Why You Should Never Rent Or Buy Email Addresses by James Trumbly @econnectemail

Why you should never rent or buy email addresses

Your company has just produced this great product and you want to tell the world about it.  You buy advertising space in the newspaper, magazines, on billboards and maybe produce a TV ad.  What’s next? Let’s start announcing your products through email.  But wait, you don’t have any email lists to start with.  No problem, let’s get in touch with a company that sells email addresses, that would solve the problem.

Stop.

Before you part with money to buy those lists, read on to find out how this could impact your company and your new product.

Email marketing works differently from marketing in offline media.  It’s okay for you to put your advertisement in the papers, because the reader who purchases the paper knows there are going to be advertisements there.  Also, even though readers purchase the newspaper, they are not its rightful owner.  The company that prints the newspaper is the owner and it can choose to do whatever it wants with its newspaper, and as a buyer, you can choose to purchase the paper or not.

With email, it is different.  An email address is someone’s private property. You don’t have the right to send someone a promotional email if he didn’t request it.  You could think about e-mail as a virtual home – and you certainly wouldn’t walk into a stranger’s house to tell him about your product.  You would need to first knock on his door and ask for permission to talk about your product.

And so the same applies to email marketing; you can’t simply send your campaign to email users who do not request it.  You must first get them to be interested in your company (knocking on the door) by setting up a website that features your products or services.  Next, put up an email subscription form (getting permission) to allow visitors to show they’re interested in hearing what you have to say. Only after they have displayed their interest (by subscribing to your email newsletter) can you respectfully send them more information.  That’s how email marketing works.

Back to your current problem: where are you going to get those email addresses?  Our advice to you is to forget about email marketing for now and focus on building up your lists.  We’ll tell you why.

  1. You are putting your company’s reputation at risk by using email lists to send out your marketing materials.  There are many people out there who will not think twice about making a complaint against your company, and within days, you will realize that your company’s emails have been blocked and it is now officially known as a Spammer.
  2. The worst reputation for a company to have is to be labeled a Spammer, at least in the digital world.  You not only risk angering the people in the email lists you have purchased, your existing customers might feel disappointed with your actions should news spread, and decide not to support you in the future.
  3. You might end up losing your internet connection as most of the ISPs have zero tolerance policies towards spammers.
  4. You are putting your company at risk of being in a civil and criminal litigation. The fines can go up to tens of thousands of dollars or even millions. (Spammers handed record $234 million fine)

These reasons are enough for you to consider your actions before you proceed.  We have yet to encounter a business owner who has built a successful campaign by buying or renting email addresses.

For now, just focus on building your email list.  As we’ve said before, put a subscription form on your website and encourage visitors to sign up for your newsletter by telling them what they have to gain. Or speak to customers in person and interest them in your newsletter.  Remember: getting ten responses from users who choose to hear from you is better than getting 100 complaints.

Takeaway:

Buying email lists will kill your brand and reputation! There are many different ways to build an email list. Do not think that buying an email list is acceptable. IT’S NOT!!!

Meet the author:

James Trumbly

James Trumbly

Co-Founder and Director of Business Development for eConnect Email, an email marketing software company. James enjoys spending time at the beach and traveling in his free time. .

Connect with: James Trumbly

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  • Jeff Miller
    January 12, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Great article. I’ve had to give this spiel numbers of times to account managers who think we should “blast” everyone in a city with an email. Happily I can now just link to your article.

    I think your fourth point regarding litigation is a little misleading however. It is perfectly legal to buy a list and send everyone on it your message, as long as you comply with the CAN-SPAM rules. Of course in practice, recipients will flag your email as “spam” and you will be blacklisted very quickly. As long as you have not misrepresented yourself (or broken any of the other rules) you are not legally a spammer.

  • Jeff Miller
    January 12, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Great article. I’ve had to give this spiel numbers of times to account managers who think we should “blast” everyone in a city with an email. Happily I can now just link to your article.

    I think your fourth point regarding litigation is a little misleading however. It is perfectly legal to buy a list and send everyone on it your message, as long as you comply with the CAN-SPAM rules. Of course in practice, recipients will flag your email as “spam” and you will be blacklisted very quickly. As long as you have not misrepresented yourself (or broken any of the other rules) you are not legally a spammer.

  • acemave
    January 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Hey James,

    While I don’t fully disagree, both you and Jeff have some valid points. However, advertisers should consider using CPA networks in an effort to promote their products via email. This way you run a smaller risk of damaging your brand by restricting publishers from using the advertisers “from name” and making it clear in the email advertisement that is is not being sent by the advertiser, but a 3rd party. Good email marketers have an established relationship with their mailing list, which makes it less likely that people will complain.
    good luck

  • acemave
    January 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Hey James,

    While I don’t fully disagree, both you and Jeff have some valid points. However, advertisers should consider using CPA networks in an effort to promote their products via email. This way you run a smaller risk of damaging your brand by restricting publishers from using the advertisers “from name” and making it clear in the email advertisement that is is not being sent by the advertiser, but a 3rd party. Good email marketers have an established relationship with their mailing list, which makes it less likely that people will complain.
    good luck

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