Renting Email Lists can be Tricky!

There’s a big difference between rented postal lists and email lists. Last month I wrote about managing your postal mailing lists including both house and rented lists. I noted that this month we would look at why rented email lists are not a good idea at this time.

Because email is such a cost-effective method for sending out marketing messages, it makes sense to consider renting email addresses to expand your prospecting options. Unfortunately, purchased email lists most often contain bad data and out of date information. While postal mailing lists can be highly accurate based on a variety of criteria including geographic location, age, income, home ownership and more, email lists cannot provide the same level of quality.

A majority of people live in a physical location for an extended period of time and data around their personal address, occupation, family size, and other relevant facts is available and fairly accurate. People are highly motivated to keep their postal mailing data current so they can receive their mail, register to vote, have an up to date license, and so much more. Having recently moved, I was surprised at how many places I needed to update my address and ensure that information was correct for legal, financial and personal reasons.

People do not have that same motivation when it comes to their email address, or more likely, their multiple email addresses. We change our email addresses often and for a multitude of reasons. We may change jobs, want a new email for personal privacy, choose to use a separate email for online shopping, or create a new email when we join a group. Letting go of an old email does not pose all the inconveniences that changing our postal address does, so we just do it and move on. We may let our friends, family and colleagues know about a new email address,  but there is no central service that records or monitors this data the way the United States Post Office does for postal mail.

There are no quality email lists to rent.
Email marketing companies that sell email lists generate those lists in a number of ways. In one method, the emails are collected by web crawlers that move through websites searching for contact information. That’s why many companies use “” or “” as the contact email on their website. If their online email is captured by the robots, they can easily make a change. You should be cautious when posting your personal email address on your website. In another method, the emails of customers that have opted-in to receive correspondence from a company may accept terms of service that state their email may be shared with “companies providing similar products or service.” How many of us read through theses terms of service when we are requesting information we need, or buying something we want? The list company can now say their lists are “opt-in” but no one on that list opted-in to your business.

So the lists you rent are made up of emails pulled off the web and/or email of people that don’t even know who you are. These lists are hardly a good source of leads, and likely to be full of emails that  will be identified as SPAM when the recipient receives it. In addition to that, consider how many companies may have also purchased these lists, making the email recipients even more adverse to your unsolicited email correspondence.

Bad email practices will only hurt your reputation.
If you are doing email marketing you are most likely using an Email Service Provider (ESP) to broadcast your emails and manage your lists, for example Constant Contact or MailChimp. Those ESPs have restrictions on email lists in their terms of service that include:

   • You won’t send spam.

   • You won’t use purchased, rented, or third party email lists.

The ESP requires ethical behavior in order to ensure the integrity of their business and to keep their Internet Protocol (IP) address from being blacklisted, which would affect all of their customers. The IP address is a numerical label assigned to each device in a computer network, making it possible to identify where emails are coming from.

As a company you don’t want to risk being blacklisted either. ESPs monitor emails by reviewing patterns in email volume, the number of times email is marked as SPAM or junk, and your email bounce rate. These activities will be noticed by your ESP and could get all your emails blocked, leaving you unable to communicate by email at all.

What can you do to grow your in-house email list?
Based on all that, the only safe and effective way to use email marketing is to be constantly gathering email addresses in as many legitimate ways as possible.

• Look into  getting email addresses from organizations you belong to, as membership data is usually kept up to date. Some organizations will make this data available to members only.

• Gather emails at trade shows and business events, clearly stating that you plan to add their info to your email list.

• When you meet new people, request their business card, and ask if you can add them to your email list.

• Have an email sign up on your website and let people know what they can expect to receive if they give you their email address. For example, a monthly enewsletter, industry specific articles, sales and promotional information, etc. To get people to sign up you need to earn their trust and show them you will provide valuable and useful information. Start building and growing your in-house email list today. It is the best resource for your online marketing communications.

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