey! This message is relevant to you! You wanted to hear from me!” And just like that little boy, they aren’t always telling the truth.

Much like the villagers, the folks on the purchased email lists will be conditioned to tune out these unsolicited emails, and your message will fall on deaf ears. Remember what happened at the end of the story? When you do have a relevant message to share, your audience will be so tired of being fooled, they won’t pay you any mind.

That analogy was a little weird, but you get the point. It’s just another example why buying an email list is bad for business.

You’ll see little to no return on your investment!

A successful email marketing program has a huge return on investment— according to Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has an ROI of 2,500 percent. TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT!

Good luck achieving that with a purchased list. You’ll be lucky if your deliverability is greater than 50 percent, and those messages that manage to get squeak past spam filters, generally have a terrible response rate. A DMN3 blog post references a recent study in which it was confirmed that positive engagement declines as list purchasing increased.

Open rates dropped below 5 percent and click rates plummeted to less than 0.2 percent. When there were clicks, it wasn’t to engage with the message, but rather to complain about it, with complaint rates reaching as high as 0.45 percent. No surprise here.

You’ll never buy a list as valuable as the one you build organically!

Great email marketing focuses on building and maintaining relationships with the people who have shown an interest in your business. Every meaningful interaction you have with a customer is an opportunity to ask them to opt-in to your email list. As long as you’re able to highlight the value of joining your list, you should have no problem building one from the ground up.

If you’re not sure where to start, or could use a helping hand, check out our Email List Booster Bundle, where you’ll get tools and tricks to help build your own valuable email list.