13 reasons to never buy an email listArticle added by Joe Simonds on July 16, 2014
Joe Simonds

Joe Simonds

Atlanta, GA

Joined: January 24, 2011

I am getting this question quite a bit from financial professionals: "Joe, I've heard email marketing really works. Should I buy an email list to turbo-charge my results? Many of these email lists seem pretty cheap."

And I get it. You need more qualified prospects to add into your email list. You would like to have more prospects raising their hand after receiving your email every week; however, the price of an email list comes with some big risks if you decide to take this email marketing shortcut. Let me explain.

The pros and cons of buying email lists

I was personally suckered into buying an email list a couple of years ago. Here were the reasons that I bought the list (probably the same reasons many of you have considered buying email lists):
  • It wasn't very expensive for a so-called "targeted email list"
  • The company selling the email list promised that these prospects had opted into "something," so it wasn't really spamming. (I never should have believed that one.)
  • I was told that 90 percent of the emails were guaranteed to not bounce (meaning that 90 percent of the emails were legit and still in use. This should have been another red flag.)
I justified the transaction by telling myself that if I just received one new client from this big list, then it would quickly pay for itself. And that would have been true, but I didn't figure in the big cons that come with buying email lists for financial advisors .

Summary of pros of buying email lists
  • Cheap
  • There could be a couple of diamonds in the rough
  • Converting gone new client could pay for the entire list
  • More people potentially see your message
Cons of buying email lists (aka the 13 reasons to never buy an email list)
  • You are officially a spammer
  • You are practically guaranteed to receive complaints
  • You could end up alienating a legit prospect who might have found you organically, or been referred to you in the future
  • You don't like receiving spam emails, what makes you think anyone else will?
  • It is rare that you will ever find a list of qualified prospects. Why? Because if they were that qualified, why would anyone give them away or sell them? If you naturally built up a real list of qualified prospects that you were making money from and had a relationship with, would you ever sell them? Of course not! And especially not for pennies on the dollar.
  • If if you get reported too many times as a spammer, your IP address could be black-listed
  • Your entire email server could be black-listed, which means your emails (and other people in your office with your email domain) no longer make it to your clients' inboxes. The only fix to this is a lot of time, or to get an entire new email address, which is a huge pain
  • You could be fined tens of thousands of dollars if someone takes the issue high enough and proves that they never opted in to your email list
  • Your reputation could be tarnished if someone decides to make an example of you and blog about you, spreads your name around, reports you, etc.
  • You could end up spamming a hacker who gets so ticked off he/she hacks your site and shuts it down. Surprisingly, this has happened to a lot of people, as hackers are always looking for their next victim, and spammers quickly make their way to the top of the list.
  • With a larger list of emails, your email service is going to charge you more money (so this get expensive as you buy big lists).
  • None of the legit email service providers (like Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Aweber, etc.) will allow you to upload lists like this. They will know it is a bought list immediately and you could get banned from all of the companies, as they have a shared black-list of clients.
  • Rarely does anyone ever make any money or convert a single client from a bought list
Consensus: Don't ever buy email lists. Ever. I have yet to see it work successfully, and it typically does much more damage than anything else. And if this long list of cons doesn't scare you, then there is no saving you, you spammer!

The exception

There is one exception that I wanted to point out, and that is renting email lists. This is not only an acceptable way to market, but it can be quite profitable as well. This is where you pay a legit company (like the New York Times, Forbes, AARP, etc.) to rent a portion of their list. Of course, you don't actually get to see their list, as none of these companies are dumb enough to give out their valuable email lists. However, they will take your message and send it out to their list on your behalf. And since it comes from the actual company, the prospect is more likely to open it, as they have opted in to receive their emails, and trust the company that it is coming from.The only downside is that this option is not cheap in most cases. It helps to find a company in a smaller niche that has a very responsive list.

Solutions to replace buying email lists

So, what is the solution to buying email lists? It's pretty simple: Do it the right way — organically.

However, there are a few legit things that you can do to speed up the process.
  • LinkedIn: Did you know that you can extract the emails from your entire list of LinkedIn connections? In just a few clicks, you can have your entire LinkedIn email list in your grasp. Simply click the "Connections" button towards the top of your LinkedIn home page, and then look for the "Advanced Settings" icon towards the right hand side at the top. Click on "Export Connections to Excel." So if you have a big network, you already have the beginnings of a great list that might want to hear from you. Make sure to scrub it for connections that you might not want to email (like a competitor, etc.)
  • Landing Pages: The most effective way to start creating new emails is to throw up a landing page with a great headline and a valuable free widget (report, whitepaper, video, etc.) that you can give the visitor in return for their information.


In conclusion, do not ever buy email lists. It just isn't worth your reputation being ruined, the potential to have your IP address black-listed, your entire email server being marked as spam, or even getting a huge fine.

Always ask yourself, do you enjoy getting spam emails from some random person? Even if the headline of the spam email interests you, you still don't enjoy the non-solicited email. No one likes spam mail and no one likes spammers! Don't stoop to that level. Build your list the right way (and the most profitable way) organically by always adding value.
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