It seems like a quick fix: you need an audience, and you have some great email templates ready to go, so you buy a list of members of your target audience to send the email to. But does success really work that easily? Is buying an email marketing list ever a good idea, or are the naysayers correct when they call it a "kiss of death" for your email marketing efforts?
The answer is simple: The naysayers are correct. Buying email marketing lists is a bad idea.
Not convinced? Here are four reasons why you should stay away from purchased email lists.
1. Software Implications
First, your email marketing software may prevent you from using purchased lists in the first place. Platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact now require that any subscriber lists you upload have opted in to contact from you, which - by default - is not the case with purchased lists.
In the worst case scenario, ignoring the requirement means your account could be terminated. But ultimately, even without punishment, this decision by email marketing platforms should raise an important question for your marketing efforts: why do they not want you to upload these types of contact into their software? The answer provides a compelling argument against using purchased lists.
2. Bad List Quality
Services like MailChimp know just as well as experienced marketers that purchased lists are not as accurate as their organically grown counterparts. That means you cannot rely on personalization features, which will make your email significantly more effective.
It also means that you will work with more inaccurate email addresses, which will inevitably bounce upon your send. Too many bounces means that Internet Service Providers begin to consider your send email address as spam, and become more likely to mark them as such as soon as they reach your audience's mailbox.
3. Long-Term Consequences
The previous point already hinted at a potentially devastating effect of bad list quality: too many bounces will negatively impact future email sends. The same is true in a variety of other ways, as well. Most importantly, recipients who have not opted in to receiving emails from you are exponentially more likely to unsubscribe, or report your email as spam manually.
The more of your recipients that take one of these undesirable actions, the worse the situation gets for your email efforts. Suddenly, ISPs mark even future emails to your core group of customers as spam, because they have recognized previous bad performances and high bounce/spam rates from the sender address. In fact, these long-term consequences are precisely why email marketing platforms require certification that your contacts have opted in previously.
4. Lack of Results
Finally, a major reason to stay away from purchased lists is deceptively simple: emails sent to this group simply don't generate the same results as emails to organically grown lists. A 2014 study offered significant evidence in this regard, showing that open and click rates dropped dramatically for purchased lists, while complaint rates multiplied.
Given what we discussed above, these results make sense. They also show a simple truth that marketers have to internalize: quicker is not always better. Spending money on a purchased list can seriously your long-term brand awareness and conversion goals.