VerticalResponse Blog

When you’re just getting started with your business, or trying to grow it quickly, building your email marketing list may seem like a huge waste of time when you can just go out and purchase a list. Seems okay right? Not so much. There are no shortcuts to growing a loyal base of subscribers, fans and followers. And in reality, purchasing a list will end up tarnishing your business rather than making it shine.

Let’s discuss the 3 sins of purchased email lists and why you should steer clear of them at all times.


Reading your email should be, for the most part, a pleasant task. You may enjoy receiving newsletters and emails from companies you’ve subscribed to, or messages from friends and family, but if you find an email from an unrecognized sender, you may become instantly annoyed. You may feel like your inbox has been invaded and concerned about how this unrecognized sender got your email addy. You may even banish the message to email hell, otherwise known as the SPAM folder.

Think of forcing your way into someone’s inbox as invading their space. Most likely you wouldn’t invite a stranger into your home, and in the same way, people don’t want a stranger in their inbox. Instead of violating people’s privacy by forcing your business on them, build your list the right way. Being greedy in your efforts to build your email marketing list and reach potential customers will only end up wasting your time and money by mailing people who don’t want, or expect to hear from you.


So your biggest competitor has a huge list of subscribers, a massive following on Twitter and thousands of Likes on Facebook. Feeling a little envious? Does that little devil on your shoulder telling you it’s okay to buy an email list, just this once, leave you feeling tempted? Don’t succumb! Be strong and build your following the right way! Use an opt-in form on your website, blog, Facebook, and anywhere else your customers and potential customers interact with you. And share links to it each week on your social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter.

An opt-in form is a true gem because someone has willingly given you their name and email address and they want to hear from you. When you get opt-in permission, you build a relationship and gain trust. Hooray! Permission for the win!


If you try to use a purchased list, your ESP (Email Service Provider) will find out. Most ESPs are white listed by major Internet Service Providers (ISP), meaning their domain name is recognized as a safe sender that doesn’t pose a threat to the well-being of the ISP or its users. Using a purchased list almost guarantees a high number of bounce and complaint rates. When emails from a purchased list are sent through an ESPs system, they can get red flagged and the delivery of emails being sent by their users can be negatively affected – this is a huge no-no. ESPs monitor emails being sent through their systems, and if they recognize a pattern of high bounce or complaint rates related to an account, they can ban it. Poof! No more emailing. And you definitely don’t want to be that business. Spamhaus also has some great advice here on why you don’t want to go there with purchased lists.

The simple lesson learned from the 3 sins of purchased email marketing lists? In order to grow your list and your business, don’t purchase a list. It won’t get you anywhere. And, most people are savvy enough these days to know if you’ve purchased their address; you’ll end up leaving a bad taste in their mouth about your business. But, by taking the time to do it the right way, you’ll be on your way to email marketing heaven, where you produce engaging content, awesome offers and you have a loyal base of subscribers and customers who love your business for it.

© 2013, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

  • Remik

    The author is correct. Purchased email lists are an attempt at shortening the acquisition process and aims to reduce cost. This is driven by greed. It does not mean you are greedy. The internet has changed and more competitors compete for the same clients. Acquisition is not an easy process.

    Most ESPs do not allow purchased lists. I have checked and now find myself in a difficult situation trying to fill a clients request for contacting those on his purchased list.

  • skadeedle

    Hi Shelah,
    We really appreciate your comment and taking the time to share your point of view.

    This post was not meant to imply that any small business owner is motivated by greed or envy, as hey, we’re a small business too.

    The post simply states that by building a list of engaged subscribers who have asked to hear from you, you can help your business grow exponentially. We are firm believers that great content, sent to active and engaged subscribers is a recipe for success for businesses small and large.

  • shelah

    I take huge offence to this article. To suggest that one is motivated by “greed” or “envy” to want their small business to simply survive is insulating and quite frankly ludicrous.

    ANY communication, be it from one’s own list or purchased, that does not add value to the reader is spam.

    The ‘SIN’ here is the author has no real life experience in small business and should not be advising others.

  • skadeedle

    Hi Nikki! Thanks for your comment and great to hear you have had success. However, many ESPs will not allow you to use a purchased or rented list. And, we encourage use of opt-in lists because the recipients have specifically asked to hear from the sender. Cheers and thanks again for your comments! Dee

  • Nikki Hammerschmidt

    I am unclear on this blog post. Where is this data coming from, or is it an opinion? I understand the technology around ESPs, but why would you recommend that people do not buy a list, ever. I have worked with multiple B2B organizations and I own a B2C company, I have had alot of success with purchased lists. I do not agree with the recommendation of not purchasing a list as a blanket statement. There are many very good data vendors that I have worked with whose lists have proven ROI in ten fold.

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