Buying Lists — The Alternatives

At Elevate, the Pardot’s User Conference, Michael Westphal and Robert Dyson led a great session on Email Deliverability. During this session, the strong suggestion (or shall we say order) “do not buy lists” was given at least a dozen times. Almost every time Rob and Michael said this, the crowd emitted a fearful gasp that they would never gain new leads.

A reputable company would never allow you to buy their lists (for use in unsolicited commercial email), as this could seriously anger the people on those lists. These email recipients might issue a spam complaint for that email, resulting in the IP address for sender’s domain name being blacklisted (cue scary music). In some cases, the damage to a domain’s reputation can be permanent. Most reputable companies that deal with email deployment have rules in their privacy policy that forbid mailing to purchased lists. Examples include:

The one thing that all of these companies have in common is that they explicitly forbid customers from buying lists to use in association with their service. The reasoning behind this is simple: when was the last time you received an unsolicited email and actually enjoyed receiving it?

If you’ve bought lists to email in the past, it’s not too late to change your ways — just don’t do it again! Instead, rely on a couple of common alternatives such as a list rental or a cold calling list.

Renting List

This is not exactly what it sounds like, because you are not actually sending an email from your email system. List rental means you pay a sponsorship fee to a third-party for the right to send a set number of emails to their opted-in subscribers. These subscribers have let the vendor know that they are open to receiving relevant offers from the vendor’s network of partners. Typically, you will provide creative to the vendor and the actual list of email addresses will never be in your hands. You can, of course, then drive the recipients to a landing page where they can convert and become prospects in your system as a part of your house list.

If the user clicks on the list and signs up to receive more information from your company, you are more than welcome to start sending emails to them; they have opt-ed in.

Cold Calling Lists

If you must buy a list, don’t blast out to it. Use the list as a cold calling list and introduce yourself and your company to them before blasting out. Make sure they agree to receive communication from your company before adding them to any mailing list. We want to make sure the recipient of your messages is familiar with who you are and what company you are with. Cold calling is not anything new and is a very common sales practice. In fact, you will know not only which list members are interested in your company or product, but also if their contact information is accurate. This can only improve your email-sending reputation by reducing hard bounces of prospects with invalid email addresses.

In short…

There are three simple words to live by: don’t buy lists. If you don’t buy lists, you won’t be temped to blast to them. The amount of money you are saving by not buying the list can be reinvested for a marketing initiative or another item that can be more worthwhile.

Please feel free to reach out to me (Hi, I’m Chris!) or leave a comment with any questions or thoughts. I welcome and appreciate your feedback!


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2 thoughts on “Buying Lists — The Alternatives

  • Agree 100% on not buying lists. This is especially true now that I’m off of an ESP and running my own mail server again. You really learn to guard your mail reputation jealously and buying a list is a really good way of ruining it, not to mention the risk of a spam complaint with your ISP which can then put your hosting account and/or domain name registration in jeopardy.

    -Frank Rumbauskas

    • Frank, I completely agree and am glad to hear it come from somewhere other than my own mouth! Why would any company potentially jeopardize their entire company to just force gain a couple of leads? Statistics have shown that people who sign on from a bought list hardly ever convert to won opportunities. Great points, thanks for your response!

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