Email list salesYou’ve just started out in email marketing. You’re staring at a big, empty list. Zero recipients. Zero prospects. Zero chance of success.

Then, an email pops into your inbox. ‘Give your email marketing a boost!’ it says, rather cryptically. You’re intrigued, so you delve in and see what’s on offer. A cheap email list! Email addresses, and lots of them! A free trial of twenty! This just gets better!

Er, no, sorry – it doesn’t. Delete that email.

As a race, we can be incredibly impatient, particularly in today’s debt-ridden, buy-now-pay-later society. We want instant satisfaction and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing an email list grow, particularly if it happens quickly.

However, purchasing a list in order to facilitate this can land you in very hot water indeed.

How to incorrectly acquire a list

Lists for sale and rent

Before we delve into why that is, let’s consider the different ways you can acquire a mailing list. Thankfully, there’s only two:

1) List rental

This is, unfortunately, quite popular due to the fact it can be perceived as ‘cheaper’ than purchasing a list. List providers work directly with you in order to curate a list based on your requirements. However, you never own the list itself – the provider has that privilege. As a result, you never get to see the email addresses contained within it, and you have to ask the provider to send your emails for you. Sound daft? It is.

2) List purchase

Once again, you work with a provider in order to collate a list of email addresses which match your needs. You want every dog owner in North Wales with dark hair? Here’s your list, and your invoice. Unlike renting, you actually receive the list and have full access to all information contained within. It’s yours.

You’ll note there’s a word missing from the above. Permission. At no point during either of the above practices do we ask for permission to send emails to these people. List providers may claim they’ve already gained permission (and that may be true), but it is absolutely meaningless. The email address owners haven’t agreed to receive messages from you, no matter what the list provider says.

How should I acquire my list, then?

Forget the word ‘acquire’. You need to build. Thankfully, describing the way you should build email lists is as simple as the concept itself. In order to ethically grow your subscriber base, you need to ask for permission. Someone needs to voluntarily give you their email address after they’ve heard (and agreed to) what you intend to do with it. They want to receive emails from you, and they say so. There’s no confusion, no half measures – it’s in or out.

Why shouldn’t I buy or rent lists?

You’re still tempted, aren’t you? I don’t blame you – after all, you’re simply looking for a return on your marketing efforts and as quickly as possible. Please don’t be tempted, though. Here’s why:

You’re a nice person

It’s not a criminal act, but buying or renting a list simply doesn’t place you in the most respectable marketing camp. You don’t want to receive unsolicited email, and you certainly don’t want to be the one sending it.

mailingmanager will give you the cold shoulder

If you’re hoping to import your newly-purchased list into an email marketing client like mailingmanager, you’re in for a nasty surprise. They won’t allow it. In fact, they may even turn you away the instant you get in touch. mailingmanager does the sending, and if its doing so to unethically-curated lists, it risks serious problems with its ISP relations. One bad list can negatively affect a thousand genuine senders.

They’re a bit rubbish

There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ email list for sale. The email addresses they contain will likely have been through the mill and will be of little use to anyone – they may be dead or spammed to the point of non-existence. Also, think about it – why would people sell genuinely good lists? Surely they’d keep them for themselves?

You’re not known to the subscribers

Buy a list and those people on it will have no idea who you are. As we know, email marketing is all about slowly building relationships. Even if the list is full of genuine, active email addresses, most of them will probably ignore you and reach for the spam button. They’re not expecting you.

Your reputation will be harmed

Let’s finish on this one. Marketing is about selling your company, brand, products, services and values. It isn’t about harming your reputation, which is exactly what will happen when you buy or rent a list.

Don’t do it!

Happy list building!


Images courtesy of Grant Cochrane / digital art /


Mark is one of mailingmanager's email experts. His contributions to this blog openly share the tricks, tips and best practices he's learned while running multiple e-marketing campaigns.

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