Are email lists worth buying?
If it ever did, it almost never works now. I understand that anyone who is new to list building might think it’d be easier and less hassle to just buy a list instead of tackling the initial hurdles of building one.
Honestly, I did email marketing for businesses that I suspect bought email lists in my initial days, but based on that experience, it’s not worth it. Opens, click rate, none of it’s going to be as good because the subscribers will have no authentic “handshake moment” if you will. No introduction. There’s an immediate sense of dissonance, a thought like “Who is this company? Why are they emailing me? I don’t remember signing up for this.”
Moreover, there are legal provisions to not to buy an email list, like in Europe, under the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) act. More specifically, GDPR requires double opt-in, and in the case of buying a list, you aren’t even doing single opt-in. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that following GDPR to the letter is not reasonable for most marketers. But the basic concept of double opt-in really should not be ignored.
Also, there are ways to build a list at a lower cost than buying one, so I say what’s the point? Let’s get further into this.
Using someone else’s list hampers your reputation, and offers little reward. Here are five reasons not to buy a list
#1 Reputed email marketing services don’t let you use purchased lists. So you can lose your access to really important features like autoreponders and eCommerce tracking, and could even get blacklisted.
#2 The response rates are low since you don’t know the recipients and they have no proper introduction to you.
#3 Perfect email lists aren’t for sale, if you catch my meaning. If somebody had an awesome list that was making them a ton of money, why would they sell it? Email marketing may be a bit hard to get going, but it is so easy to scale, I would keep and grow a good list rather than sell it, 10 times out of 10.
#4 Many other people may be using the same list. Ultimately, a list is only a digital information product, which means other may have the same list and are also emailing these people, which only heightens the recipient’s wariness to any unusual messages.
#5 ROI is comparatively not as good as an organically built list.
Coming straight to the point, buying an email list is not a good idea, leaving aside a few extremely rare exceptions. You could buy leads and target them to build a list, but without their clear consent and them joining under their own interest in what you have to offer, it’s not going to work. Alternatively, you could pay affiliates or marketers to generate leads with your marketing materials. Both of those are just better, more respectable options, although granted, they can get expensive.
People are going to do what they want, and I’m not passing judgment. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned from them. But if I were asked if it’s a good idea to buy an email list and start sending emails to it, my answer would be a big NO. Instead of buying a list, the wise long-term decision is to learn the basics of list building and build your own list. There are many methods for that. One such method that I have been using for a while, after the recommendation of an email marketing expert, is List Warrior (LW). For beginners to list building like me, LW is a perfect method, as it teaches the basics, and the results so far have been amazing. But really, there are all sorts of ways to do it.
You have to give up the idea of an overnight email marketing platform. Everybody wants one when they hear about how valuable email is, but it’s valuable because it’s not easy to get. When you’re starting from scratch, massive list growth, barring some exceptionally good connections or a lot of money, is not going to happen. Email works because it’s one of the more authentic forms of outreach. The best kinds of email lists are built gradually with a good lead magnet, are maintained with consistent value-focused messages, and use engagement with the subscribers and others in tangential industries to network your way into faster growth. So getting a really good email list is going to take work and time. Is it worth it? 100% YES. Is it as hard as it sounds? Doesn’t have to be. There are methods that work really well.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend building lists over buying them. Please don’t hesitate to reply to me if you seek more information on any of the points discussed in this answer.