Buying email lists is the fastest and smartest way not to close any sale and to run your business into the ground.

There is no better way to go from ambitious salesperson to unemployed spammer, trust me. We, at Prospect.io, are confronted with this almost every day.

Alright, here’s why you should never buy email lists.

1. Those lists are bad quality

Some may try to sell you “targeted lists”, but the truth is… you have no way of verifying how these lists were gathered, and no way of checking if they’re actually any good.

The methods of collection are questionable

Reputable and ethically managed companies wouldn’t sell their email lists, so that leaves you with the shady ones. And shady companies use… shady methods.

  • Basically everything that involves giving an email address without the chance of anything in return is an email address trap. All those ads telling you that you’ve won an Ipad or plane tickets that require you to fulfill personal information are, in reality, just collecting your data so they can be included on email lists and sold to gullible morons.
  • Ever ticked a box on an online vendor’s website agreeing to receive updates from their company and their “partners”? Well, you just signed up for spam. They can hide anything they want behind the word “partners”. If the vendor is slightly less reputable than Amazon or Ebay, be wary of the opt-in/opt-out process. Some even force you to opt-in in order to complete your purchase, which is illegal.

Would you really like to be the happy owner of such “targeted” lists?

  • Another method consists in “harvesting” -understand scraping- domains, websites, forums, everything basically… for email addresses and stuff them in lists. I’m betting my Prospect.io stock options that no one’s going to open any of your emails if this is how the list was assembled.

You have no way of making sure of their quality

Since you have no real way of knowing how the data was obtained, you also have no way of being sure if it’s any good. How would you ever know if you’re getting what you’re paying for? How would you know when the list was assembled? If you’re looking for people aged 18-25 without children and that list is two years old, well… do I need to explain?

There’s just so much opacity when it comes to the methods of collection that someone who provides a list can never be held accountable for the quality of their leads, especially since the results of a cold email sales/marketing campaign are hardly ever predictable.

2. Your service provider won’t let you send to those lists

If you’re planning on delivering emails through a reputable email marketing service, you’ll probably find out that they require that you only use opt-in lists. You might be tempted to think “Easy, I’ll just use a less reputable email marketing service”, but as we already explained in this article about deliverability, emailing bad lists through shared IP will impair the deliverability of the other users of this IP.

And if you’re thinking about it, others already have as well, trust me. And everyone just keeps diminishing everyone else’s deliverability.

As a sales automation tool, Prospect.io doesn’t require opt-in since that would defeat the whole point of cold emailing, but we highly recommend you don’t use purchased lists. At least, use our verification tool to make sure the addresses are valid to lower the risk of bounce back.

3. Your Email Service Provider might sanction you

If too many of your emails bounce back or get marked as spam, your ESP will know, and they won’t be happy.

They may fine you as you probably violated their terms of services, and they may suspend or close your account. And since you’re affecting the deliverability of everyone else using their service -including them- and thus harming their business, they might take legal action against you.

Is it really worth it? I highly doubt it.

4. You could end up on  a blacklist

It’s important to understand that there are several types of blacklists:

User created blacklists: Individuals can use filters or email client tools to add senders to their blacklist. Those act a bit like a Starcraft defense turret; once they detect your email, they just block and annihilate it. And then you get notified that your email didn’t make it. If you’re sending badly targeted email to someone, they might add you to their blacklist, which will result in raising bounce rates. Which, obviously, is bad.

But it could be worse.

ESP blacklists: If you mess up enough, you might end up on an Email Service Provider blacklist. It means that Google or Outlook may prevent any email incoming from your domain IP to get to their user’s inboxes. This is bad, like… real bad, considering that these two represent 88% of the global Email Service Provider market.

But it could be worse -because you can come back from being blacklisted, it takes a bit of work but there are steps you can take to get off blacklists. SpamhausSpamcop and Barracuda might help you with that, it mostly has to do with your domain IP.

So how can it be worse? Read on

5. You could be branded as a spammer

With the amount of spam circulating today -we’re talking 86% of the global email trafic– heroes rose to fight the flow of unsolicited mail. We call them… spam reporting services. Once a sender has been reported enough times -which can definitely happen if you email a purchased list- they’ll be the new lucky member of a list of notorious spammers, which ESP’s will gladly incorporate in their databases. Your email business is now in deep trouble.

Oh and by the way, spam is illegal; you may expect fines and legal repercussions.

6. Your reputation could suffer

Obviously, there’s few things worse than someone looking up your company on Google and the first thing they stumble on are warnings about your spammy practices. Even if this is the only consequence of using a purchased/rented list, it’s already dramatic.

All it takes in one report, are you willing to take the risk?

Plus, your email reputation, is on the line. According to Mailgun, ESP have various ways to treat low reputation from an incoming email such as throttling (reducing the amount of email it accepts at once), spam designation (which makes your email end up in the spam folder) or blacklisting (the message is outright rejected as soon as the suspected IP is detected).

7. Spam traps could be waiting for you

We already talked about how email collection methods were widely unethical. To counter that, anti spam organizations are intentionally sliding email addresses -that they created- in those shady email lists, as honeypots. Any email they get, they reference the sender as a spammer.

These organizations know more than you do, and they’re better at setting traps than you are at avoiding them.

8. Good lists aren’t for sale

Obviously good lists are not on the market.

  • No one gives out a great list that could get them much more money

If you had taken the time and energy to gather and build a great list -which you do through prospecting, content, opt-ins, real life meetings…- would you sell it? Or would you use these super qualified prospects to grow your business and make a great deal of money?

  • If they do, then surely lots of people were there before you

Actually, you can purchase valuable email lists… after their original creator/owner used them. Once the owner has no use for it anymore, they may part with it, at a price.

But unless you just bought their business and -preferably- they haven’t really used the list, it’ll be worthless. The prospects won’t know you and others buyers will have come before you and used the list up to the point of irrelevancy.

9. It’s a waste of your time and money

You’ll get more out of 5 qualified prospects than out of 1000 unqualified ones.

If you’re really into spending cash, spend it on a good prospecting SaaS and -mostly- grow your email lists the white hat way. It’ll take time and effort but it’ll yield much better results.

Siteoscope published a great article on how to best use your website to generate leads and build a valuable list.

But please, don’t be a douche; don’t sell it after using it.

 

So, what do you think, is it worth the risk? Didn’t think so, now go build that list!