Should I Buy An Email List?


Buying an email list from a data broker used to be the thing to do whenever businesses were looking for a short burst of online sales from an email campaign. However, in recent years, and especially since tighter data protection laws were introduced in 2018, unsolicited email marketing has become much more of a grey area. So, is it still worth investing in buying an email list, and is it even possible to do so in 2022?

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To answer this question in reverse, yes, you can still purchase data lists, although the stipulations surrounding consent for list subscribers have thinned the field of potential data brokers, and raised average costs. Whether the investment is worth it is less certain. In many cases, there are now better, faster, and more effective ways of making online sales, without the risks involved in direct unsolicited emails.

Let’s look at both sides of the argument surrounding email lists.

Direct email marketing is a popular proposition among start-ups that want to start generating leads as soon as possible, and for established customers looking for a ‘burst’ of sales. With a successful bulk campaign, it is possible to make a years’ worth of sales in some cases. Moreover, when you purchase a readymade list of warm, pre-qualified sales leads, you eliminate the lengthy “building” part out of the list-building equation, which is definitely a time saver for businesses without a list already in place.

However, simply having a list of emails isn’t a guarantee of success, mostly because those contacts haven’t expressed interest in your business in the first place. At best, the prospects may have opted in to receiving communications about a type of product or service, placing them at a lower stage of the buyer journey than leads who contact you directly through your website. At worst, the data may be out of date, or the subscribers may not have opted in at all. 

As an outbound marketing technique, using an email list can sometimes be effective. However, you will always have a better chance of genuine engagement – with a higher ROI – by focusing on subscribers who have pre-qualified themselves by requesting that they join your email list. 

Personalisation and email marketing

To illustrate this point, think about this: today’s marketing is all about delivering highly personalised messages. With a purchased list, you simply can’t do this because you don’t know who you’re messaging. The best you can do is to put together an email shot that matches the segments provided by your data broker – taking their word for it that this segmentation accurately reflects the receivers’ needs and communication preferences. 

Often this isn’t the case, which is why unsolicited emails sent to purchased lists generally have very low delivery, open and click rates, with equally meagre conversion rates. Add to this the many invalid email addresses on many lists, undeliverable messages, and messages that go directly into spam, and you may be lucky to receive one response for every 10,000 contacts you purchase.

The risks and drawbacks of outbound email marketing

Investing in a list is, therefore, not always a good use of your marketing budget – with the returns and ROI potential from outbound email marketing being highly uncertain. There are other short turnaround sales strategies available that provide better value for money with less reputational risk, such as pay per click (PPC) advertising.

Here are some reasons why:

What to do if you’ve already purchased an email list

If you've already purchased an email database, and you are confident of its accuracy and its compliance with consent laws, you’ll need to send multiple emails to make your investment worthwhile, not just one. You'll also need to use the database in multiple campaigns and not only in email marketing, for example by creating targeted advertising audiences for LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, YouTube, etc. There’s a substantial amount of time and work involved in this, which often defeats the time savings you get from buying an email list.

If you’ve bought a smaller list of under 1,000 contacts, you may wish to follow up your emails with a phone call to each recipient, if you have their contact information.

Finally, short and snappy sales emails work better than marketing emails if you want a direct response from a cold list. Glossy newsletter-type emails with lots of graphics will most likely be ignored if the prospect doesn’t recognise the sender. Focus on creating a personalised (as far as possible) subject line and keep your email content concise. These people don’t know you, so grab their attention through generous monetary discounts and content incentives, and structure your email so that this information is immediately available to make a fast decision. 

Email marketing services for small businesses

Email marketing is a successful means of nurturing leads and generating valuable sales, but it works best when conducted with an opted-in list you’ve built yourself. Building a list from scratch is fairly straightforward once you’ve established better online visibility for your business website and social media profiles, and can be facilitated by including clear contact forms on all your important webpages and blog posts. 

We can help you build a targeted list and create meaningful email content to help increase your sales – and can also advise on faster-response sales channels that match the needs of your target audience. To find out more, please get in touch with one of our email marketing specialists today by calling 01332 215152. 

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