Why Businesses Buy Email Lists & Why You Shouldn’t (+other mailers’ lists you can safely utilize)

Buy Email Lists

Those new to email marketing may not know why it’s unwise to buy email lists. 

Even experienced marketers may dip their toe in those murky waters of list purchasing. It seems like a shortcut and can be appealing when you are starting with zero to a handful of addresses.

This post will lay out why it’s never worth the trouble and risks that come with buying a list. At the end, I will give you a safe alternative for leveraging someone else’s email list though.


Ok, I get it. People think it makes sense because grabbing 1,000 email addresses in one transaction is much faster than building an email list one name at a time.

This is a mirage. Ill-gotten addresses from a purchased list of emails will only make reaching interested subscribers harder.

Short-term gains, if any, will fade quickly and end badly.

Why don’t we get into the details of purchased email lists…

No Time for Email List Building

Any and all businesses can benefit from email marketing. The inbox is the quietest place on the web. You have more of a reader’s attention than noisy social media arenas or video channels full of entertaining distractions.

From dentists to e-commerce shops to pest control companies. Email makes sales.

And smart business owners know they should take time to invest in email marketing. But running a business eats up most of their time depending on the size of the organization. 

🔑So adding an email strategy on top of the owner’s workload is tough. Example- Dr. Molars might tell someone on her dental staff to buy an email list to save time versus collecting leads. Any shortcut that saves busy entrepreneurs time, they are tempted to take. 

Can’t blame them, but the shortcuts don’t pay off. Not when a legitimate list can be built over time and produce a solid ROI ($38 – $42 per $1 spent depending on which study you read).

🔑Another reason business owners buy email lists is they simply don’t know there is an issue with list buying. Not everyone keeps up with email marketing news, do’s, and don’ts unless it’s your job to do so. 

Inbox Hacking is a Free Newsletter for business owners who do want to discover more about email best practices. Sign up for free.

Now we’ll get the dirt on paid lists.

Why You Should Never Buy Email Lists

Major proof in a moment. 

First though. I want you to imagine your email inbox.

Think about the emails you delete without even opening them.

What do all those discarded emails have in common? Some have sketchy subject lines I bet. 

That’s not it though. Why does it take just a glance to know you don’t need to bother opening certain emails?

Got it yet? 

Because you do not recognize the sender! Same reason you don’t open your front door to strangers. They appear suspect so you don’t open… the emails or doors.

This has been proven in studies where the #1 reason people say they don’t open an email is because they do not recognize the sender. (source: Pathwire)

Buy Email Lists

Exhibit A for the People versus Purchased Email Lists

See the connection? When your company buys an email list, those people on the list do not know you. So they are going to ignore your marketing emails.

Let me say that again. They will ignore your emails.

Heck, you could email them 95%-off coupons and they would likely never know because they would not bother to open the messages. Messages from a stranger.

This is just the tip of the cold shoulder you’re gonna run into with paid lists.

Ripple Effects of a Paid Email List

See, it’s bad enough that you write five to ten different email campaigns only to have a meager 3 or 4 percent of them opened. But then with all those emails that don’t get read, this tells the world wide web (ISPs) that your emails are not valuable.

This mailer reputation sticks to you and snowballs from there. Your reputation sinks with every message that gets no interaction from the people on your paid list. 

Not only do the people on these lists not know you or your brand, they may have zero need for what you’re offering. 

You could have a brilliant sales strategy and Hemingway’s offspring writing emails and still never make a sale. Not if the audience is uninterested in your offers.

And with a paid email list, there is no way to tell what their interests are. Sure, you can type in what kind of demographics you want on a list. Even their past purchases perhaps.

But there are lots of holes in that marketing theory:

  • Preferences change
  • People move
  • Life events alter needs / wants

Oh, and people switch email addresses. Some have 4 or 5 addresses but mostly check their main address. Other people use temporary email addresses that will do you no good since these are used once or twice then never checked again! Read more on temp mail here.

Then there are spam trap email addresses designed to stop spammers.

Buy Email Lists

The hard way is the only way.

Knowing Your Subscribers Gives You the Advantage

A list you build from scratch puts you ahead of other email marketers. When someone volunteers their email address on one of your forms, they are showing interest in what you are offering. 

They are choosing to get to know you and let you know more about them. A paid-for list is full of unknowns. An organic list of people giving you permission to email them is an invitation to their quiet place— the inbox. 

You have the power to guide the conversation with subscribers who sought you out versus you tracking random names down and paying to sling emails their way.

Take Advantage of Other Mailers’ Lists

Before we wrap up, one note I promised at the start. Once you have a decent sized list you can then ‘use’ another organization’s list.

How would you like to have your email arrive at the same time a subscriber is opening an email from their favorite business? 

Seems like it would help get your email read, don’t you think? 

Well, we don’t have to think… we tested it relentlessly!

We developed Inbox Mailers while testing inbox behaviors during billions of sends. The vast majority of people deal with email the exact same way. 

  1. Sit down to read. 
  2. Delete unwanted emails.
  3. Read, one-by-one emails they kept

You likely do the same. 

Inbox Mailers triggers perfect timing on your emails to arrive next to emails your subscribers kept. This timing is what produces up to 70% open rates, higher click volume, and leads to enhanced deliverability. No other email marketing tool does this.

And your one-on-one demo is waiting. Schedule yours here.

Inbox Mailers Demo
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John Gardner

John Gardner is an expert email marketer and co-founder of Inbox Mailers. He specializes in email segmentation and improving overall deliverability, helping top brands and businesses optimize their email marketing strategy.