6 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy Email Lists

Rukham Khan
Rukham Khan

Last updated on

August 20, 2023

People usually opt for buying email lists when they mistakenly believe these lists will help them boost their campaigns, and deliver their marketing messages to intended people. Or they might find themselves in a moment of desperation; they want to support their sales team and provide them with leads but they are strung on options, so they decide to buy leads.

Sadly, buying email lists rarely ever works out favorably for marketers. The people at OutboundEngine sum up the situation perfectly:

“For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $44.25. Not a bad ROI, right? But with email list buying, you’re betting on a lame horse and hoping a few lucky strides and cut corners will get you back in the race. The odds are clearly against you.”

Buying email lists is definitely more of a gamble than an investment. In this post, we’ll show you six reasons why it's not a good idea to buy email lists.


The CAN-SPAM act was set up in the US in 2003 to protect consumers from bulk unsolicited emails and to make it difficult to send spam to people.

The act itself doesn’t say anything about buying and selling email lists, but you can be penalized if you send bulk emails without reader permissions.

This is the case when you buy email lists, you have bought an email list, but you haven’t sought the permission of the people on that list. There’s a good chance those people won't appreciate you barging into their inboxes.

And that’s not it, Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $41,484, so non-compliance can be costly.

2. GDPR Violation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was put into effect across Europe in May 2018. It is a data privacy act that has altered the relationship between email marketers and consumers.

The request for consent must be given in an intelligible and easily accessible form, with the purpose for data processing attached to that consent. This is called active opt-in. Now, pre-ticked opt-in boxes are invalid. You will have to use unticked opt-in boxes or similar methods to entice people to sign up for your lists.

The people you send emails to from a bought list haven’t directly opted in for your content, therefore putting you in violation of GDPR.

3. Good Email Lists Aren't For Sale

It’s unlikely that you will ever purchase a high-quality email list that is made up of your target audience, is responsive, or even opens your emails.

Think about it. If you painstakingly built an email list over the years using all sorts of tactics like ad campaigns and blogging, if you had curated the perfect list of people who are responsive, would you really just sell that email list away? You’d be handing it over to your competition to eat up your hard work.

Grow Your Email Lists

Similarly, when you are looking to purchase email lists, no marketer in their right mind will share their valuable email lists. And most lists for sale have already been spammed to death. So don’t expect to find email lists that promise high CTR (Click-through rate). Instead of doing that, you should instead use an email finder to extract valuable email leads from professional platforms like LinkedIn.

4. People From Bought Email Lists Don't Know You

What is the basic purpose of email marketing?

Its to enhance relationships with consumers and enhance loyalty with customers to drive business for your company.

The issue with practicing email marketing tactics with people from bought lists is that they don’t know you. It is challenging to drive conversations with people who have little to no knowledge of what you’re trying to sell them, or why they should be interested in your organization in the first place.

No matter how good your intentions or how good your offer, if the reader doesn't know who you are, he is going to find your emails irritating. Overall you’re looking at a one way trip to someones' spam folder.

And that’s not the end of the story. If ESPs (Email Service Providers) catch a whiff of any spammy activity, they will not hesitate to immediately shut down your account. ESPs care about their reputation for high delivery rates and won’t risk low sender scores. One bad list can hurt deliverability for everyone on the IP.

5. Not a Good Way to Achieve Marketing Goals

As we mentioned before, people purchase email list when they want to drive conversions and attract people to their websites. That is the basic marketing goal.

The problem is these lists are low in quality, they include out of date or altogether incorrect information, so you can’t really expect actual conversions to take place.

Most of these people don’t know who you are so they have very little reason to open your emails. In most cases, the cost of buying email lists won't be offset by the conversions you can achieve through them.

Finally, a purchased list will not align with your marketing goals. People on that list have no intent to engage with your brand.

Most email lists are segmented along the lines of factors such as age, preferences, location, sex, etc. When you purchase an email list, all those tags are thrown out of the window, and you can only guess as to what sort of messages will work with them. Better to build your own lists.

6. Damage To Reputation

Every email domain can be scored for points on reputation. You can use WatchGuard’s ReputationAuthority to see how your domain ranks.

Many email lists contain emails that are old or fake. Such emails are known as spam traps, and when emails are sent out to them, it shows negligence on the part of the sender and indicates intent to spam. Basically, you can easily be blacklisted and loose points on your reputation.

Alternatives to Buying Email Lists

It's not all bad news; there are ways to increase conversions without resorting to buying email lists. Some evergreen and well-established methods to grow your email lists are:

  • Providing value in the form of content (guides, blog posts, or case studies)
  • Providing multiple places for people to sign up for your email list
  • Using a reliable Email Service Provider (ESP).
  • Driving subscriptions by attracting people through your blog
  • Providing contact form opt-in option in emails and on your website
  • Leveraging social media to link back to your website with CTAs (Call to Action buttons)
  • Including social sharing buttons in your emails (they’ve been known to increase CTR by 158%)
  • Have a look at this post from one of our email marketing experts for great tips

When you can reach people with your message at the right time, that helps you sell more. Just like a salesperson in a retail store has his finger on his store visitor’s pulse, our advanced tracking enables you to automatically track and reach people at just the right time, with just the right message, tailored to their individual state-of-mind.

Timing is everything when it comes to selling. Just like a good salesman understands his customer’s behavior and knows when to say what, with MailMunch's advanced tracking feature you can track and reach people at the right moment with tailored messages.

Author Bio

Rukham Khan

Rukham is the Content Lead at Mailmunch. He believes trust should be the basis for all marketing communications.


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