There are numerous ways to generate leads for your business. From search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media, content marketing, email marketing and more. Depending on the nature of your business, some channels might work better than others.

Over the years, one lead generation method tends to outperform the others.

Email marketing.

Email marketing typically provides great return on investment. Do you know why?

It is mainly due to this form of marketing being permission based marketing and not interruption marketing. Meaning that these contacts have explicitly expressed interest in your business and therefore have granted permission for you to communicate with them through email.

Legitimate Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing Lists

Building a list of email addresses for your small business should be at the core of any website strategy. In fact there are many ways you can grow the size of your email database.

Here is just a small sample of ways to grow your email marketing list:

  • Ask for emails at tradeshows
  • Create giveaways in exchange for email addresses
  • Use direct mail to drive users to a sign up form
  • Implement an overlay on your website to ask for email addresses
  • Create gated content that can only be accessed once you have their email
  • Ask for an email on a receipt they sign
  • Have a link to signup in the signature of all employee emails

I could go on with more, but as you can see there are countless ways to grow your list. Sure, some approaches might take more effort than others to implement, but in the end each of these methods require the consent/effort of the user to take action.

Small Businesses Started to Look for Shortcut

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way many businesses wanted to increase the size of their email lists without putting forth the effort. It essentially became a numbers game for small businesses.

Instead of trying to grow their email lists through the methods above, they wanted a quick (and easy) way to increase their number of emails within their database. The logic was that if they were currently getting X number of sales from Y email addresses, then this would hold true in a scaled fashion. But how can you easily increase the number of email addresses you have?

The shortcut found by many businesses was to simply buy a list of email addresses.

But, should your business purchase email lists?

There are many companies out there that provide the service of selling you a list of email addresses. Sure, they claim they can give you users of a certain demographic, geolocation, etc. On top of that, they can give you tens of thousands of email addresses who they claim are “opted in” to receiving emails from a business like yours.

But let me ask you something. What did they “opt in” for?

Was it to have their email address sold to countless companies looking to spam them?

I’d lean towards saying no.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you get emails every day and you wonder how in the world did it make it to your inbox? I’m pretty cautious when using my email online. In fact, I typically use a “throw away” email address to keep my main inbox clear of junk mail.

However, I often find my primary email addresses sent something I am not interested in and I am sure I am not alone. When this happens I quickly click the unsubscribe link and mark it as spam.

Not only have I identified the email as spam, but now I will associate the branding of that company as shady and more than likely will never do business because of their sub-par marketing tactics.

Stop Buying Email Lists

If what I mentioned above doesn’t grab your attention, maybe some of these additional reasons will have you thinking twice before purchasing an email list.

You’re Probably Violating Your Email Sender’s TOS

Like most people, you probably skim over the fine print when signing up or agreeing to use something. With your host or email management service, most have stipulations about sending bulk or spam email. Additionally, many also mention that you can’t send emails to lists that you have bought or rented.

Bought Lists Can Reduce Your Inbox Deliverability

Many email service providers look for a few key things that are signs of spam or unwanted email being sent to others. Should you trigger too many flags, you could find that your emails no longer get delivered to the inboxes of recipients.

Some common triggers that can reduce the inbox rate of your emails are:

  • Large amounts of email sent at once
  • A high number of bounce backs (commonly from invalid email addresses)
  • Amount of times your emails have been marked as spam

With purchased email lists, you can see how easy it is to trigger these flags without much effort. Doing so, can cripple your entire domain from being able to deliver emails.

You Are NOT The Only Company to Email These Addresses

Think about it. If you are in the business of selling email addresses, are you only going to sell the list one time?


Therefore, understand that any list you might purchase has more than likely been emailed many times prior to you. I’m willing to bet that by the time you email them, they will have had more than enough fun with unsolicited emails and will immediately mark your message as spam.

Purchased Lists Waste Your Salespeople’s Time

Your sales people want to close deals. It is much easier to close a deal with someone who WANTS to do business with you. Whether a potential customer calls you or submits a form online, the leads are typically pretty warm in that they show initiative to take action and are easier to make a sale to.

Whereas a purchased list, is colder than a cold call. As difficult as it is for salespeople to close cold calls, their chances of closing the deal with someone on a purchased list is rather low.

In fact, if you purchase a list that comes with phone numbers, I am sure these would be customers are not in the mood to talk to you or the countless other companies calling to harass them about what you have to offer.

As a sales person, I am willing to bet it not only wastes their time following up with these leads who honestly have no intent of buying from you, but severely brings down morale after the time wasted on these efforts.

They would much rather be dealing with leads who have a chance to close, and not leads that just hang up the phone after being pissed off their info was sold once again to the highest bidder.

There are Better Ways to Spend Your Money

Purchasing email lists is probably the least effective thing you can do with your marketing dollars. There is not a silver bullet solution to instantly generating quality leads for your email list.

Similar to content marketing, building your email database can definitely take time. While you might think the shortcut of purchasing emails can help you get there quicker, in the end you will do more harm than good.

I would advise using the money you planned on using for buying an email list and put it to better use. For example, you could create a SEM campaign around a hot issue in your industry to drive users to a landing page in order to download a guide on the topic. In order for them to download the guide, they would need to simply give up their email address.

Another option is to use that money towards implementing some of the viable methods listed above to naturally grow your email list. Depending on your budget, you could tackle just a few or even all of the methods mentioned.

The Success of Your List Ties to the Quality of It

In the end, what ultimately comes of your email list is directly tied to the quality of it. If you take shortcuts along the way, chances are you will be disappointed with the results. Don’t artificially inflate your email database with email addresses from purchased lists in hopes of generating sales.

Instead, you need build your email list through proven methods and approaches that don’t involve purchasing email addresses.

What is your business doing to build its email list the right way? Sounds off in the comments below.

Do you know of a business that buys email lists? If so, do them a favor and send them a link to this blog post.

Or does your business need help growing an email list? Let’s talk.

photo credit: 28 Dreams