A lot of individuals are taken in by the hype surrounding email marketing. The websites look great, the results sound promising. I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again: “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”. The Internet is just like your offline life. Never believe the two are different. Just because it’s in writing, doesn’t mean it’s true.
So why would I say buying an email list is bad when so many say it’s so good?
For starters…those saying its so good are frequently after your wallet. Ask yourself: who’s saying its so great? Are they in the business of selling those lists? Or in a business that is in any way related to that? Or maybe they’re a novice touting themselves as experts, just parroting what they’ve read (and believe me, there are a lot of those).
Ok, that doesn’t really answer the question. So why is it BAD? Two good reasons.
Reason 1: You can’t guarantee those addresses are all opt-in addresses
There are a lot of email lists for sale that have addresses from people that never wanted on that mailing list. You have no way of knowing for sure just how those email addresses were collected. So you are risking getting a list full of people that are going to be very upset with you when they get your email. Even if they are opt-in, they may have been taken in a devious opt-in manner, such as when a person signs up for a certain website, there is fine print they can’t see saying their information will be sold. I don’t count that as opting-in if they weren’t aware of what was going on. This situation leads me to reason #2.
Reason 2: You’ll be a spammer
I know what you’re thinking: “but I can’t be a spammer if I bought the list! Plus, this is legal”. Well, you’re half right. Yes, it’s legal. But if anyone on that list did not knowingly opt-in, you are a spammer. As a spammer, you risk the chance of being blacklisted by various ISPs, shut down by your web host, and losing business while you have to find a way to get your site and business email back online. Sure you’re legal. And the web host and ISP are within their legal right to shut you down so you don’t hurt their business.
I personally report any spam that comes my way. As a web host, I am also obligated to shut down any known spammer. I will terminate your service and there is no recourse; I won’t do business with you again. As a web designer, I refuse to work with any business that I find out is spamming.
Why is spam so bad? In part because email isn’t free. If all of us sent a few hundred thousand emails today, mail servers all over would crash. Good-bye email. This is why your ISP and web host regulate how much email you can send. The more people they have sending email, the more equipment they have to buy and the more people they have to have managing that equipment. If you had the ability to send an infinite amount of email, your ISP and web hosting costs would go up, well, infinitely.
Further, its a time-waster. Assuming there were actually mail servers all over that could handle this kind of traffic (and there are not)… Do any of us have time to wade through a few hundred spam emails a day? Or a few thousand? Or tens of thousands? Or more?
Lastly, as a spammer, you hurt your organization’s reputation. This can go a long way towards damaging your business.
I’m sure there are those who will argue with me and tell me what great things email lists have done for their business. My response would be: good for you, but how long will that last? You will get caught. You will get shut down. You’re making some fast cash now but for a long-term plan, this is a very bad idea.
Make our own email list. Collect addresses from your customers and make sure they know they are joining your email newsletter. Personally, nothing irks me more than contacting a business once and them throwing me on a mailing list. Just because I sent you an email doesn’t mean I want on your mailing list. So bear this in mind when you are creating your email newsletter list. Someone emailing you once isn’t opting in for your newsletter. Someone buying a product from you online isn’t automatically opting in for a newsletter either. You need to make 100% certain that you have given each individual the CHOICE to be on your email list.
Want to read a little more on the subject? Here are a few nice articles for you.
SpamCop.net – SpamCop FAQ: How do I get started reporting spam? (A useful page discussing what spam is and is not)
And a different Why is Spam Bad?